The Cheltenham Festival is coming and plenty of punters will be considering which horses to place their bets on and what they need to know. Luckily you’ve landed on this page, where you can find indendent previews and tips for all the races on Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival 2019.
The meeting gets underway with Champion Day, which features 4 Grade 1 races and 1 each of Grade 2, Grade 3 and Listed races. Obviously the biggest of them all is the Champion Hurdle that the day takes its name from, with Buveur D’Air being the unquestionable favourite after winning the race twice in a row before now.
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Predicted Weather, Going and Ground Condition
As always the best place to start is with the weather, as there is no point in backing the worlds best jumper if it is only good on firm ground and it has rained for a week prior.
The clerk of the course, Simon Claisse, has confirmed that the going is likely to be a bit slower at the start of the week, thanks in no small part to nearly 30 millimetres of rain over a few days in the week before the Festival gets underway.
He said that the track is ‘good to soft and soft in places’ and is likely to remain that way, at least to begin with. The forecast for the day itself is windy with a 70% chance of showers, so if it is soft and the rain comes then don’t expect the track to speed up as the day progresses.
Now that we know what the weather is likely to offer, let’s have a look at the individual races and see if there’s anything from the past that can help us predict the future. If you want to know more about each race click the links which will take you to dedicated race pages.
Champion Day Tips and Race Previews
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
The ‘Cheltenham Roar’ will be there for all to hear as the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle gets underway, kick-starting the Festival proper. Lasting for 2 miles and half a furlong with 8 jumps to be negotiated, it’s a somewhat gentle start to the meeting. Open to novice hurdlers aged 4 and over, the following weight applies:
- 4-year-olds: 10 stone 13 pounds
- 5-year-olds and over: 11 stone 7 pounds
- 5 pound allowance for fillies & mares
Obviously the key here is to look at the horses that have done best already in the season, with Al Dancer very much ticking that box. The 6-year-old is trained by Festival favourite Nigel Twiston-Davies and has so far started over hurdles 3 times and won all 3 outings.
One of the other things worth bearing in mind is that he’s done well on soft ground, which might well be important if the current weather forecast is to be believed.
- Winner Tip: Al Dancer
- Each-Way Bet: Grand Sancy
Arkle Challenge Trophy
A race for novice chasers aged 5 and up that’s run over 1 mile 7 furlongs and 199 yards, the Arkle Challenge Trophy has a weight of 11 stone, 4 pounds with mares allowed 7 pounds. There are 13 fences to be jumped and in recent years the race has been a little bit boring, given how odds-on the favourite was.
That’s not quite the case this year, though, with a more open field and the favourite, Le Richbourg, finished 15th when he ran in the Country Hurdle back in 2018. It’s a race that asks competitors to take the fences at speed, so seeing the horses that have done that well so far in the season is always a good thing to look out for.
When Kalashnikov took to the field at Sandown many expected him to win easily, so the impressive running of Glen Forsa made a few sit up and take notice. He’s already won over 3 miles since the start of the jump racing season, so if he can get in to the lead up the hill the shorter distance of this race will like play into his hands. One thing to think about is that Nicky Henderson has won this race more than any other trainer.
- Winner Tip: Glen Forsa
- Each-Way Bet: Kalashnikov
Festival Trophy Handicap Chase
Run over 3 miles, 1 furlong and open to 5-year-olds and over, the Festival Trophy Handicap Chase has 20 fences during its running. Its’a handicap, so there are no weights to speak of, meaning that the field should theoretically be relatively open. Last year saw the 12th occasion in 16 years that a horse in the top 4 of the betting won, so looking outside the first few favourites might not be all that profitable.
An English trainer has won this race 12 years running, so do you like to bet against the pattern or in-line with it? Nick Williams is an English trainer, his Coo Star Sivola won the race last year and he’s also a horse that enjoys the rain, which the current forecast suggests is worth bearing in mind. He’s had a few poor outings since this time last year, however, so there’s no guarantee of a return to form.
