It’s finally here. Day one of Cheltenham is upon us and what a cracking Tuesday we have in store with the Champion Hurdle the feature.

Here are Nick Luck’s thoughts on all of the action.


BALLYADAM is taken to make a significant step forward against the smallest field ever assembled for the Supreme Novices Hurdle (1.20pm) at 11/2. Always a well touted horse, he hasn’t quite delivered on the sparkling promise he showed in a point and bumper. But the bar has been set very high and he moved in the right direction when held up behind the more judiciously ridden Appreciate It at the Dublin Racing Festival. That was an excellent run off a far-from-ideal preparation and, although the recent stable switch is not ideal, all the hard work will have been done. I am convinced better ground will eke out a few pounds improvement – his useful half-brother was a stone better on top of the ground – and is the play at the prices.

CAPTAIN GUINNESS comes with obvious risks, but must be the most serious threat to Shishkin in the Arkle (1.55pm). In all honesty, I am expecting the favourite to win, but tracking Allmankind over the first four fences over two miles on the Old Course will be a culture shock for all of these and I can’t be too dogmatic. As such, Henry de Bromhead’s talented gelding is worth a play at 9/1. He was running a fine race behind Energumene at Leopardstown when coming down, and was cruising when brought down in Shishkin’s Supreme. We have not seen the best of him yet.

AYE RIGHT has shown his full hand to the handicapper this season by running some wonderful races in defeat, but unexposed horses are thin on the ground here and he can have his day in the Ultima (2.30pm) at 13/2. He is pretty straightforward insofar as he stays well, jumps soundly and won’t mind the ground drying up a fair bit. In addition, Richard Johnson takes over and might just squeeze another pound or two out of him.

GOSHEN is a horse that divides opinion sharply, but I am a believer and – furthermore – a believer that his slightly unusual ability will drag every horse out of their comfort zone, come rain or shine in the Champion Hurdle (3.05pm). There is simply a very strong likelihood of his being able to dominate this race Faugheen-style, with neither Not So Sleepy nor Silver Streak likely to be inclined to engage in a battle too early – a faster horse (Allmankind) tried it in the Triumph Hurdle last year and came off worst. The ability to maintain such a high cruising speed over two miles is very rare and it was striking how he wanted to keep going faster the more Jamie Moore attempted to restrain him at Wincanton. I appreciate he could blow out if things don’t swing his way, but he boasts the single best piece of hurdling form on offer this season and should arguably be a shorter price than his current 4/1.

BLACK TEARS represents a little each-way value at 14/1 against the big two in the mares’ hurdle (3.40pm). The narrative in the build up has been of a two horse race between Concertista and Roksana, but the pair only have a marginal edge on the field on ratings and the former has shown all her best form on soft while the latter has clearly shown improvement for a step up to three miles. As such, I’m prepared to have a dart at Sneezy Foster’s consistent mare, who can reverse form with last year’s Coral Cup conqueror Dame De Compagnie on better terms and on a sounder surface. Jack Kennedy will leave it as late as he dares.

BUSSELTON has been my idea of the Boodles (4.15pm) winner for some time, and I would have been prepared to play at any rating below 140. As it stands, he has got 135, which I think is a very dismissive interpretation of his form to this point. His pedigree suggests a relative test of speed will suit, while the application of cheekpieces seems a statement of intent: they don’t need to improve him much. In addition, he has only run four times in his life under any code, so is open to a fair chunk of improvement for a yard that has been successful in this before. He’s priced at 9/1.

GALVIN appeals as one of the better favourites in the closing National Hunt Chase (4.50pm) at 9/4. He has run at two Festivals and has excelled himself both times: first when a staying-on sixth in the Ballymore, then when finding only the very smart Imperial Aura too good in the novices’ handicap last year. I wondered about his stamina for three miles back here in October, but he hit the line like a proper stayer and his dam won over three and a half, which surely augurs well. His connections immediately nominated this as the target and they’ve not deviated from the script in the interim.

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