Day One at the Cheltenham Festival this year will host seven races including the main feature, the Champion Hurdle which will be run at 3.20 pm. The day kicks off however with the Supreme Novice Hurdle at 1.30.
This looks like a cracking renewal with a host of top notch novices going to post who are headed in the betting by the Colin Tizzard trained, Cue Card, winner of the Champion Bumper at the 2010 Festival. Amongst the leading contenders is Al Ferof from the Paul Nicholls yard and which will be ridden by Ruby Walsh, who interestingly has elected to ride this one for Nicholls rather than either of the strong pair from the Willie Mullins stable, Zaidpour or So Young. Those being backed include the Nicky Henderson trained, Spirit Son and Recession Proof, who is unbeaten over hurdles in three starts this season
Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase – Day One 2.05
This two mile test for the best Novice Chasers around brings together several who are in with chances. Likely favourite is the Alan King entry, Medermit, impressive winner of a Grade One last time at Sandown and who was second in the Supreme Novice Hurdle a couple of years ago. Also strongly fancied is Finians Rainbow and Ghizao, from the Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls yards respectively. Irish horses have won this race for the last two years and have a decent challenge once again, particularly Realt Dubh from the Noel Meade stable.
Festival Handicap Steeplechase – Day One 2.40
Always a great betting race, this very competitive handicap over 3 miles will be headed in the weights by Alan King’s Blazing Bailey, but likely favourite will be King’s other runner, Bensalem who is the choice of lead stable jockey, ‘Choc Thornton’. Sunnyhillboy who represents the JP McManus/Jonjo O’Neill axis will be a big fancy as will Reve De Sivola, winner of his last two starts.
Despite the loss of long time antepost favourite and defending champion, Binocular, this race remains one of the very best highlights of the entire week. It will be contested by the very best two mile hurdlers in the world and will be led in the betting by the Phillip Hobbs trained, Menorah, winner of the 2010 Supreme Novice Hurdle and unbeaten in two starts at Cheltenham this season. To win this however he will have to overcome the unbeaten Peddlers Cross who is the big Festival hope of the Donald McCain stable and Hurricane Fly the Irish Champion Hurdler and winner of seven Grade one races. Also in the 11 runner field is last year’s second, Khyber Kim, the highly rated Dunguib, plus of course Mille Chief and Oscar Whisky. This will be a great race!
Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (Cross Country Chase) – Day One 4.00
One of the most popular races of the week which as usual will have those two great warriors L’Ami and Garde Champetre from the Enda Bolger stable battling it out over the three miles and seven furlong course. A New Story trained by Michael Hourigan winner of this race last year will also be in the line up.
David Nicholson Mare’s Hurdle – Day One 4.40
Quevega winner of this race for the last two years bids to complete a hat trick for trainer Willie Mullins and jockey, Ruby Walsh and for many she is the Festival banker. She does come into the race however without a previous appearance this season but is said to be in rude health and ready to run. Sparky May, unbeaten in four starts this year would seem to be the biggest danger.
Centenary Novices Handicap Chase – Day One 5.15
The final race on Day One looks a very open handicap with plenty in with chances. They are headed in the weights by Charlie Longsdon’s seven year old, Songe, who would certainly represent a good each way chance at a decent price. The likely favourite however is the Paul Nicholls trained, Definity, who is on a good mark and has shown good form this season. Also being backed is the Alan Fleming eight year old On Borrowed Wings and the Jonjo O’Neill trained, Quanitativeeasing, who will have champion jockey, AP McCoy aboard.