Racing returns to Gloucestershire as the highly anticipated Cheltenham Festival gets underway today. In a card stacked with quality, including the Arkle Chase and the Mares Hurdle, eyes will be glued to screens when the Champion Hurdle starts at 3:05. With no fans allowed in the stands for the first time, makes sure to keep up to date with all the live updates on our Social Media channels @parklife_sport
13:20 Sky Bet Supreme Novice Hurdle: Grade 1 (2 miles, 1/2 furlong)
The first race of the festival is set to be a cracker. The Supreme Novice Hurdle has thrown up some great horses in the past, including Altior and last year’s winner Shishkin. In this year’s renewal, Willie Mullins seven-year-old Appreciate It tops the betting at 4/5. After winning comfortably at Leopardstown in February, it’s hard to see past Mullins getting his seventh win in this race. Second favourite Metier 5/1 is unbeaten this season, but Harry Fry’s yard has been badly out of form with only two winners from his last 15 runners.
13:55 Sporting Life Arkle: Grade 1 (2 miles)
Pre-festival, this was built to be one of the races of the week. But the field has been whittled down in the days leading up to the race to now only five runners now, with pre-race joint favourite Energumene withdrawn after having a setback in training. The race now looks set up for Shishkin, who is one of the bankers of the week. At 1/2 Nicky Henderson’s unbeaten chaser should have too much class. Allmankind could prove a challenge though. The Dan Skelton trained frontrunner loves a jump and has taken brilliantly to chasing after impressing as a hurdler last season. At 11/2, it might be worth an each way bet.
14:30 Ultima Handicap: Grade 3 (3 miles, 1 furlong)
This year’s edition of the Ultima looks to be as competitive as ever with sixteen runners declared. Local trainer Kim Bailey will look to record his first ever win at the festival as Happygolucky, ridden by stable jockey Kim Bailey, looks well handicapped to justify his short odds (3/1). At longer odds, Admiral’s secret steps up in trip after finishing third at Warwick last month, only one 3/4 lengths behind the winner Two For Gold. A punt at 16/1 might be worthwhile.
15:05 Champion Hurdle: Grade 1 (2 miles, 1/2 furlong)
The main event of the first day sees the best hurdlers across the world go head to head. Last year’s winner Epatante (4/1) will look to make it back to back wins but faces stiff competition. Honeysuckle, winner of the Mares Hurdle at last year’s festival, is the current favourite at 5/4. If the unbeaten seven-year-old was to win, jockey Racheal Blackmore would make history by becoming the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle. Another horse you can’t rule out is Goshen. After dramatically falling at the last hurdle in last year’s Triumph hurdle, jockey Josh Moore will look to put his Cheltenham demons behind him. After winning impressively at Wincanton last month if Goshen was to win at 5/1,it could be the story of the festival.
15:40 Mares Hurdle: Grade 1 (2 miles, 3 furlongs)
After Henry De Bromhead opted to run Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle, this race was blown right open. Willie Mullins has a great record in this race, wining nine of the last 12. He has Concertista (11/10) who would make it back to back wins at the festival after winning the Mares Novice Hurdle with ease last year. The Dan Skleton trained Roksana (3/1) has previous in this race, having won it back in 2019 and looked backed to her best with victory at Ascot in January.
16:15 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle: Grade 3 (2 miles, 1/2 furlong)
This looks like another competitive handicap, with no clear favourite. Houx Gris, trained by Paul Nichols and Saint Sam, trained by Willie Mullins are locked together at the top of the market at 9/2. It’s hard to say who would get the nod between the two, with both recording two wins this season. At a longer price, Nassalam could be value at 20/1. Gary Moore’s four-year-old has not finished outside of the top two this season in his five runs and despite being up in the weights could show his class with a strong run today.
16:50 National Hunt Chase: Grade 2 ( 3 miles, 5 furlongs)
The action is rounded off on the final day with the National Hunt Chase. The winner of this could prove to be the best stayer, with the ground likely to soften up, with rain expected. This would suit the David Pipe trained Remastered. At 9/2, the eight-year-old has won all three of his starts this season and proved he can last the trip when winning at Ascot last month. He has progressed massively since his wind operation in November.