Cheltenham Festival Day 1 Tips: Race-by-race tipster selections

Fiddlerontheroof has a live chance in Tuesday's Grade 1 Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Fiddlerontheroof has a live chance in Tuesday's Grade 1 Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Nick Seddon runs through the card on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival, and picks out a bet in every race on the card, including a couple of double-figure each-way bets...

13:30 - Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1)

This race regularly sets the tone for the week as far as punters are concerned, and the Joe Donnelly-owned pair of Shishkin and Asterion Forlonge dominate the market. The latter will be popular after a stunning win in the Pharma Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last month, a race which was also won by last year's winner Klassical Dream, while Shishkin steps into Grade 1 company for the first time after recording two bloodless wins. Shishkin's stablemate Chantry House is another one stepping up in class after two clear-cut wins in minor company and is respected, as is the Grade 1-winning Irish raider Abacadabras, but it is the Colin Tizzard-trained Fiddlerontheroof who makes the most appeal. He isn't the flashiest performer in the field, but there was plenty to like about his effort to win the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January, showing a good turn of foot to pull clear of a smart field. The forecast soft conditions should play into his hands, and he can grab Tizzard his first win in the Festival curtain-raiser. 

Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Fiddlerontheroof silk



14:10 Arkle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1)

The betting for this is dominated by the Irish raiders Notebook and Fakir D'Oudairies, who were first and second in a Grade 1 chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. Notebook has since followed up in the Irish equivalent at the same course last time and has to be taken very seriously, but the way he struggled to settle going to post that day leaves fears that this big-field scenario at Cheltenham may not suit him. Cash Back got within three quarters of a length of Notebook on his first try at this level last time and deserves another chance here, while Fakir D'Oudairies will be suited should this become a test of stamina and he's respected. Brewin'upastorm has offered plenty to work with in two wins in minor company so far and is another to consider for the Olly Murphy team, but it could be worth siding with one at a price here, namely Esprit Du Large. He caused a surprise when winning the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown in December, but he made a rather taking impression in the process. The vibes around him from his yard are strong, and having been allowed to freshen up since, he's an interesting each-way prospect.

Arkle Challenge Trophy
Esprit Du Large silk

Esprit Du Large (EW)


14:50 Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3)

This is as competitive as ever, though one who makes plenty of appeal is The Conditional. He already has winning course and distance form under his belt this term - winning here in October - and he's posted fine efforts to hit the frame in two highly-competitive handicaps since. He's still giving off the impression of one who's firmly on the up, and arrives here off a good mark having been dropped 3 lb for his latest effort to finish fourth in the Classic Chase. The forecast soft ground holds no fears, and he can go very close for the David Bridgwater team. There are plenty of dangers, including the in-form trio of Vinndication, Who Dares Wins and Mister Malarky, while both Kildisart and Discorama are two more could be lurking on attractive marks.

Ultima Handicap Chase
The Conditional silk

The Conditional


15:30 - Champion Hurdle (Grade 1)

The feature race is one of the most wide-open renewals for years, and plenty will feel they have strong claims. The mare Epatante heads the market for the Nicky Henderson team, and she's a deserved favourite after a crushing win in the Chrismas Hurdle at Kempton in December. However, reports that she's been coughing tempers enthusiasm for supporting her at around the 7/2 mark, while stablemate Pentland Hills has something to prove after two lacklustre displays so far this term. Each of Cilaos Emery, Supasundae, Sharjah and the improving Darver Star all deserve a second look, though the value could lie with Petit Mouchoir at a much bigger price. Admittedly, he's endured a couple of years in the wilderness, but he's looked much more like his old self recently, producing good efforts to place in Grade 1 company on three occasions so far this term. Indeed, he was a dual Grade 1-winner back in 2016/17, finishing third in that season's running of this, and bearing in mind that this is very much a sub-standard renewal of the Champion Hurdle, it isn't hard to envisage this highly consistent type sneaking into the frame if able to rediscover his very best form on the big stage. 

Champion Hurdle
Petit Mouchoir silk

Petit Mouchoir (EW)


16:10 - Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1)

This looks likely to boil down to a straight match race between the two protagonists, Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle. The latter has yet to taste defeat in seven starts under Rules so far, and picked up a third Grade 1 success of her career when striking in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time out. As such, it's slightly surprising to see here pitch up here rather than in the Champion Hurdle itself, and she could well find Benie Des Dieux to be an immovable object. Indeed, even on her very best form, Honeysuckle will likely still need a career best to defeat Benie Des Dieux, who would be seeking a hat-trick in this if it wasn't for a flight fall and obliterated the boys on reappearance at Gowran Park in January. Meanwhile the battle for third could prove to be a race in itself, and it would be no surprise should Phil Kirby's admirable Lady Buttons hit the frame. 

Mares' Hurdle
Benie Des Dieux silk

Benie Des Dieux


16:50 - Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase (Listed)

This is traditionally a tricky race to decode, but punters have a good recent record - with each of the last three winners returning home at a single-figure price in the betting. Imperial Aura heads the market after a pair of good efforts to place here, though his revised mark is a tough one, and Galvin makes the most appeal for the Gordon Elliott team. A smart novice hurdler, he's been a model of steady improvement in his three starts over fences so far, finishing a solid second behind Salsaretta on his most recent start at Punchestown in November. That mare has gone on to boost that form by winning twice subsequently, and with Galvin's opening mark looking more than fair, he could be primed to strike. 

Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase
Galvin silk



17:30 - National Hunt Chase (Grade 2)

This regularly proves to be a war of attrition, and will be run over three miles and six furlongs for the first time, having been shortened for safety reasons since last year's renewal. The Willie Mullins-trained Carefully Selected is all the rage in the betting following an unbeaten start to fences, and his claims are obvious considering this has likely been the plan for some time. He's short enough in the betting though for such a tough test for novices, and Lord Du Mesnil makes more appeal at the prices. He's enjoyed a tremendous campaign so far this term, racking up a hat-trick of impressive wins before just running out of steam in the closing stages in the Grand National Trial at Haydock last time out. He had valid excuses that day having suffered a less than ideal preparation, and provided that Haydock run in heavy conditions hasn't taken too much out of him, he should relish this test - with the booking of top amateur Sam Waley-Cohen a huge bonus. 

National Hunt Chase
Lord Du Mesnil silk

Lord Du Mesnil

Cheltenham Festival Tips
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