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Ginger Joe - 2024 Cheltenham Festival – Day 1 & 2 Preview

Publish Date: 08/03/2024
Fact checked by: James Leeland
Key Points
  • Cheltenham Festival Preview Part 1
  • An overview of the notable races for Day 1 and 2
  • A brand new Cheltenham free bet offer from BetMGM

Just a few days to go until the greatest show on turf

We have made it, and in less than a week’s time, the 2024 Cheltenham Festival will be under way. Just like last year, I have managed to get four super guests together to join me for a Cheltenham Festival preview show.

I am joined by my usual two sidekicks Jaime Wrenn and Scotty Ruderham, but for this episode I am delighted to welcome Alex Galpin from the Cheltenham Exchange and Dawn Leadon-Bolger from Digi Tips for a Cheltenham extravaganza and there will be no sitting on the fence.

Along with the video preview, I am going to go through some of the races that I haven’t touched on yet in my other preview articles, just to give you a taste of the wonderful racing action to come next week.

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Day 1 - 15:30 The Champion Hurdle 2m

The highlight on Day 1 is the Champion Hurdle and we have had plenty of drama in the markets over the last week or so. With unbeaten, all-season ante post favourite, Constitution Hill, being ruled out due to a bad scope, the door has been left wide open for State Man to take the first Championship race of the Festival.

As a racing fan, this is obviously a huge disappointment, but at the same time we had only seen Constitution Hill once this season, yet State Man has run in three Grade 1s and won all of them, so you could argue that State Man would be the most deserved winner anyway. To add to the excitement several new contenders have now been added to the mix.

Gordon Elliott has decided to re-route Stayers’ Hurdle favourite Irish Point to the Champion Hurdle in search of prize money and rightly so. After all, the owners of Irish Point have another short-priced contender in the Stayers’ and splitting the pair up makes perfect sense. Irish Point may have been campaigned over a longer trip, but he does have plenty of speed as well. Although he was touched off by Marine Nationale in the Royal Bond, he went on to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year, so that form stacks up, and he also managed to quicken off a slowly-run race over three miles last time out, so he may be slightly underestimated.

The market probably has this right at the moment, with State Man and Irish Point sitting clear at the top, but there are a few other interesting contenders in here too. Iberico Lord won both the Greatwood Hurdle and the Betfair Hurdle, and he has now been supplemented for this race, since the demise of stablemate Constitution Hill. The form Iberico Lord brings into this race may not be quite Champion Hurdle level, but the likes of Rooster Booster followed a similar path and he definitely has a chance if things don’t go to plan for the main contenders.

Of the remainder, Zarak The Brave could have a chance of making it into the placings. Willie Mullins has been patient with this one and he could be up to Graded level, we don’t actually know yet, so his entry here is interesting. I doubt he will be good enough to win, but he has the potential to be a good each way squeak. Finally, Nemean Lion could have a chance if the ground turned out to be bottomless.

Day 1 – 16:10 The Mares’ Hurdle 2m 4f

In the Mares’ division we are looking for a new champion, as last year's winner, the great Honeysuckle, has since retired, following a wonderful career full of Grade 1 victories. For this year’s renewal we have a very short priced favourite and to be honest, she does look like she is going to take on the world.

That horse is Lossiemouth. She won last year's Triumph Hurdle in really good style, and she is currently favourite for this year’s Mares’ Hurdle, ahead of her stablemate Ashroe Diamond. These two are the only two runners in the race at single-figure prices, and deservedly so, as they do look a cut above the rest. I have actually been flying the flag for Ashroe Diamond all season long for this race, but the nearer we get, the more I am starting to think Lossiemouth might be ‘the one’ after all.

Ashroe Diamond is two years her senior, and she has Graded form over this intermediate trip already, which Lossiemouth doesn’t and that has to count for something. Lossiemouth has been impressive over two-miles miles, but the question is, will step up in trip suit her? Well, the nearer we get to the Festival, the more I am starting to believe that it will.

