We look back at results from the opening day of four, including big priced upsets in both the Champion Hurdle and Mares Hurdle where the pre-race favourites failed to land a blow.
|13:30||Supreme Novices Hurdle||Klassical Dream|
|14:10||The Arkle Trophy||Duc Des Genievres|
|14:50||Ultima Handicap Chase||Beware The Bear|
|15:30||Champion Hurdle||Espoir D’Allen|
|16:10||Mares’ Hurdle (for the David Nicholson Trophy)||Roksana|
|16:50||National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase||A Plus Tard|
|17:30||Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase||Le Breuil|
Cheltenham Day 1 Tips & Results
Fans flocked to Prestbury Park for the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, picking up Cheltenham free bets along the way and it was to be another thrilling instalment of the much-loved horse racing extravaganza.
After the build-up and antepost betting action, day one got underway with the Supreme Novices Hurdle, one of four Grade 1 contests run on Tuesday 12 March.
As ever, the off was greeted by that famous Cheltenham roar from the stands, fans getting two shots at it after a false start.
We look back at results from the opening day of four, picking through some of the more memorable points, including big priced upsets in both the Champion Hurdle and Mares Hurdle where the pre-race favourites failed to land a blow, upset by outsiders.
13:30 Supreme Novices Hurdle Tips
The show opened with the Grade 1, contested over two miles by a talented 16-runner field.
All the talk in the build-up to this race made it a two-way shoot-out between Ffakir d’Oudairies and Al Dancer, the pair going to tape as 9/2 joint-favourites with bookmakers.
Punters were asked to take their pick, but this race served as a sign of things to come with neither of the fancied runners going close to gifting backers a return. JP O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies fared better of the two but did so crossing the line back in fourth, finishing more than 10 lengths off an impressive winner in Klassical Dream.
Disappointing for those who like to keep the market leader close, but they got more of a run for their money than those who had cash down on Al Dancer.
Team Twiston-Davies showed up well in the trends going into this race, but they stumbled across the line an uninspiring 10th-place finisher, starting well but soon losing place before falling down through the pecking order without offering too much resistance.
Going against the traders proved to be a shrewd move in the opener and punters who took the value about SP 6/1 shot Klassical Dream were cheering at the conclusion of what had been an engrossing renewal.
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh are no strangers to success at Cheltenham and combined to get this talented five-year-old gelding home 4 � lengths ahead of the chasing pack, banking connections over £70,000 in prize money.
Thomas Darby kept on to finish best of the rest when landing the silver medal, gifting each-way backers a return off an SP 28/1. Lovers of a price had plenty to smile about if betting on Itchy Feet to grab a top-three finish, Olly Murphy’s hope impressing when scoring third at a bulky 25/1, holding off the late attentions of Fakir D’Oudairies while applying pressure to the one in front.
Klassical Dream made the headlines as the team swaggered into the winner’s enclosure, but shrewd punters marked the second and third down in their notepads as horses to keep an eye on this year.
Supreme Novices Hurdle Result:
- 1st Klassical Dream 6/1
- 2nd Thomas Darby 28/1
- 3rd Itchy Feet 25/1
14:10 Arkle Challenge Trophy Tips
With over £100,000 promised to the winner of this year’s Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices Chase, it was no surprise to see the sports best and brightest in attendance as they looked to bank the lion’s share of the prize pot, while writing their names into the festival history books.
A Grade 1 run over the agreed 1m 7f distance, a dozen runners went to post, but only eight finished the race.
In an action-packed renewal, Glen Forsa and Kalashnikov got rid of Burke and Quinlan respectively, Lalor was pulled up four from home after struggling from the start and Ornua was the race’s only faller, coming down when looking to have every chance of pushing for the prize places.
The eight-year-old went off a 14/1 shot with traders and was looking like he would out-run his price when leading early in the race, before disaster struck. Connections will be left to contemplate what could’ve been with a better round of jumping and a bit more luck.
