Cheltenham Tips Day 1 Tuesday, Champion Hurdle Day 2013
With Cheltenham Festival stalwarts Kauto Star and Big Bucks missing from the Festival for the first time in a long time, many could be forgiven for thinking there wouldn’t be as big a buzz as previous years. However they would be wrong, as the young pretenders now have their chance to step in to the limelight and showcase their talents as potential superstars, by Josh Bradley
The festival begins with a brilliant card on Tuesday, with the highlight undoubtedly the Champion Hurdle. Hurricane Fly, Zarkandar, Rock on Ruby and Grandouet are the leading contenders for the big race and will split punters up and down the country. This race is supported by six other races on the day, as punters look to try and get their week off to a flyer.
1.30 William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 2m 1/2f
The William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is the traditional curtain raiser for a feast of sensational racing at Cheltenham, and this year’s renewal looks set to be a cracker.
The Nicky Henderson trained My Tent or Yours has sidestepped a potential crack at the Champion Hurdle to run in the race, a race which holds mixed emotions for Henderson.
The veteran trainer has saddled seven placed runners from fifteen starters in the past ten years, and this coupled with the fact only two market-leaders have won the race in the previous ten years means that the 11/8 currently on offer for the 6yo looks short. Jezki on the other hand, from the Jessica Harrington stable looks a brilliant bet, against the favourite. Having already landed two Grade One’s, Henderson previously highlighted the 4yo as ‘one to watch’ that wasn’t from his own stable.
He is improving with every race and looks set to knuckle down coming up the hill, having prevailed in close finishes in the past. Albeit he finished a below par eight in last year’s Bumper at the Festival, yet if he can put this run behind him, the 6/1 on offer looks a much more attractive bet than the favourite.
Supreme Novices Hurdle Tip – Jezki (Win) @ 9/2 with Bet365 – Free £200 bet
2.05 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase 2m
Simonsig tops the market for the Arkle, hoping to emulate super-star stable-mate Sprinter Sacre, and land the race as an odds-on shot. The 7yo is currently trading at 4/6 and will be added to many accumulators over the four days, as many view him as a festival ‘banker’. His scintillating performances over hurdles had led him to being such a short price for his chasing debuts, starting odds-on in his three races so far, and justifying the odds by never failing to win by less than 15l. He faces a big challenge in the shape of Overturn who is also unbeaten over fences. Donald McCain’s charge has also never really faced a serious opponent, so like Simonsig, it is only a guessing game as to how good they really are. His jumping has always been impeccable however, so he is sure to be there battling it out at the last fence.
Captain Conan and Irish raider Arvika Ligeonniere are next in the market at 8/1 the pair. Captain Conan, also from the Nicky Henderson stable is unbeaten in three chase starts, like both Overturn and Simonsig, yet has only just managed to scrape past horses he should have comfortably beat if he were to stand any chance in the big race. Whilst Arvika Ligeonniere fell on his last start when well fancied over in Leopardstown, and it is hard to tell how much this will have taken out of him and his confidence. Even fully fit he didn’t look to have the class or speed of the front pair, mind. For this reason the straight forecast of Simonsig to beat Overturn looks a solid value bet.
Simonsig/Overturn (forecast) @ SP with William Hill – Free £50 bet
2.40 JLT Specialty Steeple Chase (A Handicap) 3m 1/2f
The first handicap of the Festival is one for each-way punters to get stuck into, and our selection is that of last year’s runner-up Fruity O’Rooney. George Moore’s charge ran well in defeat last year and has shown all the signs of a gelding who needs the trip, following a valiant staying on second over a shorter distance at Prestbury Park in January.
With no horse carrying more than 11st 2lb to victory in the last ten years, favourite Our Mick and well-fancied Cantlow can be ruled out, whilst 10yo Fruity O’Rooney has been allotted 10st 12lb.
The current 12/1 on offer looks too big for someone who a consistent sort who already has course form in the race, and looks a confident each-way selection.
Fruity O’Rooney (e/w) @ 12/1 with Stan James – Free £10 bet
3.20 Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy 2m 1/2f
see our full Champion Hurlde Preview
Grandouet (e/w) @ 8/1 with Ladbrokes – Free £50 bet
4.00 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Steeple Chase 3m 7f
Arabella Boy comes into the race looking like a worthy favourite, following his win in the Punchestown Cross-Country Chase last time out. He put his unfortunate unseating at Cheltenham behind him, and put in an exemplary round of jumping and also managed to put to bed any lingering stamina doubts.
Nina Carberry is a veteran over the cross-country fences, and there are very few who ride it better. She will be able to drop in her mount and let his exuberant jumping take centre stage, and with last year’s winner Balthazar King not returning to defend his crown, she will be even more confident of coming home in front. The 8yo is extremely consistent, and if he manages to complete the race he will be bang there, meaning the 4/1 looks a solid bet. Uncle Junior must be respected but looks to have too much weight, carrying 11st 12lb, whilst Outlaw Pete will go off a short price, but must keep on an upward curve if he is to mount a serious challenge.
Arabella Boy WIN@ 9/2 with Coral – Free £50 bet
4.40 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (for the David Nicholson trophy) 2m 4f
Many people’s idea of a Cheltenham banker runs in the Mares’ Hurdle, in the shape of Quevega. The ever so consistent mare is bidding for her fifth festival victory on the bounce, and it would be foolish to oppose her. She looks a cut above her rivals and the 8/15 will be added to many multiple for throughout the week. Yet there is some value in the race, in terms of forecast betting.
Eight of the ten runners to have filled the places behind Quevega were aged six, and in this race the pick of the bunch looks to be David Pipe’s Swing Bowler. Having finished a respectable third behind My Tent or Yours last time out, the mare is currently 20/1 in places which looks massive. A straight forecast will pay a brilliant return, however if you wished to play it safer, a simple each-way bet looks relatively safe at what is a very attractive price.
Swing Bowler (e/w) @ 20/1 with Betfred – Free £50 bet
5.15 Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase 2m 4 1/2 f
An extremely competitive handicap ends the opening day of the festival, and will be a make or break race for many punters.
Gordon Elliot’s Carlito Brigante looks set to be popular with punters from both sides of the Irish Sea, yet it is Dessie Hughes’ White Star Line which makes more appeal at the current prices.
Available at 16/1 in some places, last year’s runner-up has put in a string of consistent efforts this season and looks in better form than ever, finishing a close runner up in a competitive Beginners Chase at Fairyhouse last time out.
He seems to love a battle, which he is sure to get coming up the Cheltenham hill, and looks a tasty each-way prospect at the current price.
White Star Line (e/w) @ 16/1 with William Hill – Free £50 bet
Day One Cheltenham Festival Tips:
Simonsig/Overturn (forecast) @ SP
Fruity O’Rooney (e/w)
Balthazar King (e/w)
Swing Bowler (e/w)
White Star Line (e/w)