When she was beaten by Gala Marceau at the DRF last year, she made an absolute howler and lost tons of ground, but was able to fight back and close the distance in quite a short space of time. The fact she was able to do this makes me believe that staying the trip will be no issue for her and the way she stormed up the hill in January, makes it very hard to oppose her now.

Love Envoi would also have a place chance, but only if it turns out to be deep ground on the day, but ultimately, I imagine Willie Mullins will likely have the first two places pegged down with Lossiemouth and Ashroe Diamond.

Day 1 – 17:30 The National Hunt Chase 3m 6f

The National Hunt Chase is a race I haven’t got a strong fancy in just yet, but it’s worth taking a look at the runners here, because it’s a difficult race to figure out. Embassy Gardens has been at a short price for this race for a while. He was very impressive at Punchestown on his Chase debut and improved on that by putting on a fantastic jumping display and going on to beat Sandor Clegane at Naas in a Grade 3.

Both of his races have been over the three-mile trip, and I actually think if he was trained by anyone other than Willie Mullins, he would be running in the Brown Advisory. He’s certainly a really good horse to go forward with, and I suspect he won’t be far away here.

Corbetts Cross was in with a proper shout for the Albert Bartlett last season when he ran out at the final flight, and to be honest, he is a bit of a hot head. You don’t always know what you're going to get with this one, but he definitely has a big engine. My biggest worry is that I don’t feel his jumping is entirely trustworthy and at a ridiculously short price, he could be worth taking on.

You simply can’t make many mistakes in this race and still win. It’s a contest that needs exceptional good jumpers with plenty of stamina. Which brings me to Salvador Ziggy, for Gordon Elliott, who is a very good jumper indeed.  He is a lovely sort, who has progressed nicely throughout his career, and I like the fact that he is coming into this race fresh, which gives him a real chance of running at his best.  Beyond those three, I would be surprised if anything else in the race was good enough to win it.

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Day 2 – 14:10 The Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase 3m

In the Brown Advisory it looks like we have one of the Festival bankers ready to line up, in the name of Fact To File, for Willie Mullins. He was beaten on debut in November by American Mike, but since then, he has looked a completely different animal. His two runs since have come at Leopardstown over 2m 5f and he won very easily the first time, before beating Gaelic Warrior at the DRF, in what turned out to be a solo performance, after Gaelic Warrior chucking Paul Townend out of the side door.

The Mullins’ camp has already labelled Fact To File as next year’s Gold Cup winner, so you have to take note of that, and he is clearly improving with every run. Stay Away Fay isn’t here without a shout though. He’s a lovely horse and he won the Albert Bartlett last year. He’s also a very good jumper of a fence, and has proven form in open company from when he ran in the Cotswold Chase and finished third to Capodanno. Stay Away Fay isn’t to be underestimated and he does have a decent turn of foot too, so if the race is run to suit, he may not be far away at the finish.

Monty’s Star is another magnificent jumper, who really impresses me every time I watch him. Although he may not have the speed of some of the others, the fact he jumps so well brings him right into the mix. I’d imagine he will be ridden quite prominently, to put his good jumping to best effect and any slip ups from the two at the front of the market will fall straight into his lap.

Of the remainder, Broadway Boy represents the local Twiston-Davies team and this is a horse for the future no doubt about it. He is only a six-year-old and has some lovely form in the book over this trip from earlier in the season. However, I would have preferred to see him in the National Hunt Chase this time around.

Day 2 – 15:30 The Champion Chase 2m

Next up, we have the Champion Chase and I can only see one winner here, which is El Fabiolo. He sets a really good standard of form, and from what we have seen of him this year, it looks like he has improved plenty as well. He beat Jonbon in last year’s Arkle, and since then he hasn’t really had any other serious contenders to take on, making it hard to bet against him.

