Tuesday at Cheltenham

We preview the opening day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.

The seven race card begins with the Supreme Novice’s hurdle at 1.30 before wrapping up for the day at 5.30 with the Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Don’t forget any non-runners you can keep up-to-date via our Non-runners tool

We have detailed run through of every race, including our picks and also from BetVictor’s Charlie McCann.

Champion Day – Tuesday, March 12 (Old Course)

1.30pm Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 87y £125,000

The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the traditional curtain raiser to The Festival – which always welcomes in the famous roar on the opening day. First run in 1946 and known as the Gloucestershire Hurdle, it used to be split into two or three separate divisions.

Some big names have taken this title previously including Gold Cup legend L’Escargot, Champion Hurdle heroes Bula and Hors La Loi and most recently Vautor, Douvan and Altior.

2019 field and odds from BetVictor:
1 Al Dancer 4/1
N A Twiston-Davies / Sam Twiston-Davies
2 Angels Breath 4/1
N J Henderson / Nico de Boinville
10 Klassical Dream 11/2
W P Mullins / R Walsh
18 Fakir D’Oudairies 6/1
Joseph P O’Brien / J J Slevin
6 Elixir De Nutz 7/1
C L Tizzard / T J O’Brien
8 Grand Sancy 10/1
P F Nicholls / H Cobden
11 Mister Fisher 10/1
N J Henderson / James Bowen
17 Vision D’Honneur 12/1
G Elliott / J W Kennedy
3 Aramon 14/1
W P Mullins / P Townend
7 Felix Desjy 20/1
G Elliott / S W Flanagan
15 Thomas Darby 20/1
Olly Murphy / R Johnson
9 Itchy Feet 25/1
Olly Murphy / G Sheehan
5 Brandon Castle 50/1
N B King / Bryony Frost
13 The Big Bite 50/1
T R George / N D Fehily
16 Tokay Dokey 50/1
D Skelton / Harry Skelton
4 Beaufort West 100/1
C L Tizzard / R M Power
12 Normal Norman 100/1
J Ryan / P J Brennan
14 The Flying Sofa 100/1
G L Moore / J E Moore

TGT says: Klassical Dream is the pick to get Willie Mullins’s week off to a good start, but Al Dancer has to be respected

Expert view from BetVictor’s Charlie McCann: Al Dancer was a comfortable winner of the Betfair Hurdle last time and has won all four starts over timber for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies. He heads the market at 9/2 but my one against the field is Fakir D’Oudairies.

2.10pm Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase (Grade1) 1m 7f 199y £175,000

The Arkle Novices chase, has been run on the opening day since 1980 after previously been a second day event. Formerly known as the Cotswold Chase before 1969.

This race is a breeding ground for horses to go on to major Cheltenham success. Previous winners include Remittance Man, Flagship Uberallas, Sprinter Sacre, Sizing Europe, Moscow Flyer and Alverton – who is the only horse to win this and then go onto to take the Gold Cup.

2019 field and odds from BetVictor:
4 Glen Forsa 4/1
M R Channon / J J Burke
8 Lalor 4/1
Kayley Woollacott / R Johnson
5 Hardline 11/2
G Elliott / D N Russell
3 Duc Des Genievres 7/1
W P Mullins / P Townend
6 Kalashnikov 10/1
Miss Amy Murphy / Jack Quinlan
10 Paloma Blue 11/1
H De Bromhead / R M Power
9 Ornua 12/1
H De Bromhead / Rachael Blackmore
7 Knocknanuss 14/1
G L Moore / J E Moore
12 Us And Them 16/1
Joseph P O’Brien / J J Slevin
1 Articulum 20/1
T O’Brien / D J Mullins
2 Clondaw Castle 20/1
T R George / C Gethings
11 Slate House 50/1
C L Tizzard / H Cobden

TGT says: Lalor looks a good sort, and we think Richard Johnson will open his festival account here.

Expert view from BetVictor’s Charlie McCann:  There is also plenty of pace in the Arkle with Knocknanuss and Ornua guaranteed to make it a real test and, much as I would like to see Lalor win, I do feel the race will be set up for Glen Forsa. The seven-year-old has won all three starts over fences starting at three miles and working backwards to his fluent success over the minimum trip at Sandown when he thrashed Kalashnikov last month.

