Cheltenham Festival 2020 Day One Preview : A look at the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival
Cheltenham Festival 2020 Day One Preview
The Cheltenham Festival kicks off on Tuesday March 10 with a thrilling day of action, the first of four that we can look forward to. The feature of day one is the Champion Hurdle, which brings together the fastest hurdlers we have in training for a race over the minimum distance of two miles. The Supreme Novice Hurdle kicks us off on a day that also features the Arkle Chase and the Mares Hurdle as well as much more.
Here we take a look through each race on day one, and after that you can use the links below to view our previews of days 2-4 from the festival.
Our Cheltenham Festival page will keep you up to date with the latest betting news ahead of the big week in March, as well as highlighting any big betting moves that have taken place. We also have a page dedicated to day one of the festival where you can read about the upcoming festival as well as look back at 2019 to see who was victorious on the day.
Supreme Novices Hurdle
The first race of the four-day meeting and a great way to start. Listen out for the famous Cheltenham roar as the tape goes up at 1:30pm on Tuesday. Willie Mullins has a great recent record in this race, with four wins from the last seven seasons and a further three of his runners have finished second.
With no real standout this season, it may pay to look further down the betting and pick out something at a big price. A horse that should have won both starts so far but hasn't done is Captain Guinness. He is trained in Ireland by Henry De Bromhead and has finished first and second in his two starts over hurdles so far. When finishing second last time out behind Andy Dufresne he stepped up on debut, and was unlucky to not win the race with a final flight error costing him a lot of momentum.
Had he won that Grade Two race then his price would have contracted but it hasn't and he looks a big price to go to Cheltenham and run well.
We don't really have a standout at this stage, but Captain Guinness is certainly one of interest in this field.
This is another race that Willie Mullins has dominated, he won it last year and has had four wins from the last five runnings of this race. Altior, Un De Sceaux, Douvan and Footpad are just some of the recent winners of this race showing just how good it is.
A horse from Ireland with a previous Cheltenham course win and a 4th place run at the festival last season is the pick here, and that is Fakir D'Oudairies. The Joseph O'Brien trained horse comes here on the back of good runs in Ireland, and based on what he showed at Cheltenham over hurdles last season, the course really suits him. Having that experience both on the course and coping with the festival atmosphere is key, and he looks to have a solid chance of going close in the Arkle. The hill finish here should suit him well, he stays the 2m trip strongly.
He isn't from the Mullins yard, but Fakir D'Oudairies looks to be one of the main Irish challengers for the Arkle.
Ultima Handicap Chase
The first of many tough handicaps to solve across the four days of the festival is the Ultima Handicap Chase. This is a staying contest for chasers, and often you will see Grand National contenders coming here for a run ahead of their main target in April.
One horse that has ran well recently and looks ideal for this race is the Nicky Henderson trained Ok Corral. This horse has had a tough career, he is a 10 year old but has just 13 career runs. He won a big handicap at Doncaster recently, pulling out plenty to stay on top in the closing stages. He appears to relish a battle and looks to be a horse that will love the Cheltenham hill too.
This looks wide open as it always does, but Ok Corral comes here in form, hasn't got too many miles on the clock and looks to have the right kind of profile to win this.
At this stage, the Champion Hurdle is probably the toughest of the four championship races to solve. There are two leading contenders from the Nicky Henderson yard and then a number of horses who are likely to run elsewhere, but would play a big part if they were confirmed for the race. These are Benie Des Dieux (likely Mares Hurdle), Honeysuckle (likely Mares Hurdle) and Cilaos Emery (likely Champion Chase). Should either of these three turn up for this race, you certainly cannot discount them.
Of those that are going to run, assuming no issues, we like Supasundae at a big price, and can see him staying on strongly up the hill as the end of the race approaches. This is a horse that has plenty of form over further and ran a nice race behind Honeysuckle at the Dublin Racing Festival. He was staying on there but couldn't get to the leaders, and the Cheltenham hill will help him with that, allowing him to use his staming.
This race is wide open, there are still question marks surrounding some possible entries in the race, but as things stand now, we like Supasundae each way.
The Mares Hurdle has been ran 12 times at the Cheltenham Festival. Last year and the first year was won by British trainers, but the Irish have taken the 10 in the middle, with nine of those going to Willie Mullins. It isn't an original idea, but a simple one, the advice is to follow his runners and he looks to have one with an outstanding chance.
Benie Des Dieux was clear at the final flight in 2019 and fell when having the race in the bag. She has won three races since then, two Grade One contests and a Grade Two and she looks to be a class above anything else in the mares division.
This is a simple race to work out, if Benie Des Dieux turns up she wins with ease.
Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase
The Close Brothers is a race for novice chasers who fall just short of being good enough to compete in the graded novice races such as the Marsh Chase, Arkle and RSA. Despite being a handicap, the weights for runners here are often very similar, so you need to find something that is well handicapped or that looks capable of improving.
One horse standing out in the field at the moment is Beakstown, trained by Dan Skelton. He isn't top class, but has finished behind some top quality horses in his three defeats this season. Those were Mister Fisher, Champ and Sam Spinner, so all good benchmarks. Beakstown has a rating of 139 after those, good enough to get him into the Close Brothers, and he has always looked as though he would make a great chaser so he is the pick in this one.
Beakstown is our pick in the Close Brothers handicap chase.
National Hunt Chase
The National Hunt Chase has been slightly changed this season, with the biggest move being a shortening of the distance from 4m to 3m6f. This should make the race slightly easier for horses and makes it a more manageable distance so we should see more finishers.
One horse is standing out here and that is Carefully Selected, trained by Willie Mullins. This horse has looked good when jumping fences this season, and has shown staying capabilities over hurdles in the past. This race is his only entry, and he has been chosen by Patrick Mullins from the entire string that Willie has for this race. Patrick has won this race twice before so he knows what to look out for, and these two can form a winning combination in the finale on day one of the festival.
We are siding with Carefully Selected in the last.