- Winner Tip: Coo Star Sivola
- Each-Way Bet: Singlefarmpayment
The day’s feature race is the Champion Hurdle, which is for 4-year-olds and over and has 8 hurdles to be jumped during its 2 miles and 87 yards, with the following weight information being in-play:
- 4-year-olds: 11 stone 2 pounds
- 5-year-olds and over: 11 stone 10 pounds
- 7 pound allowance for fillies & mares
Buveur D’Air has won this race twice in a row so there’s no point in pretending that any other horse is going to be seen as the favourite. He lost when racing at Kempton during the Christmas period, with stablemate Verdana Blue pipping him on the straight. If Buveur D’Air can do it then he’ll be the first horse to win it 3 times consecutively since Istabraq managed it, but that’s a big ‘if’ at this stage.
Apple’s Jade and Laurina will both receive a weight advantage over Buveur D’Air, which could prove crucial in such a tough race. Laurina won well when she took on Punchestown’s Quevega Hurdle, so might be the one you should look towards for an Each-Way flutter.
- Winner Tip: Buveur D’Air
- Each-Way Bet: Laurina
The big question that I can’t answer right now is whether or not Apple’s Jade and Laurina will be entered into the Champion Hurdle or the Mares’ Hurdle, so you might want to either wait for declarations before placing your bet or else going with a bookmaker that offers No Runner No Bet offers. Apple’s Jade won it in 2017 so will she want another bite of the cherry, or might that result for Buveur D’Air over Christmas mean that trainer Gordon Elliott fancies her chances of taking glory in the Champion Hurdle?
Lasting just shy of 2 miles and 4 furlongs and featuring 9 hurdles along the way, it’s limited to fillies and mares aged 4 and over. Weight-wise, 4-year-olds have a limit of 10 stone 10 pounds, whilst horses 5 and over are 11 stone 5 pounds. Ruby Walsh is the race’s most successful jockey and Willie Mullins has only failed to win it twice as a trainer. Something to mull over.
Benie Des Dieux won it in 2018 and is aiming to become only the second horse to win it more than once, though she’s still got some way to go to match the 6 wins of Quevega.
- Winner Tip: Benie Des Dieux
- Each-Way Bet: Mias Storm
Novices’ Handicap Chase
The only Listed race of the day, the Novices’ Handicap Chase takes place over 2 miles, 4.5 furlongs and features 16 fences. It’s a handicap race for novice chasers aged 5 and over and they’ll need to have a rating of 0-140 to be in the race.
In the past 14 races 12 have seen a winner from the top 6 when it comes to the odds, so don’t be too worried about looking for long-odds here. Ferdy Murphy is the most successful trainer and Brian Hughes has won 2 out of the last 3 runnings of the race, so they’re names worth looking out for.
A Plus Tard has run in 3 races and won 1 of them, coming 2nd in the other 2 so is very much worth a look. He’s had a degree more success than Riders Onethe Storm, who has run in 3 and won 1 but come 3rd once too.
- Winner Tip: A Plus Tard
- Each-Way Bet: Riders Onthe Storm
National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup
The final race of the day is the 4 mile monster, the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup. There are 24 fences during it and it’s for amateur jockeys riding novice chasers aged 5 and over. The following weight information is available:
- 5-year-olds: 11 stone 4 pounds
- 6-year-olds and over: 11 stone 6 pounds
- Mares are allowed 7 pounds
Jonjo O’Neill has won it 6 times as a trainer, which might be worth bearing in mind. Nicky Henderson might have something to say about that, though, targeting OK Corrall for this one specifically and seeing him installed as the favourite as a result.
- Winner Tip: OK Corrall
- Each-Way Bet: Mortal
Cheltenham Day 1 Betting Summary
It’s destined to be an exciting year this year, with no nailed on favourites for any of the races. In 2018 there were only 2 short-odds winners across the day, namely Footpad at 1/1 in the Arkle and Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air at 8/15.
Punters will be hoping for more of the same this time around and, at the time of writing with the going likely to be soft, it’s more than possible.