CHELTENHAM – DAY ONE
ABACADABRAS can conjure up a Supreme effort for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell. He could not have been more impressive in winning a Leopardstown Grade 1 last time out at Christmas.
The way he travels gives the impression that the Cheltenham hill will be no problem and he went well in the Champion Bumper 12 months ago.
Asterion Forlonge is a formidable opponent after his cakewalk at the Dublin Racing Festival.
He won the key trial for this race there by almost ten lengths. The slight concern is his tendency to jump to the right which isn’t ideal.
Shishkin is in the same ownership and was impressive at Newbury in January before sauntering around Huntingdon to win a Listed race last time.
Cheltenham’s helter-skelter is a very different proposition to that billiard table track but he has an engine and should progress again.
He’s one of three chances Nicky Henderson has. Chantry House left a big field behind at Newbury on the back of a solid debut win around here. This is a much bigger ask but he could finish ahead of his more fancied stablemate.
Allart has a fair place shout too after winning on the bridle at Doncaster last month.
Fiddlerontheroof has a Grade 1 win to his name from an easy Tolworth success at Sandown. He is a real stayer and will be powering on at the finish. If he’s not outpaced and too far back he could have a major say.
CASH BACK can give Willie Mullins his fifth Arkle in six years. He was a fair hurdler but has been a revelation over fences.
He took a couple of novice events without turning a hair before stepping up in class against Notebook in the Irish version of this at Leopardstown.
It was a right battle with Notebook's experience giving him the edge for a narrow win. There could be an action replay here.
The way Cash Back rallied for another go bodes well for the hill. Notebook deserves to be favourite having won two Grade 1s.
He was lively in the prelims at Leopardstown so it will be interesting to see how he handles the buzz of a 65,000 crowd. But he’s a class act and it will take a big effort to beat him.
Fakir D’Oudairies is another to have finished second to Notebook, this time at Christmas when he was a little unlucky.
He jumps well, which is a must for Cheltenham and was fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year. He won’t want the ground to quicken.
The home team is led by Brewin’upastorm for Olly Murphy and Richard Johnson. He was fourth in the Ballymore last year and has won a couple of little novice chases with ease. He made errors at Taunton but is a nice prospect.
KILDISART has been bubbling up to a big win all season.
He was fourth in the Grade 1 JLT Novice Chase here 12 months ago before going on to win a big handicap at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.
He looked a little rusty until his close-up fifth in good company at Kempton last month. He ran on strongly so this stiffer test of stamina should be right up his street.
Trainer Ben Pauling puts cheekpieces on for the first time and they could help keep his mind on the job. He’s handicapped to go close and is proven in a big field.
Vinndication looks the one to beat after his comfortable win in a hot Ascot contest.
He goes well fresh so the four-month break isn’t an issue. He got three miles OK on the Queen’s course but the hill here isn’t a given and he was behind Kildisart in the JLT.
If he gets home he’ll be a huge threat. Cogry loves Cheltenham with a win and two places in big handicaps already this season. He’s a huge price to hit the places, especially if your bookie pays more than four.
Vintage Clouds was second in this last year and can’t be ruled out from 7lb higher. He won the Peter Marsh at Haydock well two runs ago.
Cepage won a Grade 3 here in January and is only 1lb higher. The extra half-mile could be an issue for him.
DARVER STAR can make his stamina tell in the Champion Hurdle. He came home with a right rattle when half a length behind Honeysuckle in the Irish version at Leopardstown last month.
He coped with the quicker ground there after a couple of good victories in the mud. He has done nothing but improve and can go close at a big price.
Epatante is the one to beat after her exhilarating victory in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. She zoomed fast and low over her hurdles and had plenty in hand.
There are a couple of slight worries in that she was coughing last week and flopped when fancied for the Mares’ Novice Hurdle here last year. Nicky Henderson says she wasn’t right that day and will prove it. He may be right.
Supasundae oozes class and operates from two to three miles with aplomb. He was behind Darver Star last time but was coming back from a long break so needed it. This track suits well and he’s a good each-way bet.
