Cheltenham Festival 2013 guide: Day One

By The Needle (featured-columnist) 08 Mar 2013 09:46:25

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The Cheltenham Festival is now fast approaching and it is shaping up to be ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ at Prestbury Park. The first day as always is one of the highlights of the season with the Champion Hurdle looking particularly close at this stage. Hurricane Fly looks like starting as a widely backed if not strong favourite with Rock On Ruby and Grandouet also being well backed to run a big race on day one at Cheltenham.

Day 1 Races

Supreme Novices Hurdle
Arkle Challenge Trophy
Festival Handicap Chase
Champion Hurdle
Cross Country Handicap Chase
David Nicholson Mares Hurdle
Centenary Novice Chase

Supreme Novices Hurdle

The Supreme Novices' Hurdle is an interesting race amongst the punters as they try and get off to a winning start. The race is traditionally very difficult to predict, boasting only four winning favourites in the past 20 years and an average SP of 14/1, including winners priced as big as 40 and 50/1.

One potential Supreme horse to consider is the exciting Dodging Bullets who looks to be a cracking prospect for Paul Nicholls after a good season to date. The best of Ireland will be heading over to Cheltenham as always and at the moment it is Jezki who looks the strongest Supreme Novices challenger from the Emerald Isle.

Arkle Challenge Trophy

A competitive race with seemingly several holding solid claims but it should be remembered that in recent years, several leading fancies have come unstuck at the fences. So there can often be some good value further down the field In the Arkle which is many people's favourite race of the entire meeting at Cheltenham.

The Nicky Henderson trained Simonsig won the Neptune at Cheltenham last season and after a good start to his chasing career he is the hot favourite in the Arkle Chase betting. Another horse to consider here is the excellent Overturn who has turned to chasing for Donald McCain after a very successful career over hurdles and on the flat.

Festival Handicap Chase

Despite being a fiercely competitive handicap, horses at the top end of the betting have done well in this race in recent years. Eight of the last Eleven winners have won at single figure odds, in 2010 though we saw Chief Dan George come in at a big price so there can also be some good value in this race. The key for punters is to look for horses who stay the trip and a number of nice types are currently featuring in the betting at the moment. The Package has been in good form this season for David Pipe and could run while the same can be said of Alfie Sherrin who is another potential runner.

Champion Hurdle

The feature race on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival is undoubtedly the Champion Hurdle, a grade one event run over two miles and a half a furlong and the betting runs right throughout the season as all the horses look to get their best form.

Rock On Ruby whilst not the favourite is certainly the horse to watch in 2013 as he looks to win the race for a second year on in succession following his great success at Cheltenham last season.

Expectations are high for the 2011 winner Hurricane Fly who is the slight favourite at the moment and is expected to be a major contender once again this season. The Willie Mullins horse looked below his best when third last season but has bounced back this term and looks to be somewhere nearer his beast ahead of Cheltenham.

Cross Country Handicap Chase

The Cross Country Handicap Chase was introduced to the Festival in 2005 and has proved a popular inclusion by the punters and generally goes to form. Four of the five previous runnings of the race have been won by a horse in the top three of the betting. Having said that it was A New Story who won the race in 2010 as a 25/1 outsider so there can also be some good value on offer for the punters.

There are a number of horses being backed for the race at this stage including Uncle Junior who will take his chance for Willie Mullins and Balthazar King who famously won the race last season for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson.

David Nicholson Mares Hurdle

The Mares race at Cheltenham has been dominated by the brilliant Quevega over the past few years and she will once again be the one to beat in 2013. It is no surprise to see the Willie Mullins horse at the top of the betting at the moment as she bids for a brilliant fourth consecutive win in the race. Quevega has been so dominant over the past few years and as the betting suggests it is hard to see past her at the Festival.

Centenary Novice Chase

In the six years since this race was introduced (previously as the Jewson Novices Handicap) at the Festival, only one favourite has won and that was Reveillez in 2006. However, the average SP is not particularly big so the top end of the betting market tends to be the place to keep an eye on in the Centenary Chase.

The Centenary Novices Chase betting at this stage is looking tight with a number of top class chasers set to take their chance and make their mark at Cheltenham.

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