Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival was perhaps the most shocking in recent years, with the promised slug-out between Apple’s Jade, Buveur D’Air and Laurina failing to materialise. Out stepped the new champ, as Epsoir D’Allen crushed his rivals to score a historical success, as a rare five-year-old winner of the race.
We’ll be hoping for a much more straight forward day on Wednesday, as we have the small matter of Altior trying to make even more history on ITV Racing.
Grade 1 Races
The top grade action kicks off with the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, with Champ a warm order to give Nicky Henderson another Festival success. He created a striking impression in the Challow and will be looking to build on that here. Battleoverdoyen is the pick of the Irish, picking up a Grade 1 at Naas prior to this engagement.
The RSA Chase comes up next and it’s an open renewal of the race, with last year’s Pertemps winner Delta Work heading the market after his recent Grade 1 success. Santini remains an exciting prospect over fences and despite plenty being made of an injury scare, he’s clearly the one to beat.
The big race of the day is, of course, the Champion Chase, with Altior looking to go back to back in the contest. It’ll be his fourth Festival success on the spin and it’s difficult to see anything getting near him. Min has been bested by him twice and given he’s second favourite, it should be a straight-forward task for Henderson’s superstar.
The Champion Bumper rounds out the Grade 1 action and is a fascinating renewal of the race. It’s dominated by the Irish this time around, with the highly touted pair of Blue Sari and Envoi Allen looked to maintain their unbeaten records.
NAP Of The Day
Perhaps the gutsiest and likeable horse in training, the NAP Of The Day is, of course, Tiger Roll. He’s going for back to back wins in the Cross Country today it’s difficult to see him being defeated.
He created a big shock when decimating his rivals over hurdles at Naas three weeks ago, travelling ominously well over a trip that shouldn’t have suited him.
This would be the perfect National prep for him once again and this tough cookie can provide the punters with salvation, after a beat down by the bookies on Tuesday.
Outsider To Watch
The Fred Winter is always a highly competitive event and our Early Value tip Dogon looks to have a huge chance in that contest for Paul Nicholls.
Nicholls has won the race three times and this French import built on a disappointing British debut when second at Wincanton last month, racing keenly but sticking on well.
Today’s stiff today should suit massively and with the tongue-tie added, he should be going very close off an attractive opening mark.
Aside from those travelling in from Ireland and France, the longest traveller from these shores is Top Ville Ben for Philip Kirby, who runs in the RSA Chase.
A smart front-runner on his day, he does look to have plenty to do in this company and even his best form falls just short. That said, he should give it a good go from the front.
After yesterday, which saw rain for almost the entire day, we will thankfully have a dry day at Prestbury Park on Wednesday. That isn’t to say it’s nice weather, however, and very strong winds are going to make for an interesting test up the Cheltenham Hill.