Pentland Hills has been disappointing on two runs this season since winning the Triumph Hurdle. He has travelled well each time before his effort petered out. He’s had a breathing operation which could help him get home. He won’t be far away if back to his best.
Cilaos Emery has been supplemented after a good hurdles comeback win at Gowran. He was classy over timber before going chasing and can’t be dismissed.
BENIE DES DIEUX can make up for last year’s stunning final flight fall to deliver a tenth win in this race for Willie Mullins.
The fat lady was already clearing her throat as she came to the last hurdle on the bridle and four lengths clear. Her tumble silenced Prestbury Park but she has shown no ill effects with three bloodless Grade 1 wins on the spin this season.
She would have been favourite for the Stayers’ or the Champion should she have gone down that route which underlines her class.
Honeysuckle looks the only threat — other than those wooden things across the track. She has done nothing but win on her seven starts and dropped back to two miles when landing the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown latest.
It’s interesting that connections have opted for this rather than taking on Epatante and Co but she stays this trip well and will give Benie Des Dieux a race despite being being prone to the odd mistake.
Roksana cashed in on the drama last season to win this before a good second in the Aintree Stayers. She wasn’t beaten far here last time and could take third.
Stormy Ireland will have something to say about that. She made it three on the spin in style at Naas last time. Robbie Power’s mount was second in this last year when only five and appears to have improved since.
IMPERIAL AURA can reign for Kim Bailey. He was a useful hurdler and has translated that form to fences.
He started with an easy win at Fakenham before two excellent seconds around here. The pick of those was his handicap debut when pushing the useful Simply The Betts all the way.
He is obviously still learning but jumps well and stays so has plenty going for him.
Hold The Note has yet to win over fences but went mighty close in a Warwick Grade 2 on his just third run.
He looked all over the winner before just tiring over three miles. This drop back looks a wise move and connections won this in 2018 with Mister Whitaker.
Templegates top tips for day one of Cheltenham
1.30 – Abacadabras (nb) (Click here to compare prices)
2.10 – Cash Back (Click here to compare prices)
2.50 – Kildisart (treble) (Click here to compare prices)
3.30 – DARVER STAR (NAP) (Click here to compare prices)
4.10 – Benie Des Dieux (Click here to compare prices)
4.50 – Imperial Aura (Click here to compare prices)
5.30 – Carefully Selected (Click here to compare prices)
Espoir Du Guye loved the mud when scoring at Ascot in December. He should appreciate this longer distance and has a chance despite a 14lb rise.
Galvin was sixth in the Ballymore over hurdles here last season and makes his handicap chase debut from what could be a lenient mark. He has gone well at Fairyhouse and Punchestown since unseating on debut.
Champagne Court was a bit disappointing here behind Imperial Aura but won his first two chases well and it’s still early days.
Beakstown has been backed despite a modest run here in December. He’s been given a break since and the Skeltons have put cheekpieces on which could wake him up.
CAREFULLY SELECTED looks a step ahead of his rivals in the National Hunt Chase. He was a high-class hurdler but already looks better over fences after just three starts.
He caught the eye with an easy debut win at Fairyhouse in November before the easiest victory you’ll ever see at Punchestown.
Willie Mullins admits he wasn’t totally tuned up for his win at Naas last time but he had to run in the race to qualify for this. He still got the job done nicely and reports of him improving his jumping at home are positive. The price isn’t great but he looks hard to beat.
Lord Du Mesnil could keep the prize at home with Sam Waley-Cohen on board.
He was an excellent second in the Grand National Trial at Haydock after landing three on the spin in soft ground. He’s well in according to official ratings today and should hit the frame.
Newtide was a bit lucky to win a Grade 2 at Wetherby last month when his main rival fell. But he seems to be crying out for a real stamina test like this.
Springfield Fox has only run on bottomless ground but has hammered his rivals in his two chases at Chepstow and Exeter. He shapes like a real stayer and there should be a lot more to come.
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