At the other end of the finishing order, the 2019 Arkle was won by another from the famed Willie Mullins string in Duc Des Genievres who finished a jaw-dropping 13 lengths ahead of nearest rival Us And Them. Ridden by Paul Townend, he carried a 5/1 starting price and wasted no time stamping his authority on the contest.
Given a patient ride by his pilot, Townend moved through the gears effortlessly on this talented six-year-old and the pair hit the front three out before going clear and sticking to their task in the final strides.
A thoroughly impressive ride and, judging by his performance, it looks like there’s plenty more to come from Duc Des Genievres and race fans will enjoy watching his progress next season.
The champion crossed the line unchallenged, backers counting their cash as soon as he cleared the last, and there was to be no drama in the closing stages for any of the major places in this race.
Us And Them was second for O’Brien and Slevin, landing backers the place money of each-way bets at 14/1 and that was achieved despite the gelding encountering no lack of trouble in the early part of the contest, a couple of jumping errors spoiling his chances.
He battled gamely to recover and finish second, leaving backers blaming a slow start for them missing out on their chance at a bigger pay-out. Would Us And Them have challenged Duc Des Genievres with a better start? We’ll never know, but that’s the beauty of horse racing at the top level and we’re sure to see an improved version of this horse in 2020. Articulum ended third but he was almost 17 lengths off the champion and 3 three quarters behind Us And Them.
An SP price of 25/1 suggested he wouldn’t feature but young David Mullins gave his mount every chance with a professional ride and the duo responded from a couple of set-backs, including being hampered at the sixth, to stay on and end third. Another who endured an incident packed race but another who came out of the contest with credit.
Arkle Challenge Trophy Result:
- 1st Duc Des Genievres 5/1
- 2nd Us And Them 14/1
- 3rd Articulum 25/1
14:40 Ultima Handicap
A Grade 3 run over 3m 1f, we have come to expect big fields and wide-open betting markets for this race in recent times and the 2019 version was certainly no different with 24 runners going to post and three co favourites – Up For Review, Mister Whittaker and Coo Star Sivola all heading off as 8/1 shots.
An interesting one for punters to try to solve but those who took clues from the two races that went before this one were smart enough to avoid the head of the betting market.
Of the three favourites, neither got close to winning and marking up the first of the day for the betting. Up For Review fared best when ending down the line in eighth for Mullins and Townend, clattering the 12th obstacle and the third from the finish line.
Poor, but it was a good bit better than Mister Whittaker who was pulled up by Hughes three out having never featured. Coo Star Sivola suffered the same fate when Lizzie Kelly took him out of the running for his own good, the Nick Williams’s trained runner sinking without a trace.
There was more to shout about for followers of Beware The Bear who landed the prize money for connections, while gifting backers a fantastic 10/1 winner. Nicky Henderson’s in form nine-year-old won his second race on the bounce, following success at the same track the start before, crossing the line just over a length ahead of runner-up Vintage Clouds.
The victor rallied three from home and, after hitting the front over the last, he was ridden out by McGrath to get the job done.
A convincing winner but Vintage Clouds can take plenty of heart from his performance, Danny Cook’ss ride leading for most of the race before being headed at the last. He looked a bit one-paced in the closing stages but did rally to make things interesting, while ensuring second and backers wouldn’t have been too hard on him, especially with the place money of an SP 16/1 shot in their pockets.
Sue Smith’s battler went on to fall at the Grand National next time out and made no impression in the Scottish National, but he has more wins in him.
Ultima Handicap Result:
- 1st Beware The Bear 10/1
- 2nd Vintage Clouds 16/1
- 3rd Lake View Lad 25/1
15:30 Champion Hurdle tips
Everyone was in their seats for the off of what promised to be a gripping Champion Hurdle and punters found Apples Jade as a 7/4 favourite with Laurina thought to be the main danger at 5/2. 10 runners lined-up for this two-mile Grade 1 race, but only seven crossed the finish line.
