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Cheltenham 2021: Day 1, Champion Day

This page covers all the information you need for the first day of Betting on Cheltenham Festival. There's a guide for each race including statistics, links and tips for betting on the race itself.

When the Racing Post produced a survey of the best day’s racing of the year the first day of the Cheltenham Festival polled most votes. As the first race gets underway on the Tuesday there is a huge roar from the crowd. Champion Day is the most eagerly anticipated single day’s racing of the year. The months of trials and speculation are now over and the action begins at the best race meeting in the world.

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There are seven races on the opening card and the battle between the bookies and punters has begun. Betting turnover on races at Cheltenham is huge and if several favourites win on the first day the punters will be in front. However, the racing is competitive so it’s difficult to finish in front. The key is not to lose all your betting bank as there are three more days and 21 races to do that. Breaking even is a result but Cheltenham is a war and not a battle and only the first skirmishes have been done. 

A look ahead to the rest of the week : Ladies Day | St Patrick's Thursday | Gold Cup Day 

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2021 Preview

For those looking at the 2021 festival, it is always important to remember what happened in previous years. Course form, and especially festival form can prove vital to a horse's chances of winning. Now we take a look at each of the races taking place on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.

Skybet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (1.20pm)

  • Hurdle Race (Two miles 1/2 furlong – Old Course)
  • Open to horses aged four-years-old and older

The Supreme Novices Hurdle is contested by the best novices over the shorter distance. It is traditionally the opening race of the four day Cheltenham Festival in March. The race was originally registered as the Gloucestershire Hurdle and up to 1971 was often split into two or even three divisions. Legendary Irish handler Vincent O’Brien dominated the race in the early years and between 1952 and 1959 recorded ten victories. In recent years another Irish trainer has dominated the race with Willie Mullins winning four of the last ten renewals but only once since 2015.

He could be in for another winner though with Appreciate It a strong favourite to win this year. Appreciate It has won all three of its races this season, including the Grade 1 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle. That's a race previously won by both Hurricane Fly and Istabraq. Appreciate It last raced in February, again winning a Grade 1 race.

2020 Result

1st  Shishkin 6/1 (trained by Nicky Henderson, ridden by Nico de Boinville 

2nd Abacadabras 11/4 (Gordon Elliott/Davy Russell)

3rd Chantry House 15/2 (Nicky Henderson/Barry Garaghty)

4th Asterion Forlonge 9/4F (Willie Mullins/Paul Townend)


The Last 10 Winners of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle:

  • 2020 -  Shishkin (6/1) Nicky Henderson (trainer), Nico de Boinville (jockey)
  • 2019 -  Klassical Dream 6/1)  Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh 
  • 2018 -  Summerville Boy (8/1) Tom George, Noel Fehily 
  • 2017 – Labaik (25/1) Gordon Elliott, Jack Kennedy
  • 2016 – Altior (4/1) Nicky Henderson, Nico de Boinville 
  • 2015 – Douvan (2/1F) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh
  • 2014 - Vautour (7/2JF) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh
  • 2013 – Champagne Fever (5/1) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh
  • 2012 – Cinders And Ashes (10/1) Donald McCain, Jason Maguire
  • 2011 – Al Ferof (10/1) Paul Nicholls, Ruby Walsh 

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Fact File 

  • Ruby Walsh has ridden the winner of this race a record six times after his 2019 success. 
  • Willie Mullins has trained the most winners of this race with six victories after his win in 2019. 

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Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeplechase (1.55pm)

  • Steeplechase (Two miles – Old Course) 
  • Open to horses five-years-old and older

The Arkle Challenge Trophy is the leading minimum distance chase for novices in the National Hunt calendar and is traditionally the second race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival. The race was first run in 1946 under the title of the Cotswold Chase. In 1969 the race was renamed after Arkle, the three-time winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the horse considered the best chaser in the history of the sport.It is the novices’ championship over two miles and is often a stepping stone to the Champion Chase in the following year. The race has had several sponsors and the Racing Post newspaper began its sponsorship in 2012.  

Shishkin won the Supreme Hurdle last year and in 2021 bids to land the Arkle Chase. Eight of his last nine races have been won including each of the last six. This season has the Nicky Henderson trained runner switch to going over fences and produced three wins, the last two in Grade 2. A tough opponent here will be Energumene trained by Willie Mullins. The Irish raider has won six of his seven races. The most recent victory was a Grade 1 race at Leopardstown last month.

