There is a certain mystique associated with the Cheltenham festival that is impossible to explain. So many different factors combine to add to the allure, the buzz in the air, the travelling Irish army and the coming together of the most gifted National Hunt horses, jockeys and trainers in the world. Being lucky enough to have a winner at the festival brings unbridled joy that some say cannot be surpassed.
Ireland's record number of 19 winners came at last year’s festival and even though the Irish legion will supply roughly 20/28 favourites it looks like this figure is unlikely to be equalled. For all those seeking to have a bet based on National Pride, PaddyPower currently offers a price of 11/8 for Ireland to have 16 winners or more.
The opening day of the festival has some intriguing battles and will provide punters with an opportunity to go to battle with four favourites under 2/1. The following are the key selections for the day.
Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices Chase (Grade 1) , 2.10
The Arkle showcases the best 2 mile Novice Chasers in the game and this year’s field is no different. The smallest field in Arkle history will go to post but the quality is still there for all to see. The SP favourite has obliged in 5 of the last 6 runnings and the imperious Mullins and Walsh partnership have yet another star at the top of the market. Saint Calvados and Brainpower are both talented horses and the former jumped exceptionally when demolishing a decent field at Warwick. Henderson has been quite bullish about the chances of Brainpower and has assured all that he is the only horse in his team who can stick it to Altior, last year’s winner. That said, when taking hurdling ability into account it looks like the Irish contingent may have the upper hand. Footpad jumped swiftly at the Leopardstown festival in February and came home 5 lengths ahead of Petit Mouchoir. The race was run in a very quick time for a novice chase, in fact, Min the second season chaser and Footpad the novice ran to the same time over course and distance on the same day. Davy Russell gave Henry de Bromhead’s runner a sympathetic ride and barring his first two mistakes his jumping was faultless. Saint Calvados is likely to bowl along in front with Footpad and Petit Mouchoir keeping tabs. Russell will undoubtedly throw the kitchen sink at the Mullins star and will just about come out on top.
National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase (Grade 2), 4.50
The National Hunt Challenge Cup has been won by Irish raiders for the last 3 years and it looks like this year will be no different. Jury Duty heads the market and is a worthy favourite; Gordon Elliot favours this race as it was this contest which provided him with his first Cheltenham winner in 2013. The amateur status of this test of stamina means that having a jockey with previous Cheltenham wins is a distinct advantage. The soft ground will mean that a dour stayer with a touch of class will be needed and it looks like Rathvinden may just possess these characteristics. Back in Focus was successful in the 2013 renewal and Rathvinden has a very similar profile with the same rating. His last two runs over fences haven’t brought success but this longer trip will result in an improvement in his jumping and he looks nailed on to provide the father and son partnership of Willie and Paddy Mullins with yet another winner.
Ian's tips for Tuesday:
1st race Summerville Boy 7/1
2nd race Petit Mouchoir 3/1
3rd race Ramses De Teillee 11/1
4th race Faugheen 11/2
5th race Apples Jade 8/15
6th race Rathvinden
7th Race Rather Be
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