Cheltenham tips: Who to back on day one at the Cheltenham Festival
Having saddled a record seven winners in today’s Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, Nicky Henderson can extend his domination by making it eight with PENTLAND HILLS (3.30, nb). The Lambourn trainer has four runners in today’s hurdling crown and punters have put their faith in him as they believe Henderson can take the prize with Epatante, the favourite.
Admittedly, Epatante has some smart form, taking the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton in December when Silver Streak and Ballyandy were behind her.
But this season we have not seen the best of Pentland Hills, the impressive winner of last season’s Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.
In his two outings this term, he has run too free due to lack of pace and also, he was not getting home in his races.
Since his last outing, the gelding has undergone surgery to help his breathing.
All the signs in his work suggest this has had the desired effect.
In last year’s Triumph he beat Couer Sublime, fancied by connections today, like a potential Champion Hurdle winner.
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Robbie Power is talking up his chances on Supasundae, the conqueror of dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air at Aintree last season.
But this 10-year-old has disappointed since and age must now be against him.
The value in the race has to be the Henderson-trained Fusil Raffles, a 14-1 chance.
He failed to fire at Kempton behind Epatante but if he reproduces his running when slamming Fakir D’Oudairies at Punchestown in May he is a serious player.
SHISHKIN (1.30, treble) can kick start the meeting for Henderson by taking the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
He might be favourite, but this is a seriously competitive contest.
His owner Joe Donnelly also has strong claims with Asterion Forlonge, from the Willie Mullins stable.
Also, Abacadabras cannot be overlooked but Shishkin has looked to be a machine in his two victories.
Notebook is a worthy favourite in the Arkle Chase, but his stable mate PUT
THE KETTLE ON (2.10) cannot be overlooked at 16-1.
She posted a stunning performance when beating Al Dancer, with Rouge Vif back in fourth place, over today’s course and distance in November.
Local trainer Kim Bailey has not repeated those magical moments when he made it a Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle double celebration in 1995 but can he toast a winner with VINNDICATION (2.50, nap).
He comes here a fresh horse after beating the smart Regal Encore at Ascot in November, when having his only outing of the season.
Also, he put in some decent performances behind Defi Du Seuil last season.
BENIE DE DIEUX (4.10), considered the best mare Willie Mullins has ever trained, can make amends for her fall in last year’s Mares’ Hurdle, the race she won in 2018.
The unbeaten Honeysuckle will understandably have plenty of supporters, but her credentials fall short of the selection and you have to respect Mullins’s remark.
Rachael Blackmore, the rider of Honeysuckle, can celebrate with TRAINWRECK (4.50). He was denied a clear run on his latest outing when failing by a head to catch Glamorgan Duke at Leopardstown last month.
Mullins and his son Patrick have the answer in the finale with CAREFULLY SELECTED (5.30). He has won his three races over fences and connections are not short of confidence.
CHELTENHAM tips for day one
1.30 Shishkin (treble)
2.10 Put The Kettle On
2.50 Vinndication (nap)
3.30 Pentland Hills(nb)
4.10 Benie Des Dieux
5.30 Carefully Selected
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