2020 Result

1st - Put the Kettle On 16/1 - Trained by Henry De Bromhead and ridden by Aidan Coleman

2nd - Fakir D'Oudaires 3/1 - (JP O'Brien/Mark Walsh)

3rd - Rouge Vif 9/1 - (Harry Whittington/Gavin Sheehan)

The Last 10 Winners of the Arkle Challenge Trophy 

  • 2020 - Put the Kettle On (16/1) Trained by Henry De Bromhead and ridden by Aidan Coleman
  • 2019 - Duc Des Genievres (5/1) Willie Mullins, Paul Townend.
  • 2018 -  Footpad (1/1F) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh
  • 2017 – Altior (1/4F) Nicky Henderson, Nico de Boinville 
  • 2016 – Douvan (1/4F) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh
  • 2015 – Un De Sceaux (4/6F) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh 
  • 2014 – Western Warhorse (33/1) David Pipe, Tom Scudamore
  • 2013 – Simonsig (8/15F) Nicky Henderson, Barry Geraghty
  • 2012 – Sprinter Sacre (8/11F) Nicky Henderson, Barry Geraghty
  • 2011 – Captain Chris (6/1) Philip Hobbs, Richard Johnson

Arkle Challenge Trophy Fact File

  • Favourites have won this race for three of the last five years.
  • The most wins for a jockey in this race is four by both Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty.
  • Top trainer is Nicky Henderson who has won this race six times.


Ultima Handicap Chase (2.30pm)

  • Steeplechase (Three miles and 100 yards – Old Course)
  • Open to horses aged five-years-old and older 

The Ultima Handicap Chase has had several sponsors in the past and Ultima began their sponsorship in 2015. The race is one of the most competitive handicap chases of the season. Horses that run well often then run in the Grand National as the winners in particular are weighted well and are proven over a long distance in a big runner field as the race is always well oversubscribed due to the prestige and prize money.

A wide open race with 6/1 the field with most bookies. JonJon O'Neill's Cloth Cap is an interesting runner. This contender is chasing a hat-trick after two high-class wins this season and is current favourite to win the Grand National. There have been horses who have run this race and been successful at Aintree, West Tip for example.

2020 Result

1st The Conditional - 15/2 - trained by David Bridgwater, ridden by Brendan Powell

2nd Kildisart 10/1 - Ben Pauling/Daryl Jacob

3rd Discorama 11/2 JF - Paul Nolan/BJ Cooper

4th Vinndication 11/2 JF - Kim Bailey/David Bass

The Last 10 Winners of the Ultima Handicap Chase 

  • 2020 -  The Conditional (15/2) - David Bridgwater (trainer), Brendan Powell (jockey)
  • 2019 -  Beware the Bear (10/1) Nicky Henderson, Jeremiah McGrath 
  • 2018 -  Coo Star Sivola (5/1) Nick Williams (trainer), Lizzie Kelly (jockey)
  • 2017 – Un Temps Pour Tout (9/1) David Pipe, Tom Scudamore 
  • 2016 – Un Temps Pour Tout (11/1) David Pipe, Tom Scudamore 
  • 2015 – The Druids Nephew (8/1) Neil Mulholland, Barry Geraghty
  • 2014 – Holywell (10/1) Jonjo O’Neill, Richie McLernon
  • 2013 – Golden Chieftain (28/1) Colin Tizzard, Brendan Powell Jnr
  • 2012 – Alfie Sherrin (14/1) Jonjo O’Neill, Richie McLernon
  • 2011 – Bensalam (5/1) Alan King, Robert Thornton

Ultima Handicap Chase Fact File

  • Only one of the last four winners won carrying less than 11 stone.
  • Tom Scudamore shares the record with Robert Thornton on most winners for a jockey. 
  • The last favourite to win this race was in 2009.
  • Neither Willie Mullins or Paul Nicholls have trained the winner of this race. 


Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (3.05pm)

  • Hurdle Race (Two miles 1/2 furlong – Old Course)
  • Open to horses aged four-years-old and older 

The Champion Hurdle as the name of the race suggests is the championship race of the season for hurdlers. It is the most prestigious hurdle race in the National Hunt calendar and is the third race of the Tuesday of the Cheltenham Festival. The feature was first run in 1927.

Honeysuckle won at the Festival last year coming first in the Mares' Hurdle. Now she bids to win the Champion Hurdle and that would make it 11 wins out of 11. Two Grade 1 wins have been achieved this year both with Rachael Blackmore in the saddle. Last year's winner Epatante prepares to try and make it two wins in a row but disappointed in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Goshen could be a threat after winning his last race by 22 lengths.

2020 Result

1st Epatante 2/1F - Trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty

2nd Sharjah 16/1  - Willie Mullins/Mr P W Mullins

3rd Darver Star 17/2  - Gavin Cromwell/Jonathan Moore

The Last 10 Winners of the Champion Hurdle 

  • 2020 -  Epatante (2/1F) - Trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty
  • 2019 -  Espoir D'Allen  (16/1) Gavin Cromwell, Mark Walsh
  • 2018 -  Buveur D'Air (8/15F) Nicky Henderson Barry Geraghty
  • 2017 – Buveur D'Air (5/1) Nicky Henderson, Noel Fehily 
  • 2016 – Annie Power (5/2) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh 
  • 2015 – Faugheen (4/5) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh
  • 2014 - Jezki (9/1) Jessica Harrington, Barry Geraghty
  • 2013 – Hurricane Fly (13/8F) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh
  • 2012 – Rock On Ruby (11/1) Paul Nicholls, Noel Fehily
  • 2011 – Hurricane Fly (11/4F) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh

Champion Hurdle Fact File 

  • Ruby Walsh and Tim Moloney have both ridden a record four winners of this race.
  • Nicky Henderson has trained a record eight winners of this race.
  • Only four of the last 21 winners weren't from an Irish trainer or Nicky Henderson.
  • The winning distance has been a neck four times this century..

Mares' Hurdle Race (3.40pm)

  • Hurdle Race (Two miles four furlongs – Old Course)
  • Open to fillies and mares aged four-years-old and older

The Mares’ Hurdle was first run at the meeting in 2008 and the race features nine hurdles. Other than the first staging when it was on the fourth day the race has been run on the first day of the festival. The championship hurdle race for fillies and mares was originally given Grade 2 status but was upgraded to a Grade 1 race in 2015. 

Willie Mullins will be after another winner in this race after great success in the past. Concertista is a strong candidate to give him another win in this race. The mare won the Novices' Hurdle at last year's festival. Both of her runs this season have been successful with wins in Grade 2 and Grade 3.

2020 Result

1st Honeysuckle 9/4 - Trained by Henry de Bromhead, ridden by Rachael Blackmore

2nd Benie Des Deaux 4/6 - Willie Mullins/Paul Townend

3rd Elfile 16/1 - Willie Mullins/Danny Mullins

The Last 10 Winners of the Mares' Hurdle

  • 2020 -  Honeysuckle (9/4) - Henry de Bromhead (trainer), Rachael Blackmore (jockey)
  • 2019 -  Roksana (10/1) Dan Skelton, Harry Skelton
  • 2018 -  Benie Des Deaux (4/1) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh 
  • 2017 – Apple's Jade (7/2) Gordon Elliott, Bryan Cooper
  • 2016 – Vroum Vroum Mag (4/6) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh
  • 2015 – Glens Melody (6/1) Willie Mullins, Paul Townend
  • 2014 Quevega (8/11F) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh
  • 2013 – Quevega (8/11F) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh
  • 2012 – Quevega (4/7F) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh
  • 2011 – Quevega (5/6F) Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh

Mares Hurdle Race Fact File

  • Quevega won this race six times.
  • Ruby Walsh rode Quevega to all her wins but has also had two more successes in this race making a record eight.
  • Willie Mullins has trained the winner of this race on nine occasions.
  • No favourite has won since 2014.
  • Seven-year-olds have won this race in four of the last six years.
  • The race has been won by an Irish trainer for eight of the last 11 years.  

