Cheltenham Festival Day 1 Betting Tips – Tuesday 13th March 2018

The moment so many of you have been waiting for has almost arrived. The Cheltenham Festival kicks off on Tuesday and there are several high quality races to look forward to on the opening day alone. It’s a day that boasts over £1m in prize money and for the first time ever, this is something that will apply to every single day of the Festival.

The race that gets everything underway and is greeted by the famous Cheltenham roar, is the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Often featuring a busy field, this race has crowned some top class winners in recent years such as Douvan in 2015 and Altior in 2016. Following this event, there is the two mile Arkle which provides novice chasers with a huge stage on which to impress. It’s another race that has recently been won by Douvan and Altior, both of them winning the race a year after their success in the Supreme Novices’

The Champion Hurdle, the most prestigious hurdle race of the entire season, marks the halfway point in the day. The 2016 renewal saw its first mare winner since 1994 when Annie Power was first past the line. This year looks like seeing the boys on top though with Buveur d’Air the odds on favourite and the NAP of the week for many pundits. The final Grade 1 of the day is the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle. It’s a rather new addition to the Festival, introduced in 2008, and one that was won on an incredible six consecutive occasions by the Willie Mullins-trained Quevega.

  • Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Samcro (13/8 at Betfred)
  • Arkle Challenge Trophy – Footpad (11/8 at Betfair)
  • Champion Hurdle – Buveur d’Air (8/15 at Coral)
  • OLBG Mares’ Hurdle – Lets’ Dance (8/1 at Ladbrokes)

1:30pm – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1), 2m 87y

Willie Mullins has enjoyed a fair amount of success in this race (though in truth you can say that about almost every race at the Festival!), saddling five winners since 1995 and it’s his horse who narrowly leads the betting for this renewal. The unbeaten Getabird won emphatically over this distance during a Grade 2 at Punchestown in December. Forced to miss Cheltenham last year due to injury, the six-year-old will be looking to make up for lost time on what will be just his fifth career start.

Also coming into this race unbeaten is Samcro, whose record reads six wins from six including three over the hurdles. While initially taking on the hurdles at a low class, he has since won at both Grade 3 and Grade 1 making him a standout contender here. He boasts the highest Official Rating and Racing Post Rating and we should get the chance to see why come Tuesday afternoon.

Kalashnikov’s only disappointing shift over hurdles came in heavy conditions at Sandown and less boggy ground will be to his advantage. On soft going or firmer he’s often looked impressive. It’s important not to look too much into his Betfair Hurdle victory last month however as no Betfair Hurdle winners have won this race in the last 10 years.

Samcro to win – 13/8 at Betfred

2:10pm – Arkle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1), 1m 7f 199y

There are four genuine contenders left in contention to become the next Arkle winner. Footpad is the most fancied from them all having won three consecutive races this season. His last two starts have seen him win comfortably at Leopardstown during Grade 1 contests and he appears to have hit form at just the right time. With the last eight Arkle winners all having won last time out, this is good news for the six-year-old, his connections and his many backers.

Unable to secure a win last time out was Petit Mouchoir who was five lengths behind Footpad at Leopardstown. It’s hard to know if this was just a one off performance as he hadn’t featured for 108 days prior to that contest. He won a low class event easily on his seasonal debut but at odds of around 9/4, it’s hard to justify sticking money on him with little to show this season.

Saint Calvados has the form but his age is a concern. There hasn’t been a five-year-old winner since 2006 and this race is a big step up for him. He may have collected a Grade 2 win last month but in a weak field of four runners, anything less would have been a disappointment. Finally there is Brain Power who unseated his rider in December and then fell in January. With a record like this, Nicky Henderson’s horse looks best avoided here given the odds.

Footpad to win – 11/8 at Betfair

3:30pm – Champion Hurdle (Grade 1), 2m 87y

The question in this race is whether anyone can stop Buveur d’Air who won this race stylishly last year. The odds-on favourite hasn’t tailed off since his success 12 months ago, winning the following four races and extending his unbeaten streak to nine. He didn’t win at Sandown anywhere near as comfortably as expected last month but the 1/16 favourite was clearly taking it easy and will have far more to offer here.

It looks as though Faugheen will be let loose in this race with Willie Mullins pleased with the way he has been looking in training. This is his first Festival appearance since winning this race three years ago, hit by a string of injuries since. Unfortunately it looks as though the 10-year-old’s past problems have hit his ability and a return to his peak looks very unlikely. Beaten fairly comfortably on his last outing, he no longer looks like having what’s required to challenge this year’s favourite.

A year older than Faugheen is My Tent or Yours who isn’t entered for any other race at the Festival. There hasn’t been a winner older than a nine-year-old since 1956 let alone 11-years-old, however, so age looks set to rule the Nicky Henderson runner out. Then there is Yorkhill who has had a season to forget so far, not even challenging on his two appearance of the campaign. It could just be a case of him blowing hot and cold but there’s no guarantee he’ll blow hot here and as such we simply cannot look past the favourite.

Buveur D’Air to win – 8/15 at Coral

4:10pm – OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1), 2m 3f 200y

Apple’s Jade has seen her odds shorten for this race following the recent retirement of Vroum Vroum Mag. With one main challenger out of the way, Apple’s Jade could well be set for back to back victories in this race. She’s been in fine form this season, winning all three starts including two at this distance. The six-year-old is entered for the Champion Hurdle and Stayers’ Hurdle but it looks very likely that she’ll be given the chance to defend her Mares’ Hurdle crown.

Willie Mullins will be out to spoil the party for Apple’s Jade however as he saddles both the second and third favourite in the ante post market. There is the well-regarded Benie Des Dieux who has only featured three times since switching stables in 2016. She has won on all three occasions but this lack of experience could prove to be telling as could her lack of success at graded level.

Offering more appeal is former Festival winner Let’s Dance, who breezed past the field during a Grade 3 at Leopardstown over this distance in December. She didn’t enjoy herself on her most recent test but the heavy ground and increased trip clearly were not to her liking. Back at the two and a half mile mark, she looks to stand a real chance of besting Apple’s Jade providing the ground at Cheltenham isn’t too soft.

Let’s Dance to win – 8/1 at William Hill