by Aodán Boland
It’s that time of the year again, the biggest four days on the racing calendar have arrived. The Cheltenham festival kicks off tomorrow: four days of fun, shocks and memories to last a lifetime.
The big question on every punter’s mind is “Who should I be backing?”. I’m going to share some of my tips and opinions on each race every day, so keep your eyes on the Gazette, where hopefully we can beat the bookies and grab a few winners together. Without further ado, let’s get started….
We kick off the festival with a fine Grade 1 Novice hurdle with some very good horses in the field to choose from. This would be one of the harder races to pick a winner from, because every horse in this race is in very good form. Willie Mullins’ Melon is the 5/2 favourite but I like RIVER WYLDE at 8/1. Nico de Boinville gets the ride and looks a top class prospect.
The big favourite in this race is Nicky Henderson’s ALTIOR who is priced up at a ridiculous 2/7. I would offer this horse a very good chance, but I wouldn’t recommend backing because of the very short odds. Charbel is second best at 10/1 and finished second to Altior at Sandown in December. Some Plan won all three of its completed chase starts and could have a chance to get places at 20/1.
This race isn’t as star-studded as the first two, but I like LABEL DES OBEAUX in this Grade 3 race. The Alan King-trained horse is currently available at 14/1 and I fancy Wayne Hutchinson to give him a good ride. Noble Endeavor was impressive at Leopardstown in December and will also have a big say in this Grade 3 race.
Here’s the big one, The Champion Hurdle. This one is a bit harder to predict due to the sheer class in the race. Yanworth and Buveur D’Air are the favourites and will have a big part to play but at the odds available I’d go for MOON RACER who’s odds are shrinking each day. He was available at 20/1 last week but is currently priced up at 9/1. I’m a big fan of this horse and I could see him doing damage later on in the race. I’m also going to give Footpad a mention as well at 20/1. Ruby Walsh gets this ride and could be a nice each way bet at a tidy price.
Another cracker of a race. Limini is the favourite for Willie Mullins at 6/5 but I prefer his other horse, VROUM VROUM MAG at 5/2. I was surprised to see Ruby choose to ride Limini instead of Vroum Vroum Mag but I think he might have chosen the wrong Mullin’s horse this time around. At each way I’d have a look at Colin’s Sister who is available at a whopping 25/1. Galway’s very own Paddy Brennan gets the ride on the horse who is on a 4-race winning streak.
A nice Grade 2 Novices’ Chase for the Amateur riders, I like Nicky Henderson’s BEWARE THE BEAR at 7/1 in this one. Edwulf could shake things up as well, but I like this horse’s form and pedigree so I give him a great chance.
It’s time for the last race of the day and there’s a few at big prices that I fancy. Captain Redbeard 20/1 and Killiney Court at 25/1 are both in fine form and are very overpriced in my opinion, but we won’t complain.
Poker School at 14/1 looks good as well but the favourite FOXTAIL HILL at 11/2 is in fine knick for Nigel Twiston-Davies and will look to run a big race.
Those are my day One predictions. One thing I will say: always back your horse each way when putting down a bet; racing is very unpredictable (especially att Cheltenham). I’ll be back tomorrow for day two tips, which will include the jam-packed Queen Mother Champion Chase. Hopefully our pockets will be full from day one!