The Boodles Juvenile Handicap (Fred Winter Hurdle (4.15pm)

  • Hurdle Race (Two miles – Old Course) 
  • Open to horses aged four-years-old only 

The race is named in honour of Fred Winter who had a successful career as a National Hunt jockey and trainer. The race was introduced in 2005 and acts as a consolation contest for four year olds who are not quite good enough to race in the Triumph Hurdle, the championship race for juveniles. The race has had Grade 3 status since 2009 and is run on the second day of the meeting.  

Quilxios is the likely favourite in this race. Trained by Henry de Bromhead, this juvenile has won four out of four. The latter of those victories was in a Grade 1 race at Leopardstown. That race saw him beat Saint Sam by five and a half lengths. The Willie Mullins runner will attempt to turn the tables on his rival and is getting eight lbs so could well be the one to back if showing improvement.

2020 Result

1st - Aramax 15/2 - Trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Mark Walsh

2nd - Night Edition 16/1 - David Pipe/Tom Scudamore

3rd -Saint D'oreaux -14/1 - Gordon Elliott/Daryl Jacob

4th - Recent Revelations 14/1 - Gordon Elliott/Davy Russell 

The Last 10 Winners of the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

  • 2020 - Aramax (7/2F) - Gordon Elliott (trainer), Mark Walsh (jockey)
  • 2019 - Band of Outlaws (7/2F) - JP O'Brien, JJ Slevin 
  • 2018 - Veneer of Charm (20/1) Gordon Elliott  Jack Kennedy 
  • 2017 - Flying Tiger - (33/1) Nick Wiliams, Richard Johnson 
  • 2016 – Diego Du Charmil (13/2) Paul Nicholls, Sam Twiston-Davies
  • 2015 – Qualando (25/1) Paul Nicholls, Nick Schofield
  • 2014 - Hawk High (33/1) Tim Easterby, Brian Hughes
  • 2013 – Flaxen Flare (25/1) Gordon Elliot, Davy Condon
  • 2012 – Une Artiste (40/1) Nicky Henderson, Jeremiah McGrath
  • 2011 – What A Charm (9/1) Arthur Moore, Paul Townend

Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Fact File

  • No jockey has won this race on more than one occasion.
  • Top trainers are Gordon Elliott and  Paul Nicholls with three wins.
  • The last six winners have all carried over 11st.

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Guide to the National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase (4.50pm)

  • Steeplechase (Four miles – Old Course)
  • Open to horses aged five-years-old and older 

The National Hunt Chase is the main long distance race of the meeting for novice chasers ridden by amateur jockeys and the race includes 24 fences and almost three circuits of the track. It is the longest and most often run race in the history of the festival. In the early history of the race it was the second most important race of the season after the Grand National. The event now has listed status but other races have become more important.


2020 Result

1st Ravenhill 12/1 - Trained by Gordon Elliott, ridden by Mr JJ Codd

2nd Lord Du Mesnil 11/2 Richard Hobson/Mr S Waley-Cohen

3rd Lamanver Pippin 33/1 CL Tizzard/Mr W Biddick


The Last 10 Winners of the National Hunt Chase 

  • 2020 -  Ravenhill (12/1) - Trained by Gordon Elliott, ridden my Mr JJ Codd
  • 2019 -  A Plus Tard (5/1) Henry De Bromhead, Rachael Blackmore
  • 2018 -  Rathvinden (6/1) Willie Mullins, Patrick Mullins
  • 2017 – Tiger Roll (16/1) Gordon Elliott, Lisa O'Neill
  • 2016 – Minella Rocco (8/1) Jonjo O’Neill, Derek O’Connor 
  • 2015 – Cause Of Causes (8/1) Gordon Elliott, Jamie Codd
  • 2014 – Midnight Prayer (8/1) Alan King, Joshua Newman
  • 2013 – Back In Focus (9/4F) Willie Mullins, Patrick Mullins
  • 2012 – Teaforthree (5/1F) JT McNamara, Rebecca Curtis
  • 2011 – Chicago Grey (5/1F) Gordon Elliott, Derek O’Connor

National Hunt Chase Fact File

  • Only two ten-year-olds have won this race since 2002.
  • Since 1946 Jonjo O'Neill has trained the most winners of this race with six victories. 
  • Since 1946 no jockey has rode the winner of this race more than twice. 
  • The last favourite to win this race was in 2013.



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