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Cheltenham Festival day one preview

The greatest show on turf is only one sleep away as horses, jockeys, trainers and punters alike arrive in their drones towards the town of Cheltenham.

The National Hunt racing’s showpiece meet of the year is the Cheltenham Festival. As well over quarter of a million racegoers will pack into the enclosures for the four-day racing extravaganza, the world biggest names from horse racing, broadcasting and beyond will descend upon Gloucestershire during the week.

The 2023 edition promises to be as exciting as ever, and here at Park Life Sport we will keep you up to date all week with exclusive content from interviews, previews to betting tips and quizzes. To keep up to date will everything follow our LIVE BLOG HERE

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Mother nature has thrust her powers upon Cheltenham in the last week. After a long period of cold, but dry weather, the last few days have seen heavy rainfall and even prolonged periods of light, unsettled snow.

The going looks to be soft for all week, with the ground staff working their wonders on a course that has already had media attention following the opening meeting of the season back in October, carrying on despite torrential rain for most of the day.

14.10: Mare’s Hurdle

The main story from the first day of the festival will come in the Mares’ Hurdle at 14:10. Like so many legendary horses before, Honeysuckle will be more than likely making her final appearance in her stellar career. Henry De Bromhead’s mare finally proved beatable following her first career defeat at Fairyhouse in November, adding in her second place at Leopardstown last month, the 6-year-old will be wanting her last hoorah in her fourth Cheltenham visit.

Having won this race back in 2020, and then following that up with back-to-back victories in the Champion Hurdle, ridden by Rachel Blackmore, the two will link up for one final time on the quest for the horses 18th and seemingly final win.

However, the race is not a forgone conclusion, in fact, it is Nicky Henderson’s Marie’s Rock that goes into tomorrow’s race currently as favourite. The race winner from last year as been victorious in five of her last seven rides, but I am sure the nostalgia and love for Honeysuckle will prove too much for some punters, and her price will surely fall before the start.

15.30: Champion Hurdle

The clear favourite of the day is the brilliant yet improving Constitution Hill. The horse opened last years festival with a win in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and it seems unfathomable that she will be defeated in the Champion Hurdle this time round. Five wins from five outings for the six-year-old can turn to six victories in the week she celebrates her seventh birthday.

Opening this year’s festival is the all-important Supreme Novices Hurdle. A fabulous way to open the week, this Grade One race is more open that it has been for a few years. It seems to be a head-to-head battle between current favourite Marine Nationale but heading up the 13 strong chasing pack is Facile Vega ridden by Paul Townend.  With the ground being presumably soft, we have seen some changes in the line-up, De Bromhead has rerouted Inthepcket to run in the opener rather than the Ballymore.

14.10 Arkle Challenge Trophy

The first Grade One race for chasers at the Cheltenham Festival is the Arkle Challenge Trophy, only first-season chasers are allowed to enter the Arkle. This year is a mouth-watering rematch between Jonbon and El Fabiolo. The two met at Aintree last year, and with the French dual going the way of Jonbon. Ridden by Aiden Coleman, the favourite will race for the second time in Cheltenham, having finished runner up to the aforementioned Constitution Hill in last years curtain raiser, his ride in the 2022 festival remains the only time the seven-year-old has been beaten in their career. However, El Fabiolo blew away the field at Banbridge to win by 10 lengths, and the improvement seen by the Mullins trained horse could see him take the 2-mile battle with more comfort than many would think.

17.30 National Hunt Chase

The sole Grade Two run for the opening day comes in the National Hunt Chase. It may date back to 1860, but the race has seen some famous winners in recent years. The unforgettable double Grand National winner Tiger Roll was victorious in 2017, and the once promising Galvin headed the field in the infamous 2020 festival. In this years race the Mullins family look to have the upper hand on the field with Gaillard Du Mensil starting clear favourite. However, you cannot rule out John McConnell’s Mahler Mission or the Gordon Elliott trained pair of Chemical Energy and Minella Crooner.  

14.50 Ultima Handicap Chase

Now onto the Grade Three handicaps on the opening day. The first of which is the Ultima Handicap Chase, where last years victor Corach Rambler is looking for back-to-back victories in this race for Derek Fox and Lucinda Russell. After quiet races at Carlisle and Newbury in the Autumn and a track record of struggling when the going is soft, it looks to be a challenge to become the second two-time winner of this race. Also running is Into Overdrive for Mark Wolford, the six-year-old has battled against horses rated much higher than him throughout this season, winning six races and putting good accounts in other outings. Elsewhere in the 23 strong field is The Big Breakaway, has had two decent showings on soft ground at Chepstow and Haydock, so rule him out at your peril.

16.50 Boodles Juvenile Handicap

Finally we have the Boodles Juvenile Handicap, a race only open to four-year-olds that are deemed by their trainers to not be ready for the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle. It is one of the newer races at the Cheltenham Festival, running since 2005, and this year’s field of 24 will be hoping to recreate the magic of Brazil last year. Willie Mullins has two fancied runners in this race, current favourite Tekao won their first race in December on soft ground at Leopardstown, and had a good run in their native Ireland at Navan. As well as Risk Belle who has not had it all her own way in her three rides. One outfield shout to look out for is Jazzy Matty, not only a great name but has looked decent so far, the only trouble will be having the stamina to get to the finish as a constant worry of slowing before the finish is prominent.

Cheltenham Festival Day One horses to look out for:

Supreme Novices Hurdle: Tahmuras
Arkle Novices Chase: El Fabiolo
Ultima Handicap Chase: Monbeg Genuis
Champion Hurdle: Constitution Hill
Mares’ Hurdle: Honeysuckle
Boodles Juvenile Handicap: Jazzy Matty
National Hunt Chase: Mr Coffey

Park Life Sport will have through articles throughout the week to guide you through each race, detailing who to look out for. Stay up to date with Park Life Sport on our social media channels.

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