The Cheltenham Festival 2019 gets under way on Tuesday with the going forecast to be good to soft. That could change with 12mm of rain forecast before the start of racing.
1.30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle ITV
There have been some short-priced favourites in this race over the years but Tuesday’s renewal looks extremely competitive. Al Dancer has been favourite since winning the Betfair Hurdle off a handicap mark of 141. Angels Breath takes his chance in the same colours, despite being beaten at odds-on at Kempton recently.
Fakir D’oudairies bids to become the first four-year-old to win since Hors La Loi III in 1999. There is nothing between the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Klassical Dream and Aramon on form, yet they are priced at a general 5-1 and 16-1 respectively. Aramon briefly headed his stable companion that day and could benefit from being held up until the last possible moment.
Grand Sancy has been racing consistently all season and have been largely overlooked in the betting. He was beaten by only half a length by Elixir De Nutz at Sandown in the Tolworth Hurdle in January. Grand Sancy has since won a Grade 2 at Wincanton when repelling the late challenge of Sceau Royal.
Tip: ARAMON looks over priced here and could be one of the last to throw down a challenge. Grand Sancy could also make the frame at a good price.
2.10 Arkle Challenge Trophy ITV
The Arkle Challenge Trophy at 2.10 also has an open look about it. Lalor reportedly hated the soft ground when well beaten at Sandown last time. The form with Dynamite Dollars was reversed to the tune of 19 lengths on their previous meeting. The forecast seems to be against Kayley Woollacott’s runner and confidence has been growing in Glen Forsa.
Mick Channon’s gelding dished out a 19 lengths thrashing to Kalashnikov last month on soft ground. There is a strong Irish challenge and you could not help but be impressed by Duc Des Genievres at Gowran Park last time. The grey jumped like a buck and won with any amount in hand. The form has been boosted since by stable companion Burrows Saint.
Tip: DUC DES GENIEVRES was so impressive at Gowran Park that he just gets a narrow vote over Glen Forsa.
2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase ITV
The first big handicap of the week is the Ultima Handicap Chase over an extended three miles at 2.50. This race has been won by Grand National winners West Tip, Seagram and Rough Quest and the emphasis looks likely to be on stamina again this year.
That could play to the strengths of Beware The Bear, a five lengths winner for Nicky Henderson on New Years’ Day. He wore blinkers for the first time that day and looked a far easier ride than in his previous races. He is only 1lb higher than when fourth to Coo Star Sivola 12 months’ ago. The winner has run well at the last three Festival meetings and his last run can be safely ignored. A bad blunder cost him all chance and he is certain to have been trained with this race in mind.
Tip: BEWARE THE BEAR and Coo Star Sivola are old rivals from last year and Nicky Henderson’s chaser can reverse the form.
3.30 Champion Hurdle ITV
The feature race on the opening day is the £450,000 Champion Hurdle at 3.30. Buveur D’Air is bidding to emulate Henderson’s See You Then by winning his third consecutive title. He has been careless with his hurdling on a couple of occasions this season, although the faster pace here should help him.
Apple’s Jade has been a revelation this season, destroying the opposition by an aggregate 73 lengths over four races. Three of those were Grade 1 events. Willie Mullins has three runners, led by the unbeaten Laurina. She still has a lot to prove while last year’s runner-up Melon could be aided by the application of cheek-pieces.
Tip: APPLE’S JADE has been unbeatable this season and could end Buveur D’Air’s reign in a fascinating race.
4.10 Mares’ Hurdle ITV
The Mares’ Hurdle at 4.10 sees the return of last year’s winner Benie Des Dieux. She has been well-touted, despite her 318-day absence. Mia’s Storm did not take to fences but has returned to hurdling with victories at Uttoxeter and Kempton. Limini and Stormy Island give Mullins a strong hand in a race he has dominated in the past.
Tip: BENIE DES DIEUX has been burdened with Ruby Walsh’s tip as his best ride of the week. It is difficult to argue with him on form.