The latter did not appreciate going right-handed last time and will be better going anti-clockwise today, but I hope to see Mick Channon’s progressive novice maintain his unbeaten chase record. The each way selection is 4/1 at BetVictor who are again paying four places on the race.

2.50pm Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f £110,000

Another race dating back to the 1940s the Handicap Chase is normally seen as a perfect grounding for the Grand National at Aintree but also the Gold Cup, with many horses going on to enjoy wins in those huge races after competing in this.

2019 field and odds from BetVictor:
15 Give Me A Copper 6/1
P F Nicholls / H Cobden
4 Minella Rocco 8/1
Jonjo O’Neill / R P McLernon
6 Mister Whitaker 8/1
M R Channon / B S Hughes
14 Up For Review 10/1
W P Mullins / P Townend
16 Coo Star Sivola 12/1
Nick Williams / Lizzie Kelly
13 Singlefarmpayment 14/1
T R George / N D Fehily
1 Lake View Lad 16/1
N W Alexander / Henry Brooke
3 O O Seven 16/1
N J Henderson / Nico de Boinville
7 Beware The Bear 16/1
N J Henderson / J McGrath
10 Noble Endeavor 16/1
G Elliott / D N Russell
11 Crucial Role 16/1
D Skelton / Harry Skelton
12 Calipto 16/1
Miss V Williams / Charlie Deutsch
18 General Principle 16/1
G Elliott / J W Kennedy
8 Magic Of Light 20/1
Mrs J Harrington / R M Power
25 Out Sam 20/1
G Elliott / Reserve 1
17 Vintage Clouds 25/1
Mrs S J Smith / Danny Cook
5 Activial 33/1
T R George / T Scudamore
9 Royal Vacation 33/1
C L Tizzard / Aidan Coleman
19 Willie Boy 33/1
C E Longsdon / J J Burke
20 Flying Angel 33/1
N A Twiston-Davies / Sam Twiston-Davies
24 Big River 33/1
Miss Lucinda V Russell / D R Fox
26 Cogry 33/1
N A Twiston-Davies / Reserve 2
21 Shantou Village 40/1
N P Mulholland / R T Dunne
22 Oldgrangewood 40/1
D Skelton / Bridget Andrews
23 Catamaran Du Seuil 40/1
Dr R D P Newland / Charlie Hammond
2 Sizing Codelco 50/1
C L Tizzard / T J O’Brien

TGT says: Noble Endeavor is a good Gordon Elliot chance here and we can see it coming home.

Expert view from BetVictor’s Charlie McCann: Coo Star Sivola (12/1 with BetVictor) did us a favour when landing the nap in the Ultima Handicap Chase 12 months ago and the ground has again come right for Nick Williams’ chaser who loves Cheltenham and is only 3lbs higher in the weights this afternoon.

The nod, however, goes to Up For Review who gave the outside up to no one when finishing an eye-catching third in the Thyestes Chase last time behind stablemate Invitation Only who is going for Gold on Friday. The selection is 17/2 at BetVictor who are betting five places and he is another each way recommendation. Give Me A Copper has been the best backed horse antepost with Paul Nicholls making optimistic noises about his unexposed chaser who will run in the colours of Sir Alex Ferguson.

3.30pm Unibet Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 87y £450,000

The first Champion Hurdle was run back in 1927 and is one of the most illustrious races at the Festival. It is one third of the hurdling triple crown along with the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurde at Kempton. Only one horse in history – Kribensis, has managed to claim that honour.

With such a long and distinguished history this race has been won by some of the sports superstars. Five horses have managed to claim this title three times, those being Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq. Current holder Buveur D’Air has the chance to join those greats – having won the last two runnings.

2019 field and odds from BetVictor:
8 Apple’s Jade 2/1
G Elliott / J W Kennedy
2 Buveur D’Air 9/4
N J Henderson / B J Geraghty
9 Laurina 4/1
W P Mullins / R Walsh
5 Melon 14/1
W P Mullins / P Townend
6 Sharjah 14/1
W P Mullins / Mr P W Mullins
10 Verdana Blue 16/1
N J Henderson / D N Russell
3 Espoir D’Allen 22/1
G P Cromwell / M P Walsh
1 Brain Power 25/1
N J Henderson / Nico de Boinville
4 Global Citizen 40/1
B Pauling / David Bass
7 Silver Streak 50/1
Evan Williams / Adam Wedge

TGT says: Heart says Buveur D’Air to make it three from three, and why not? It’s always great to see some history.

