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CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL PREVIEW - DAY 1 (ALL 4 GRADE 1’S)

Publish Date: 15/03/2021
Fact checked by: James Leeland

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL PREVIEW - DAY 1 (ALL 4 GRADE 1’S)

cheltenham race course

1.20 SKY BET SUPREME NOVICES HURDLE 

The 2021 Cheltenham Festival has finally arrived and we have a fantastic four days of racing ahead of us!

Day 1 has a total of four Grade 1’s starting with the Supreme Novices Hurdle, where 6 time winning trainer of the race Willie Mullins saddles favourite Appreciate it and also Blue Lord in a bid to make it 7 wins in the opener.

We may only have a field of 8, but this really is a fascinating contest to kick off the week, with some very progressive novices set to take the lineup. Appreciate it comes here off the back of winning a string of Grade 1’s, and he has the beating of Ballyadam twice already this season. I cant see that form being reversed here at Cheltenham.

The Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory steps up in class to deservedly take his place in the lineup but won that day off a mark of 138, and I believe a lot more than that will be required if he is to be winning this sort of race. The best of the British, however, comes in the form of the Harry Fry trained Metier, who most recently won the Tolworth Hurdle by 12 lengths to make it 3 from 3 over hurdles. I wouldn’t, in normal circumstances, be a follower of a Tolworth winner for a Supreme however, the manner in which he won this was very eye catching. He showed a great turn of foot and was very slick of his hurdles throughout and was quite powerful through the line.

This being said I do still feel Appreciate it will take all of the beating even if he is currently slightly skinny in the betting, with Blue Lord and Metier to give him most to think about, they make take the minor honors here.

WIN: APPRECIATE IT

E/W: Blue lord

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1.55 SPORTING LIFE ARKLE TROPHY NOVICES’ CHASE  

The Arkle battle we were hoping for will no longer commence, as Energumene has been pulled from the 2 mile event due to a minor setback. However, this leaves two very classy British speed chasers at the head of the market.

Shishkin and Allmankind have been ultra-progressive in both seasons so far, with odds on favourite Shishkin being the banker for many across the Festival week ahead. He is, in my opinion, the best horse to be contesting at this years festival, and I cant see him getting beaten by anything in this lineup. He is a very exuberant jumper of a fence ,and when asked by Nico to stretch, he does it with one shake of the reigns.

Allmankind probably has enough class and form to have won any of the past 3 or 4 Arkles, however he has stepped into a freak in Shishkin this year and will have to settle for the minor honors here. Captain Guinness is probably one we haven’t seen the best of yet and may be best of the rest.

WIN: SHISHKIN

E/W: Captain Guinness

3.05 UNIBET CHAMPION HURDLE 

champion hurdle

The highlight of Day 1 is, however, the Unibet Champion Hurdle over 2 miles and half a furlong where last year’s heroine Epatante bids to retain her crown amongst a star studied field!

She does however have a much tougher task on her hands this year, as unbeaten super mare Honeysuckle lines up this time around following her success in last year's mares hurdle, where she took down the dominant Benie des Dieux in a thrilling contest.

She has since stepped up on that form and won the Irish Champion Hurdle in serious style, in what is probably the best individual piece of form this field has to offer. She is 11 out of 11 and is going to be very hard to stop if she comes here in the same form. These two mares rightly head the market and could give us one of the clashes of the festival here!

There are also some interesting horses at each way value, and none more appealing than Abacadabras. This horse ran very well in the supreme novices hurdle last year when he went down to Shishkin by only a head near the line, after battling well up the hill all the way. He was only a novice then and the Cheltenham track looked to really suit him and after his progressive season this far, I could see him outrunning his odds in the highlight event of Day 1.

WIN: HONEYSUCKLE

E/W: Abacadabras

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3.40 CLOSE BROTHERS MARES HURDLE

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This year's Mares hurdle looks a straight battle between two exceptional horses.

Concertista is the current evens favourite and won the Novice version of the race last year by 12 lengths. If she turns up in that sort of form this year, she will be hard to beat considering she is still very much unexposed.

She has managed to beat the smart mare Minella Melody twice this season, who went off short price favourite for last years novice even. She opposes again and would be given a bit of an each way squeak, as she hasn't had the most luck in running previously and may fare a little better this time around.

My selection however, is the extremely tough mare and 2019 hero Roksana who has been highly tried over 3 miles against the likes of Paisley Park and Thyme Hill this season, and has ran with great credit only to get outstayed in the 3 mile events towards the final furlong. The drop back to 2 miles 4 furlongs will suit her down to a tee, and is my selection for the event this year.

She has improved so much since her 2019 victory and will be very hard to pass. She is a toughened mare and is my selection to take down the hot favourite Concertista, who wont have bumped into anything with Roksana’s stature to date.

WIN: ROKSANA (Day 1 Nap)

E/W: Minella Melody

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That concludes the Graded races for day 1, be sure to come back tomorrow to see our daily previews and summaries, plus all of the best 2021 Cheltenham Festival offers!! Good Luck!

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