Cheltenham Festival Day One Betting Tips – Tuesday 13th March 2018

The long wait is over. If there’s one thing which allows March to lay claim to be the most magnificent month of all, then it is surely the four days of horse racing heaven that is the Cheltenham Festival. Champion Day kicks things off as ever as the masses descend on Prestbury Park once again this coming Tuesday.

The Champion Hurdle itself looks a one sided affair, but as we have learnt at Cheltenham over the years things aren’t always as straightforward as they seem. Will Buveur D’air deliver? Or are we in for a shock? Read on for our take on the big one and the other six contests on what is a cracking opening day.

1:30 – Supreme Novices´ Hurdle – Grade 1, 2m110y

First Flow each way at 10/1 with Bet365

If the market is to be believed, we may well witness the pink and green silks of Rich Ricci being carried to victory in our opener once again. Successful here with both Douvan, Vautour and Champagne Fever in recent years, Ricci sends out Getabird in a bid to follow in those famous hoofprints this time around. With three wins on soft or worse ground to his name, and having slammed a Grade 2 field by nine lengths last time out, he’s a must for the shortlist. Quite how much value he represents at around the 6/4 mark in this 20-runner affair though is questionable and we prefer an each way bet in the race.

Kim Bailey seemed pretty adamant that First Flow would not be heading to the Cheltenham Festival despite a hugely impressive performance when winning Haydock’s trial for this race by a resounding 10 lengths. The reason First Flow does stand his ground after all - rather than being put away for the season - is the ground. This one positively thrives in the mud, being three from three on soft or heavy in his career to date. The cumulative winning margin of those victories totals an impressive 34 lengths and he had some highly regarded sorts in behind last time. The fact that he takes his chance in the race may prove a tip in itself and he looks excellent each way value.

2:10 – Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase – Grade 1, 2m

Saint Calvados to win at 3/1 with Ladbrokes

We have one of the smallest Arkle fields in years in our second race, with just the five runners expected to go to post. Despite the lack of numbers, this still looks an intriguing renewal. It is Willie Mullins who saddles the favourite in the form of last season’s Champion Hurdle fourth place finisher Footpad. Undoubtedly talented over the smaller obstacles, he looks a far better performer over fences. Already a dual Grade 1 Chase winner, including in the Irish Arkle last time out, he is the proven class of the field. Again though he is just a little on the short side for our liking.

We are hoping the 2018 Cheltenham Festival will start with a bang for the British trainers as it is again one of the home team who will be carrying our cash here. As good as Footpad’s jumping has been, the fencing of Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados has been at least as impressive for our money. Unbeaten in three since being sent chasing, he routed a Grade 2 field last time and at more than double the price of the Mullins runner is worth a punt.

2:50 – Ultima Handicap Chase – Grade 3, 3m1f

Eamon An Cnoic at 25/1 with Coral

We had Gold Present in mind for this race over the winter, and still suspect the top weight may ultimately prove to be the best of these in the long run. However, with the ground riding as it is there must be some doubt as to whether he will even take his chance. With zero from two on soft in his career to date, he may well be saved for another day. Of the others towards the head of the market, Coo Star Sivola makes plenty of appeal following his romp at Exeter last time, but overall this looks an ideal race for an each way punt.

David Pipe has an excellent record in this race with three wins in the past 10 years, including in each of the two most recent editions with back to back winner Un Temps Pour Tout. Pipe sends the unexposed Eamon An Cnoic in pursuit of the prize this year and we like his chances. Three of the seven year old’s four career victories have come on either soft or heavy ground, so unlike a few others in the line-up he is at least unlikely to be undone by conditions. The step up to this trip would be the one big question mark, but at 25/1 you aren’t going to have everything in your favour and this one looks well worth chancing for a man who knows better than most what it takes to succeed here.

3:30 – Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy – Grade 1, 2m110y

Buveur D’air to win at 4/7 with Bet365

The shortest priced favourite of the opening day may well come in the feature race as Nicky Henderson’s Buveur D’air is currently the red-hot favourite to defend his Champion Hurdle crown. The reasons he is the price he is are twofold. Firstly, he has looked magnificent in his three starts so far this season, and secondly, nothing else has really emerged as a serious challenger.

Those hoping to see the jolly beaten are largely pinning their hopes on first time blinkers reinvigorating the 2015 champion, Faugheen. The Willie Mullins runner looked as good as ever when blitzing the Morgiana Hurdle field on his comeback run but has since disappointed twice.

Firstly when being pulled up in the Ryanair and then when second to Stayers’ Hurdle favourite Supasundae last time out. That was a nevertheless a step back in the right direction, and its not impossible that he may return to his best. Now into double figures though the stats are against him, with the nine year old Hurricane Fly the oldest winner of this in the past decade (in 2013). It’s got to be the favourite for us here.

4:10 – OLBG Mares´ Hurdle (Registered as David Nicholson Mares´ Hurdle) – Grade 1, 2m4f

Apple’s Jade to win at 8/13 with Coral

From the day’s shortest priced British runner to the opening day’s big Irish banker. There may not be much of the diminutive Apple’s Jade, but this Gordon Elliott trained mare certainly knows how to run. Arriving on a five-race winning streak which began in this very race last year, if her trainer’s assertion that she is an improved performer this term is correct then she looks like taking an awful lot of beating.

It was Apple’s Jade’s stamina that won the day when seeing off Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag here 12 months ago in a race run on good to soft. The more demanding conditions this time around may well play into her hands even more. It was on soft ground that she first really burst onto the scene when winning a Grade 1 at Aintree by a ridiculous 41 lengths in 2016.

Benie Des Dieux is three from three since joining Willie Mullins from France and may prove the biggest danger for a man who does so well with mares, whilst Warren Greatrex’s La Bague Au Roi handles soft well and may be the best of the British. That duo don’t offer much in the way of each way value though and we will be sticking with Apple’s Jade for the win.

4:50 – National Hunt Chase (Amateur Riders´ Novices´ Chase) – 4m

Sizing Tennessee each way at 10/1 with Betfair

Jamie Codd is just about the best Amateur rider in the game and as such anything he gets the leg up on is always worth a look in an event such as this. It is the Gordon Elliott runner Jury Duty who will benefit from his services in this and the seven year old looks set to go well in a first time tongue tie. Whilst the breathing aid may bring about improvement, we are not sure he has done quite enough to warrant being so short in the market and we will look elsewhere.

The one we like is the Colin Tizzard runner Sizing Tennessee. This one regularly goes well over the fences around here with form figures of 23PF123. Significantly the win in that sequence came over the longest trip he has faced in his career to date, when cantering home by six lengths over three miles and one and a half furlongs in a Novices contest in December. He looks just the sort to have untapped potential over a marathon trip such as this and makes plenty of each way appeal.

5:30 – Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed Race) – 2m4f110y

De Plotting Shed to win at 13/2 with BetVictor

Gordon Elliott was the champion trainer at this meeting last year and can take a step towards defending that title in the day one finale. De Plotting Shed has had just the four runs over fences to date but has already displayed a very useful level of form, with his three length second to RSA favourite Presenting Percy reading particularly well in the context of this.

Staying on really well at the death over two miles last time out off this mark of 143, the step back up in trip here seems certain to suit. Davy Russell has few equals when it comes to getting one home in front in a Cheltenham handicap and can work his magic once again.