A sincere apology, dear reader, to begin today’s Preview. We promised, at the end of Saturday’s edition to provide an in-depth analysis of the meeting at Sedgefield, only to find that ITV have decided to cover the events at Cheltenham instead. Not for us to question the wisdom of that decision, so Prestbury Park it is.
Centrepiece of Day 1 is the Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy at 3.05, which has a field of 10, headed by the unbeaten Honeysuckle, a perfect 10 from 10 over hurdles. Henry De Bromhead‘s 7-y-o mare is already a six time Grade 1 winner and is just 11-8 to make it 7 this afternoon.
We can’t help but feel that she has spent most of her hurdling career beating Keyser Soze and the other Usual Suspects in her native Oirland and that today may be a different cauldron of tuna.
Chief among her opponents is the enigma that is Goshen, seemingly back to best when destroying the field in the Kingwell Hurdle but possibly still with scars from the unseat in last year’s Triumph.
On balance and with ‘trust the trainer’ in mind, we venture a modest win bet on last year’s heroine Epatante at 7-2.
Nicky Henderson says she is ready to roll and, with the ground beginning to dry out, her speed may be crucial up the final hill.
Proceedings kick off with an unusually small field Skybet Supreme Novices Hurdle at 1.20, with just the ‘dead eight’ going to post.
Our friends across the water also provide a ‘shortie’ for this race in Appreciate It, which is best priced at 5-6.
3-3 over hurdles, including two Grade 1s, Willie Mullins‘ 7-y-o undoubtedly deserves its place at the head of the market, but that price is no fun, is it?
Let’s try an each way tweak on the Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory, which is available at a much more artisan 10-1.
Jonjo‘s 6-y-o hardly came off the bridle to win at Newbury and may well be better than its official rating suggests.
At 1.55 Shishkin is due to strut its stuff in the Arkle Challenge Trophy and, at 1-2 tops, we can just watch and, hopefully, admire.
At 2.30 we have the Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m 1f, with a big field although it’s hard to get away from the chances of the favourite Happygolucky, which is available at 3-1.
Laid out for this race since winning on this course in December, Kim Bailey‘s 7-y-o could be well in off 147 and we recommend a win bet.
We also can’t resist an each way tickle on Pym from NJH‘s yard. Best when fresh and with excellent course form, this 8-y-o should give Nico a great spin round. Take the 12-1 on offer.
We will leave the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at 3.40 firmly in the hooves of Roksana, the lucky winner of this race two years ago.
She has improved again this season and you can betcha that Harry Baby has her tuned to the minute. A win bet at 11-4 is recommended.
And so on to the Boodles at 4.15.
20 odd juveniles over two miles, half of ’em from Oirland, most running in their first handicap – easy it ain’t.
We chuck three darts – Busselton at 10-1, Homme Public at 11-1 and Balko Saint at 28-1 and hope for the best. Trying to remember when we last gave a 28-1 winner – oh yes, that would be Saturday, then.
The final race on the card is not on ITV, but can be seen on your bookmaker’s website, so, in the 4.50 we suggest you have a win bet on Next Destination at 5-2.
Probably be Cheltenham again tomorrow, so see you then.
Epatante 3.05 Cheltenham 2pts win @ 7-2
Soaring Glory 1.20 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 10-1
Happygolucky 2.30 Cheltenham 2pts win @ 3-1
Pym 2.30 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 12-1 (7 places Skybet)
Roksana 3.40 Cheltenham 4pts win @ 11-4
Busselton 4.15 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 10-1 (6 places Paddy Power)
Homme Public 4.15 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 11-1 (6 places Paddy Power)
Balko Saint 4.15 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 28-1 (6 places Paddy Power)
Next Destination 4.50 Cheltenham 2pts win @ 5-2