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Cheltenham Festival 2024 – Day 1 Race Analysis – Champion Hurdle Day

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - Day 1

Written By Rich Mawer

Rich has been in horse racing since a small boy growing up in Yorkshire and heading to the Malton open days. At University Rich shared a house with a bookmakers son for 3 years, in that time he learned how to read form, course stats, use speed ratings and price up a card. In 1996 Rich went full-time with his betting, then with the advent of Betfair in 2002 Rich switched to the exchanges, learning to trade and lay horses.

The waiting is over and it’s time to head to Prestbury Park again for the Cheltenham Festival 2024, the climax of the jumps season and four days of incredible national hunt action. As always I will be focusing my big race analysis on the big Grade 1 races each day and sharing any other horses I am backing personally from my tracker. I will also be posting videos on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – so make sure you are following my social media channels, as well as the blog.

So let’s get stuck into Day 1 on the old course.

1:30pm – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – 2m

Only 12 runners in the opener this year, and Willie Mullins is dominating the market with half the field from his stable. Tullyhill has been a strong favourite since following up an impressive win at Naas with a heavy ground victory at Punchestown last month, winning by 9 lengths. A strong case can also be made for the unbeaten Mystical Power, he is out of Annie Power, who loved Cheltenham and has been lightly raced, with two outings last season and a nice reappearance in January where he won a novice hurdle by 7 lengths, before going away ready for this. The reservation I have was his jumping in this race which was a little suspect at times and I wonder how the increased pace and field size will affect him. I am going to stick with JERIKO DU REPONET, again unbeaten and the way he won the Supreme Trial at Doncaster at the end of January was very impressive, battling all the way to the line and looking like he would come on for that run.

SELECTION – JERIKO DU REPONET – 1pt each way at 8/1

2:10pm Arkle Novices’ Chase – 2m

A cracking Arkle this year and it is hard to look past the three at the top of the market, all from Willie Mullins again. Gaelic Warrior beat Il Etait Temps by 5 lengths at Limerick at the end of December to win the Grade 1 Faugheen Novices Chase to put himself firmly at the top of the market for this. He was then unlucky to unseat Paul Townend at Leopardstown at the start of last month, in a match up with Fact to File, although his jumping and the fact he took such a keen hold may be of some concern. Hunter’s Yarn was impressive last time out when winning a Beginners Chase at Fairyhouse by 10 lengths and has certainly earned a crack at this, although a lack of experience would again concern me. Of the Mullins runners Il Etait Temps has the right profile and experience to be the one I would get involved with. However I am going to take a chance on JPR ONE as an each way alternative at 10/1, he has shown enough to suggest that, on his day, he can take this. I loved the way he was travelling in the Grade 2 Arkle Trial over C&D in November, when he went 3 lengths clear, only to stumble and unseat Brendan Powell at the last, he can bounce back here.

SELECTION – JPR ONE – 1pt each way at 10/1

Cheltenham Day 1 - Champion Hurdle

3:30pm – Champion Hurdle – 2m

The withdrawal of Constitution Hill last week has robbed us of the great showdown we were hoping for, so STATE MAN is nearly impossible to take on and I fully expect him to romp home in this. Irish Point may well push him but I just think he needs a flatter track to be seen at his best, as we saw at Aintree last year when he won the Grade 1 Mersey Novices Hurdle. I am going to side with IBERICO LORD who won here over course and distance in soft conditions back in November, keeping on well after travelling strongly through the race and at the price I would rather be on him as an each way bet than back State man at the odds.

SELECTION – IBERICO LORD – 1pt each way art 10/1

4:10pm – Mares’ Hurdle – 2m 3f

A bit like the Champion Hurdle, it is hard to look past LOSSIEMOUTH who has swept all comers aside since winning the Triumph Hurdle at last year’s festival. She was last seen here on the New Course in January when she beat Love Envoi by over 9 lengths in the International Hurdle. Ashroe Diamond has also been prepped for this race, after winning a Grade 1 novice last year and then following up in January with a nice Grade 2 win at Doncaster. Again, at the prices I am going to take an each way interest in LOVE ENVOI, although I struggle to see her overturning the International form, she will be more suited to the old course and could giver the favourite a race.

SELECTION – LOVE ENVOI – 1pt each way at 16/1

Enjoy Day 1 and let’s hope we see a few of the Mullins favourites overturned. Talk tomorrow for Queen Mother Chase day.

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