Expert view from BetVictor’s Charlie McCann: Buveur D’Air (5/2 at BetVictor) was not at his brilliant best in last year’s Champion Hurdle but he still followed up his 2017 success. He will join an elite group of hurdlers who have won the race three times – also Hatton’s Grace 1949-51, Sir Ken 1952-54, Persian War 1968-70, See You Then 1985-87 and Istabraq 1998-2000 – if he triumphs today and must have every chance of joining that pantheon of greats.

Nicky Henderson’s champion looked better than ever when beating Samcro in the BetVictor Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle earlier in the season and I am willing to forgive his Christmas Hurdle defeat to stablemate Verdana Blue. That said this is the acid test for Buveur D’Air who must give 7lbs to the brilliant mares’ Apple’s Jade and Laurina (3.30) and the each way vote goes to the latter who is 7/2 with BetVictor.

The selection should get a good tow into the race with Apple’s Jade sure to make it a true test and that should suit the Mullins’ mare who is unbeaten in all six starts over timber including when running away with the Mares’ Novices event here 12 months ago. This is by far the stiffest test she has been asked and it could be a bridge too far but if she is anywhere near the lead coming up the hill she must go close with the soft ground a plus.

4.10pm OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 3f 200y £120,000

Introduced to the Festival programme in 2008, the Mares’ Hurdle has already become a firm fans favourite. The first running was on the last day, but since then it has been an opening day staple.

The race is best known for one reason and that is the brilliant Quevega managed to win it six-years-in-row up to 2014. No other horse has ever won this many times at the Festival. 

2019 field and odds from BetVictor:
2 Benie Des Dieux 5/6
W P Mullins / R Walsh
10 Limini 7/1
W P Mullins / D J Mullins
15 Stormy Ireland 15/2
W P Mullins / P Townend
9 Lady Buttons 10/1
P A Kirby / Thomas Dowson
13 Roksana 10/1
D Skelton / Harry Skelton
11 Mia’s Storm 16/1
A King / Wayne Hutchinson
5 Elimay 20/1
W P Mullins / M P Walsh
6 Good Thyne Tara 25/1
W P Mullins / Rachael Blackmore
7 Jester Jet 25/1
Tom Lacey / R T Dunne
3 Cap Soleil 33/1
F O’Brien / P J Brennan
12 Momella 33/1
H Fry / N D Fehily
1 Alletrix 50/1
Mrs J Harrington / R M Power
8 Lackaneen Leader 50/1
G Elliott / D N Russell
14 Slowmotion 66/1
Joseph P O’Brien / B J Geraghty
4 Champayne Lady 80/1
A Fleming / D Meyler

TGT says: Sometimes you have to go with the class of the race and it should be Benie Des Dieux.

Expert view from BetVictor’s Charlie McCann: Last year’s Mares’ Hurdle winner Benie Des Dieux has outstanding claims as she bids to follow up her win from 12 months ago. Mullins suggested this was his best chance of a winner at the Festival and she is a shade of odds on at 5/6 with BetVictor to double up.

4.50pm Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed) 2m 4f 63y £70,000

The National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup is named in honour of JT McNamara, who was paralysed in a fall at Cheltenham in 2013 and died in 2016. This race is for amateur riders only.

Over 150 years old, the National Hunt Chase has been run more times than any other event at the Cheltenham Festival. The Grand Annual is older but has been missing on occasion from the line-up.

