The Cheltenham Festival Day One: Ante Post
Cheltenham Festival clues came in thick and fast at the weekend and excitement is mounting ahead of the year’s most important National Hunt meeting.
It begins on Tuesday, March 13, and the big races on day one include the Champion Hurdle, the Arkle and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Several leading contenders for these events were in action at the weekend and Saturday’s racing served up some strong hints as to who will seize glory next month.
Champion hurdler Buveur D’Air extended his unbeaten record to nine races when he breezed to victory in the Contenders’ Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday. Footpad also made it three out of three with a strong win at Leopardstown, so antepost action is bound to ramp up this week.
Which races take place on day one?
Punters can look forward to seven races on day one. It begins at 1.30pm with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, followed by the Arkle Challenge Trophy and the Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase.
The Champion Hurdle is at 3.30pm, and then we have the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, the Toby Balding National Hunt Chance and the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.
For a full rundown of the festival, check out our Cheltenham betting guide, which provides practical advice on betting strategies for the meeting.
Which are the feature races?
The feature race of day one is the Champion Hurdle, a Grade 1 race taking in eight fences over 2 miles and ½ furlong. It has been running since 1927, when Blaris won prize money of £365 for a commanding victory.
Over the years it has had many famous winners, from Istabraq to Dawn Run, and the prize pot has now climbed north of £400,000.
All the races at the Cheltenham Festival are extremely prestigious, but on day one the Arkle and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle also stand out as big events.
What are the big duels of opening day?
Buveur D’Air beat stablemate My Tent Or Yours to win the Champion Hurdle last year and is the runaway favourite to defend his crown this year. He was supremely dominant at Sandown at the weekend and simply cannot stop winning.
But one fabled horse stands in his way. Faugheen won the Champion Hurdle in 2015, claimed back-to-back Christmas Hurdles in 2014 and 2015 and was ranked by Timeform as the highest rated hurdler in the business.
Injury derailed his career and he has underwhelmed in his last two races, being pulled up in the Ryanair Hurdle in December and finishing second to Supasundae at Leopardstown on Saturday. He is struggling for fitness, but if he recaptures the blistering pace he displayed a couple of years ago he will be a huge threat to Buveur D’Air.
Apple’s Jade has won her last five races in a row and heads the betting for the Mare Hurdle, but faces an almighty duel with Willie Mullins’ Let’s Dance.
Who is the antepost favourite to win The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle?
Mullin’s undefeated novice Getabird heads the ante post betting in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, priced at 11/4. The six-year-old bay gelding won the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle last month, his fourth victory in four career starts.
This will be his sternest test yet as the field is packed with talent. A great each-way option could be 14/1 shot Claimantakinforgan, who finished third at Musselburgh on Sunday. It was a disappointing result for the odds-on favourite, but he should improve on better ground next month.
Who is the antepost favourite to win The Arkle?
Footpad has become the odds-on favourite to win the Arkle after romping to victory in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Saturday. The second favourite for the Arkle is Petit Mouchoir, but Henry de Bromhead’s grey gelding was no match for Footpad on Saturday.
He jumped his rivals into submission, displayed frightening pace and is already being talked about as a festival banker by punters.
Who is the antepost favourite to win The Champion Hurdle?
Buveur D’Air is the 4/9 favourite to maintain his amazing winning streak and claim victory in the Champion Hurdle. Trainer Nicky Henderson became the most successful Champion Hurdle trainer in history when Buveur D’Air and he will aim to cement his dominance next month.
Faugheen might run the champion close if he returns to his best, but that is a big if, and Buveur D’Air looks to have the measure of this field. The odds are quite short, but this horse is sure to tempt high rollers, and he could make a nice double with Footpad. You could even throw in Apple’s Jade for a treble that would carry a strong price.