The 2017 Cheltenham Festival kicks off on Tuesday 14th March with Champion Day, and what a fantastic field has once again assembled for the meeting’s traditional curtain-raiser.
The day kicks off with the excellent Supreme Hurdle renewal and kicks on from there, with the eye-catchers being the Arkle Trophy (just how good is Altior), the Mares’ Hurdle and the cherry on the cake; the Champion Hurdle.
Let’s take a look at the pick of the Day 1 betting tips a Cheltenham:
Supreme Hurdle Betting Tips
We have a weak favourite to attack here in Melon, who boasts a fantastic name but not the lengthy winning record we might expect of a contender for one of the festival’s standout non-feature races.
Instead take a look at Ballyandy (5/1), who represents the form horse due to his win in the Betfair Hurdle. You could argue that he is taking a step down in class here, and lest we forget the six-year-old is already a Cheltenham winner after claiming the honours in the Champion Bumper 12 months ago.
Arkle Trophy Betting Tips
There is a ‘Without Altior’ market open, such is the expected dominance of the favourite, and we offer no reason to oppose him. At 1/3 though, he is of little betting interest to anyone.
In that without market, let’s give Royal Caviar a go at 9/2. He has finished in the money places in 10 of his 11 starts, and a fall last time out at Leopardstown has gone some way to dampening the market’s enthusiasm. That’s a shame; the seven-year-old is a proven campaigner on soft ground.
With the supplementation of Limini this has become a three-horse race between the Mullins trained charger, Apple’s Jade and Vroum Vroum Mag.
Interestingly, in the past few months Limini has beaten Apple’s Jade (Quevega Mares’ Hurdle) who has beaten Vroum Vroum Mag in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle. So that’s the 1-2-3 sorted, right?
If only life was that simple, but few would disagree that Limini is the standout horse in this company at 11/8.
Champion Hurdle Betting Tips
Of course, the feature of Champion Day is….well, the Champion Hurdle, and the surprise omission of Limini has rather opened up the betting market.
The Willie Mullins steed appeared to be primed for a tilt at Tuesday’s big prize, but the Irishman has instead decided to hold her over for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle. Surprising, given that the combination of Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh has accounted for four of the last six winners of the Champion Hurdle.
The betting market has rallied and come up with Yanworth as the new favourite at around 4/1. Fair enough; he has won eight of his last nine outings, with a sole defeat coming at the hands (hooves?) of Yorkhill in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle on this last hallowed turf a year ago.
However, there are plenty who think that the absence of Barry Geraghty, who remains sidelined with a rib injury and will miss the festival, could be costly for Yanworth. He has saddled the seven-year-old through all of his finest moments.
And that’s why we’ll be opting for Petit Mouchoir instead. At 6/1 an each way bet is still of decent value – particularly with place terms offered on the top three – and besides which this French fancy could well take the honours outright.
It was just under a year ago that he finished a neck behind another Champion Hurdle contender, Buveur D’air, at Aintree, but since then the six-year-old has kicked on in fine style.
The highlight of the last 12 months was undoubtedly taking the honours by a distance of seven lengths in the Ryanair Hurdle in December, where he beat the highly-rated Nichol’s Canyon amongst others, and the power he showed to maintain top speed in the final straight is testament to the lungs on the horse.
With soft ground expected next week, Petit Mouchoir represents fine value.