Jonbon is a fantastic horse, but he is a year older than El Fabiolo and looks like he has been struggling recently. Although he was fantastic in the Shloer Chase, things haven’t really gone to plan for Jonbon since then. He would need to be back to peak form to have any chance, and even then, he still has a bit to find with El Fabiolo.

Captain Guinness is in the line up here and what a lovely horse he is. But the problem with this one, is that he has had a few heart problems, which is why he has underperformed of late. Despite connections making it clear he is 100% well now, it makes him very hard to trust off the back of that. I don’t see him winning here, but he does hold place claims on his best form.

Edwardstone bounced back to form last time out, after going from the front. However, those front running tactics would just set it up for the favourite here. Edwardstone is not without a hope, but I don’t see him winning this.

Day 2 – 16:10 The Cross Country Chase 3m 6f

The Cross Country Chase always sparks discussion about whether it has a place at the Cheltenham Festival and opinions are somewhat divided on that score. Personally, I absolutely love this race and believe that it fully deserves its place at the Cheltenham Festival. It’s very unique to our sport, has a long list of history to go with it, not to mention a string of fantastic winners, and it’s always worth a watch.

The 2024 renewal looks highly competitive. Last year’s winner, Delta Work, is back to try and make it three wins in as many years, but he isn’t getting any younger. He is 11 years old now and the prep he has had this season doesn’t look ideal at all. Although he always underperforms, then gets primed for the Festival in March, this year his prep runs have been even more underwhelming than usual, which is a slight concern for me.

Former Gold Cup winner, Minella Indo, had a great debut spin round the banks here in December, and it was a very eye-catching run. It really looked like a revival of his previous form and the fact he comes here fresh, puts him in with a chance for sure. I feel this different angle will be very important for his chances and he has to go close here based on that first run.

Galvin is a horse that frankly I have never taken to. I know he ran a good race last time out, but he is so inconsistent. One minute he’s right in form, and the next he’s not, and it’s got to the point where I’ll gladly take Galvin on, and even lay him on the day if he is a short price.

Coko Beach is the only other contender here for me. He has improved all season long, winning the Troytown in November and latterly the Punchestown Cross Country. Interestingly, Conflated was due to run here, but the fact that Coko Beach has been so impressive he is now the one that’s on course for the Cross Country next week instead.

Day 2 – 17.30 The Champion Bumper

We don’t really have a serious standout for this year’s Champion Bumper. The market is wide open, with little to choose between the top six in terms of price. However, what we do have is a really interesting crop of horses with form that is quite hard to weigh up. There are a fair few runners in here with 1s by their names, but the majority ran in weak races, so except for three notables, it’s hard to get a grip on how strong their form actually is.

Teeshan joined the Paul Nicholls team with a big reputation, coming off the back of his 41 length Irish Point-to-Point win. He then went on to win his stable debut at Exeter, again by a decent margin. Although he didn’t beat much that day, he is a bit of a dark horse and he could be anything.

Another whose origins come from the PTP scene is Jalon D’Oudairies, for Gordon Elliott. He won his only PTP start easily, and has since added two more wins under Rules. Last time out at Leopardstown he beat Redemption Day, who has some pretty solid form behind him. Also, both of his NH wins came on soft ground, so the going won’t trouble him for certain.

But the one I think holds all the aces for this year’s renewal is You Oughta Know. He beat the highly-touted Croke Park on debut, and then backed that up in decent fashion at Galway, prior to taking a six-month break. His next stop took him straight to the DRF, where he finished second to Jeroboam Machin. The latter being the best Bumper horse around, but sadly ruled out for the rest of the season due to an injury. As You Oughta Know finished second to him last time out, I think that form will hold up very well at Cheltenham.

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The most notable one so far coming form one of my all-time favourites, William Hill, who are offering existing account holders a free £5 bet for each day of the Festival. You’ll need to opt in, so don’t delay, get onto that right away if you are eligible.

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