Brain Power was pulled-up by Nico de Boinville, the well fancied Buveur D’Air fell and Sharjah was brought down in the process, although the latter wasn’t expected to challenge.
Espoir D’Allen was thought of as little more than an also-ran by the trading teams of major bookmakers and he didn’treceive too much attention from punters in the parade ring either, but the five-year-old gelding pulled off a shock when landing the Champion Hurdle crown, doing so in some style too.
The eventual winner was held up in mid-division, ensuring he steered clear of any early drama and looked to be running the race that was earmarked for him, but there was more to come and those who remained patient with Cromwell’s sort saw him make his move four from home.
It may have gone unnoticed by those paying more attention to the leaders at the time, but it was a crucial twist and once asked for more, Espoir D’Allen responded.
He moved third three out and an incredible turn of foot saw him hit the front two from home. Drawing clear in the blink of an eye, the winner drifted to his right but had enough in the tank to get away with that slight error and he stayed on strongly to open-up a stunning 15-length lead over Melon in second.
It’s rare to see double-figure winning distances in this race and it’s even less likely we’ll see it from a runner carrying a 16/1 price.
Pundits raved about the performance of Espoir D’Allen, and it was little wonder.
That was his fourth win on the spin and there will likely be many more on the big stage. It was surprising to see the talented Melon go off a 20/1 shot that day and Mullins’s hope showed he has bundles of class in his locker when finishing second in the Champion Hurdle.
He led the race until two from home, but backers had little trouble admitting their pick was beaten by the better horse. Melon held on for second under heavy pressure from Silver Streak and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.
The champion attracted plaudits from all angles, but the efforts of Silver Streak shouldn’t be overlooked.
The upstart out of the Evan Williams yard came within a neck of beating Melon to second despite being priced at 80/1, thought to be there to make up the numbers.
He made a mistake four out but continued to improve and, outside of Espoir D’Allen, he was the one that caught the eye.
Champion Hurdle Result:
- 1st Espoir D’Allen 16/1
- 2nd Melon 20/1
- 3rd Silver Streak 80/1
16:10 Mares Hurdle Tips
A contest both horse racing enthusiasts and the sport’s casual followers look forward to on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival and we’ve enjoyed some memorable renewals over the years.
There should also be a sizable tote placepot on offer.. We were all hoping the 2019 version would live up to the hype and, thankfully, we got our wish.
The 2m 3f Grade 1 saw a 14-runner pack battle it out on soft ground and that made for a pulsating race from start to finish. Benie Des Dieux attracted all the support during the antepost betting and she went into race day priced like losing wasn’t an option, going off a 10/11 favourite and marked in the multiples of many punters.
Unfortunately for those who placed their trust in the betting, she failed to deliver. Mullins and Walsh saw the jolly crash at the final fence when seemingly pulling away from the chasing pack.
A dramatic finish and it left supporters with their head in their hands, remembering another recent agonising finish to this race.
Completely in command at the time of falling, backers had her marked down as a winner in their accumulators, but that late drama left the door open for Roksana to be promoted from likely runner-up to champion of the 2019 Mares Hurdle.
A gift-wrapped win but no one connected to the Skelton yard were heard complaining and there weren’t many grumbles coming from punters brave enough to take on the favourite with Roksana who was weighed in as a 10/1 winner.
Harry Skelton kept his mare in touch throughout the race and the pair were seen asking all the right questions before Benie Des Dieux opened up, leaving Roksana and the chasing pack for dust.
With the battle on for second, the race took a remarkable turn and that became a war for the title.
The eventual winner looked distracted in the closing strides of the race and gave her pilot a job to do to keep her right, but the pair eventually came home 2 lengths ahead of rivals. Willie Mullins had the second when Stormy Ireland followed Roksana home under the ride of Paul Townend, after leading for parts of the race.
