Cheltenham Festival: a guide to day one action

Honeysuckle on the gallops at Cheltenham Racecourse ahead of the Cheltenham Festival

Honeysuckle on the gallops at Cheltenham Racecourse ahead of the Cheltenham Festival which on Tuesday March 16 - Credit: PA

The first day of the Cheltenham Festival takes centre stage this afternoon with the meeting getting underway at 1.20pm. The feature race of the day is the Champion Hurdle and we’ve previewed the action with our race by race guide.

1.20pm Grade One Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

The smallest field in the history of the race with Appreciate It fancied to give Willie Mullins a seventh win in the meeting’s opening contest. He is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles this term and should have too many gears for Ballyadam and Metier.

Selection: Appreciate It 6/5

1.55pm Grade One Arkle Novices’ Chase

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With Energumene ruled out of the race through injury, this is all about Shishkin. He landed the Supreme at last year’s meeting and has been magnificent over fences so far this term. Allmankind will set a strong tempo out in front, but Shishkin’s talent is unmatched in this event and he can capture Grade One honours.

Selection: Shishkin 8/15

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2.30pm Ultima Handicap Chase

Typically competitive, Happygolucky has attracted support in recent days for Kim Bailey and is a leading player along with One For The Team who has been threatening to win a big handicap. However, Aye Right has run some fine races in defeat this term, particularly at Doncaster last term and this stiff test could really suit.

Selection: Aye Right 11/2

3.05pm Grade One Champion Hurdle

The feature race of the day. Epatante bids to retain her crown, but was ultimately disappointing at Kempton last time out and is on a retrieval mission. With that in mind, Goshen and Honeysuckle look the two to focus on. Goshen bounced back to form with a smooth win at Wincanton last time out and is a leading player, but Honeysuckle looks the one to beat. Unbeaten in 10 starts under Rules, she was very impressive at Leopardstown last time out and boasts winning festival form having won the Mares’ Hurdle last season. She is the leading player.

Selection: Honeysuckle 9/4

3.40pm Grade One Mares’ Hurdle

Willie Mullins has won nine renewals of this event and looks primed to make it double figures with Concertista. She won the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and has laughed at her rivals in two starts this season. Roksana, the 2019 winner could give her the most to think about, but Concertista is the class act in the race and should take all the beating.

Selection: Concertista 11/10

4.15pm Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle 

Houx Gris has been the subject of strong support for Somerset handler Paul Nicholls having shaped with promise on his first British start when third in a Grade One at Chepstow. However, this contest can throw up shock results and Zoffanien looks well-handicapped for Denis Hogan. He did the business in fine style at Naas last time out and a mark of 130 looks very lenient. The booking of Richard Johnson also makes him of serious interest.

Selection: Zoffanien 14/1

4.50pm National Hunt Chase

Galvin looks a leading player for Ian Ferguson. Kept fresh for this assignment since scoring at Cheltenham in October, he jumps, stays and looks the ideal type for this test. Better ground will also play to his strengths. His main rivals looks to be Next Destination who has impressed in three starts for Paul Nicholls and is another who promises to be suited by this trip.

Selection: Galvin 7/4

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