By News Team
Last Updated: 12th March 2020
The Cheltenham Festival is the jewel in the National Hunt calendar and is the four days all racing fans look forward to most. Ahead of the Festival starting on Tuesday, we preview the first day’s action and pick out some key bets to keep an eye on.
Seventh heaven for Supreme punters
There’s no better way of starting the day than with a winner, particularly with four big days of punting ahead.
William Hill are offering an industry-best seven places on the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival, meaning you can expect returns from almost half of the 16-strong field for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30pm).
Before scratching around for those at monster prices who could run into one of those seven spots, it’s hard to get away from Shishkin at 3/1.
Nicky Henderson appears to have a very special horse on his hands and he’s been impressive on both of his last two starts heading into this race.
Nico de Boinville is yet to get anywhere near the bottom of him, and though the form of his two wins may not be as strong as Asterion Forlonge’s Grade 1 win at Leopardstown, he has bags of potential and is rapidly improving.
Asterion Forlonge looks like making sure there’s a good gallop and may try and replicate his front-running win from the Dublin Racing Festival.
He’s a gallant grey with both pace and stamina but you don’t want to be hitting that Cheltenham Hill on empty and he could be there for the taking in the closing stages.
Chantry House and Edwardstone should both be in the mix and certainly make the top seven.
Alan King does very well with his novice hurdlers and this six-year-old shouldn’t be overlooked.
He’s held on form behind Chantry House but has beaten Fiddlerontheroof and the highly-rated Harry Senior already this season.
Though mugged one line in his Festival prep run in the Group 2 Supreme Trial at Haydock, he’s got some rock-solid form in the book and should make the top half of the field.
Murphy’s storm can rise to deny Irish the Arkle
With three of the top four in the betting, including hot favourite Notebook, many expect to see the tricolour held aloft in the winners’ enclosure after the Arkle (2.10pm).
Notebook has looked brilliant since switching to fences, Fakir D’Ouadaries is a classy Group 1 performer and Cash Back is a more unexposed type with plenty of potential.
However, at 11/2, Brewin’upastorm from Olly Murphy’s Warwickshire stable has strong claims of returning the Arkle to home soil for only the second time since 2014.
He battled gamely to see off the well thought of Good Boy Bobby at Carlisle in October and then won cosily at Taunton the following month.
The concern has to be the four-month break and the fact he now bumps into more streetwise jumpers, but Murphy made this the plan a long way out and he should be fully wound up for the race.
Settle for Silver in Champion Hurdle
Epatante is the class angle in the Champion Hurdle (3.30pm) and nobody can deny that her win in the Christmas Hurdle was impressive.
Nicky Henderson’s mare gets a handy 7lb allowance and in an open-looking renewal she should be bang there at the business end of the race.
Her temperament and liking for Cheltenham is taken on trust, though, after she became very unsettled ahead of the mares’ novices’ race last year and consequently blew her chances.
As such, at just 10/3, she looks plenty short enough.
If we’re taking risks then Silver Streak is at least a monster price at 25/1.
He landed the each-way money when finishing third in this race last year and chased home Epatante last time out in the Christmas Hurdle.
If he runs up to scratch then he won’t be too far away.