She was well out-paced by Benie Des Dieux and didn’t give the winner too much trouble either, although she did show fight when staying on at SP 7/1 to chase the victor to the finish.
Back in third we had a 25/1 shot in Good Thyne Tara, another out of the Mullins stables. Rachael Blackmore took the ride and boosted her stock when helping her mount recover from being hampered at the last.
No impression on the two ahead of her in the finishing order but Lady Buttons in fourth was 12 lengths behind, ensuring there was little to worry about.
Mares Hurdle Result:
- 1st Roksana 10/1
- 2nd Stormy Ireland 7/1
- 3rd Good Thyne Tara 25/1
16:50 Novices Hunt Chase tips
We finally had a winning favourite and it took until the penultimate race of the day for the jolly to get off the mark, achieved thanks to the efforts of A Plus Tard who claimed the Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase at an SP 5/1.
Henri de Bromhead trained the winner and the talented Racheal Blackmore went from third in the Mares Hurdle to first in this one, ending a staggering 16 lengths ahead of Tower Bridge in second.
The victor led from two out and was well clear approaching the last. There was to be no further late drama provided by this race, A Plus Tard staying on strongly to be marked down as one of the most impressive winners of the day.
This race followed the Templegate betting with JP O’ Brien’s Tower Bridge ending second at 6/1 and although well beaten, Slevin crossed the line with nothing about him, third-place Ben Dundee 4 lengths back in third at 33/1.
The bronze medallist made one or two minor errors but was prominent throughout and deserved his place.
20 runners were sent off but just over half finished the race. Eight were pulled-up in Cubomania, Lough Derg Spirit, Militarian, Walt, Good Man Pat, Solomn Grundy, Quamino and Dell Oro, while 10/1 shot Riders On the Storm was pulled-up by Hughes after failing to settle.
National Hunt Chase Result:
- 1st A Plus Tard 5/1
- 2nd Tower Bridge 6/1
- 3rd Ben Dundee 33/1
17:30 Close Brothers Novices Tips
This 18-runner field brought the curtain down on what was an engrossing first day but before the finish there was to be one final twist with another big price winner helping boost the betting balance of punters in plenty of time for day two.
A Grade 2 amateur riders novices chase, a testing 3m 7f lay between the starting field and a champion, all played out on energy-sapping soft ground, just to make things that little more interesting. A bulky prize pot was divided amongst the major players, with over £74,000 of that going to the winner.
That cheque was paid to connections of Le Breuil after the seven-year-old gelding, owned by Emma Palmer, battled to edge runner-up Discorama by a length, backers paid out at a cracking 14/1 if taking the starting price.
In a nail-biting climax, the balance of power swung between Le Breuil and Discorama but it was the former who held his nerve, staying on in a determined fashion to hit the front inside the final 100 yards.
Discorama didn’t do a lot wrong as a 9/2 second and handlers came out of the race knowing that, on another day, they would’ve got the rub of the green, taking confidence from the fact their progressive six-year-old will come on for the experience.
Jerrysback was third at 16/1 but got nowhere near the winner or runner-up, nicking the battle for bronze by a length from Clondaw Cian at a stunning 125/1.
Incredibly, those were the only four finishers of the 18 that started the race.
Pre-race favourite Ballyward was amongst those who failed to complete the circuit, making a mess of the fifth and coming down at the 17th. Ok Corral was fancied by many followers of the form, but Nicky Henderson’s runner was another to disappoint backers who had him picked at 4/1.
Ridden by Derek O’Connor, he was pulled-up after making a couple of mistakes and weakening through the field.
Ok Corral went into the race looking to land a hat-trick after winning at Plumpton and Warwick but will mark his Cheltenham effort down as one to forget.
Will we see him back at Prestbury Park in 2020?
Close Brothers Novices Result:
- 1st Le Breuil 14/1
- 2nd Discorama 9/2
- 3rd Jerrysback 16/1
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