2019 field and odds from BetVictor:
4 A Plus Tard 7/1
H De Bromhead / Rachael Blackmore
14 Riders Onthe Storm 7/1
T J Taaffe / B S Hughes
7 Tower Bridge 9/1
Joseph P O’Brien / J J Slevin
13 Movewiththetimes 12/1
P F Nicholls / B J Geraghty
1 Highway One O One 14/1
C Gordon / Tom Cannon
3 Cubomania 14/1
G Elliott / D N Russell
16 Shady Operator 14/1
Joseph P O’Brien / M P Walsh
19 Quamino 14/1
P Nolan / B J Cooper
2 Red Indian 16/1
Miss Kelly Morgan / Ross Chapman
5 Lough Derg Spirit 16/1
N J Henderson / Nico de Boinville
6 Ben Dundee 16/1
G Elliott / K M Donoghue
10 The Russian Doyen 16/1
C L Tizzard / H Cobden
11 Springtown Lake 16/1
P J Hobbs / R Johnson
12 Roaring Bull 16/1
G Elliott / J W Kennedy
17 Good Man Pat 16/1
A King / Wayne Hutchinson
9 Walt 20/1
N P Mulholland / Sam Twiston-Davies
15 Huntsman Son 20/1
A M Hales / Kielan Woods
18 Solomn Grundy 20/1
H De Bromhead / P Townend
21 Azzerti 20/1
A King / Reserve 1

20 Dell Oro 25/1
G L Moore / Joshua Moore
22 Larry 33/1
G L Moore / Reserve 2
8 Militarian 40/1
Andrew Martin / Mr J Martin

TGT says: A tough one to call, but Movewiththetimes is a good horse with plenty of offer here, each-way look on this one.

Expert view from BetVictor’s Charlie McCann:  I’ve backed both A Plus Tard (8/1 at BetVictor) and Good Man Pat in the Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase with the latter getting the each way vote (5 places at BetVictor) for Alan King at 16/1. The selection has only had three starts over fences, but will love the ground, has looked a natural over the larger obstacles and represents the inform yard of Alan King. Note the British have saddled the winner of this race nine times in the last decade.

5.30pm National Hunt Chase (Amateurs) (Grade 2) 3m 7f 166y £125,000

One of the newer races, introduced when the Festival was extended in 2005. Initially run as an open handicap for novices, it was restricted to horses with a rating of 145 or less in 2011. There was a further tightening of the race conditions from 2012, with the contest being for novice chasers rated 0-140.

2019 field and odds from BetVictor:
1 Ballyward 3/1
W P Mullins / Mr P W Mullins
13 Ok Corral 3/1
N J Henderson / Mr Derek O’Connor
5 Discorama 7/1
P Nolan / Mr B O’Neill
8 Jerrysback 12/1
P J Hobbs / Mr D G Lavery
11 Le Breuil 12/1
B Pauling / Mr J J Codd
6 Gun Digger 14/1
G Elliott / Ms Lisa O’Neill
7 Impulsive Star 14/1
N P Mulholland / Mr S Waley-Cohen
18 Atlanta Ablaze 16/1
H D Daly / Mr W Biddick
3 Chef Des Obeaux 20/1
N J Henderson / Mr M J O’Hare
17 Whisperinthebreeze 20/1
Mrs J Harrington / Mr F Maguire
10 Just Your Type 28/1
C E Longsdon / Mr R James
12 Mulcahys Hill 33/1
W Greatrex / Mr N McParlan
15 Skipthecuddles 40/1
G McPherson / Miss L M Pinchin
9 Johanos 50/1
N J Hawke / Mr Kieren Buckley
16 Warthog 50/1
D Pipe / Mr R Deegan
2 Beyond The Law 66/1
M F Morris / Mr J C Barry
4 Clondaw Cian 100/1
Mrs S Leech / Mr D Skehan
14 Plantagenet 200/1
J W Mullins / Mr Matthew Fielding

TGT says: Ballyward and Ok Corral look the class acts of this filed, but we would side with Ballyward.

Expert view from BetVictor’s Charlie McCann: Ok Corral has been favourite for the concluding NH Chase since his victory at Warwick in January although the form has taken a few knocks since and I am sweet on the chances of Ballyward. It would not surprise me if the selection (3/1 at BetVictor) went off market leader especially if trainer Willie Mullins has had a good opening day coming into the last race.

The selection had not been asked a serious question when Discorama – who reopposes today – came down at the last at Naas in a Grade 3 Novice Chase and was left to come home clear. Paul Nolan’s Discorama looks the danger to me, but I hope Ballyward, who finished fourth in the Albert Bartlett last year, will send Irish eyes home smiling this evening.

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