Cheltenham Festival 2016 – Day 1 Preview

Cheltenham Festival Day 1

Punchestown Min – Favorite

Event: Cheltenham Festival – Day 1

When: March 15th

It’s known as “the greatest show on turf” and not without good reason. The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of National Hunt (jumps) racing and is the dream destination of every breeder, owner, trainer, and jockey who has ever been associated with a jumps horse. It takes place this year from March 15 – 18.

Irish racing fans cross the Irish Sea in droves to make their annual pilgrimage to Cheltenham to “relieve” British bookies of their cash. There will be approximately 20,000- 25,000 taking the week off work to be there for the four days and they make up a significant and highly vocal element of the daily crowd that can reach up to 70,000 racegoers at the beautiful Cotswold track.

It’s a dizzying four days with superb championship races on each day, hotly contested novice events, handicap hurdles and steeplechases. Massive betting markets whose liquidity means that even hefty five-figure bets often fail to impact on the odds overall due to the mind-boggling sums being traded both on and off-course, in the betting offices and online, make Cheltenham a very special sporting and betting occasion.

As it did last year, the success and failure of many punters may broadly center around the horses of one outstanding trainer, Irish champion Willie Mullins. At the 2015 meeting he saddled a remarkable eight winners, and had his Annie Power not fallen when clear at the final flight in the Mares’ Hurdle, his first-day dominance would have cost international betting firms many tens of millions of pounds/dollars. She was the odds-on final leg of a four-timer – the first three having already bolted up earlier in the afternoon.

– See the full Schedule [2]

Cheltenham Day 1 Top Contenders

Mullins again is expected to dominate Day 1 at Cheltenham (March 15). His Min is expected by many to win the opening Grade 1 Supreme Novices Hurdle having won in impressive fashion in Grade 2 company at Punchestown last time out. There have been signs of doubt about Ruby Walsh’s mount though, who did trade as short as 5/4 but has now drifted out to 7/4 favourite. He is still a strong market leader, but clearly is no certainty. Mullins has a host of other entries at this stage amongst whom Yorkhill (10/1), winner of the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown recently, could be worth a second glance.

British trainer Nicky Henderson has a tremendous record at the Cheltenham Festival over the last three decades and he could run both Altior (4/1) an exciting prospect who is on a five-timer, and the French import Buveur d’Air (7/1), who won in a canter at Huntingdon last time out. If he makes it to the race, David Pipe’s Moon Racer, winner of the Festival Bumper last season but not seen since, could be an interesting wild card 25/1 shot. He’s unbeaten and is very talented, but is clearly difficult to keep sound. It would be some performance to win a championship race such as this on hurdles debut.

As always, Betfair reviews Paul Nicholls horses for this day races: 

Betting Tips

Cheltenham Day 1 Contenders

Vaniteux – Favorite

Mullins’ Douvan (2/5) runs in the Grade 1 Racing Post Arkle Trophy and is one of the hottest favourites of the whole meeting. The winner of last year’s Supreme Novices Hurdle has looked brilliant in novice chases, winning two Grade 1’s on recent starts without turning a hair. If he jumps around safely – and this is much more of a test than his previous novice chases – he should win with something in hand.

Again, trainer Nicky Henderson could pose the biggest threat to Mullins’ hot favourite as he saddles both the talented Vaniteux (6/1) and L’Ami Serge (14/1).

Last year Willie Mullins saddled a stunning 1-2-3 in the Champion Hurdle, but remarkably all three of those horses – the brilliant winner Faugheen, runner-up Arctic Fire, and the legendary veteran Hurricane Fly – will not be in action this time around. Faugheen and Arctic Fire have recently suffered injuries, and Hurricane Fly has retired.

Nevertheless, Mullins seems likely to run the super mare Annie Power, clear when falling at the final flight last year in the Mares’ Hurdle, but who is currently a 2/1 favourite to gain compensation in the top two-mile race on the calendar. She won as she pleased against two modest rivals on her recent return to racing and will be a hugely popular choice. Mullins is also likely to run the smart Nichols Canyon (5/1), while another Irish raider, Henry de Bromhead’s Identity Thief (9/2), is a class act and will have his supporters.

For the home team Nigel Twiston-Davies’ The New One (7/1) could figure along with Nicky Henderson’s My Tent or Yours (7/1), but both have something to prove, especially the latter who has been off the course for nearly two years! At bigger odds, Paul Nicholls’ Old Guard (20/1) could surprise back at his favourite track having failed to show his form racing right-handed at Kempton last time out.

Mullins’ Vroum Vroum Mag (11/8) will be a warm order to win the Mares’ Hurdle, potentially repeating her trainers four winners on day one last year, while the Irish handler could have the favourite for the marathon National Hunt Chase in the shape of Black Hercules (4/1) later on the card.

Note: There will also be two ultra-competitive handicaps on the opening day – the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase, and the CHAPS Novices Handicap Chase – where it would not be a surprise if bookmakers bet 8/1 and upwards with a host of horses having chances in each event.

Cheltenham Festivals Daily Reviews

Day #2

Day #3

Day #4

References

[1] cheltenham-festival.co.uk, Cheltenham Festival Day 1 Schedule, 2016