Sportsmail provides all the tips ahead of the opening day of Cheltenham Festival with selections from Britain’s No 1 tipster Sam Turner, eight-time champion jockey Peter Scudamore and festival winning jockey Lizzie Kelly.
Many believe Honeysuckle only needs to turn up today to be crowned a Unibet Champion Hurdle heroine once more.
Henry de Bromhead’s top-class mare defends a perfect record stretching back 14 races in this afternoon’ hurdling showpiece and bookmakers are loath to take many risks on her failing to deliver again.
A six-length rout of Sharjah last year stamped Honeysuckle as one of National Hunt racing’s new icons and she has done little to dispel that tag since, continuing to beat every rival put in front of her.
Defending champion Honeysuckle is odds-on favourite to win the Champion Hurdle
However, there is a chance she faces a stiffer test this time as a then out-of-kilter Epatante was second favourite last year, while Goshen, a considerably better hurdler going right-handed, was only 11-2.
This year’s renewal appears to feature greater strength in depth, with last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner APPRECIATE IT (Cheltenham, 3.30) representing the all-conquering Willie Mullins stable, while five-year-olds Teahupoo and Adagio are improving hurdlers.
2020 winner Epatante, back issues seemingly rectified, is another that cannot be dismissed along with Tommy’s Oscar, who boasts such a high cruising speed that he must surely boast at least a frame chance.
Willie Mullins’ 2021 Supreme winner Appreciate It will take on Honeysuckle on Tuesday
Honeysuckle’s supporters may not be quaking in the face of those challenges, but they have more to offer than last year’s opposition and, if Mullins has worked the oracle with Appreciate It, then his eight-year-old is a very exciting proposition.
Last year’s Supreme wasn’t a vintage renewal but the selection was incredibly dominant in a time not dissimilar to that of Honeysuckle.
Mullins has resisted the urge to run Appreciate It this season, but, as we know from six-time festival winner Quevega, long absences are not an issue for the Closutton maestro.
1.20 Appreciate It
3.05 E patante
4.50 Escaria Ten (nap)
1.20 Appreciate It
2.30 Aye Right (nap)
3.05 Honeysuckle (nb)
4.15 Homme Public
4.50 Snow Leopardess
Northerner – 2.30 Vintage Clouds (nap)
SUPREME NOVICES HURDLE
Mullins could begin the meeting on the front foot with the explosive DYSART DYNAMO (Cheltenham, 1.30) in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
The unbeaten six-year-old’s all-guns-blazing style is not necessarily perfect for this assignment, but there are other front-runners in the field and I’m hoping Paul Townend may be able to get a tow into the race without expending all the petrol.
The imposing Constitution Hill represents an enormous danger and it isn’t difficult to envisage this strong stayer at two miles arriving with a big challenge at the final flight. Hopefully, Dysart Dynamo will be able to withstand that late assault.
SPORTING LIFE ARKLE CHASE
Edwardstone represents one of the best British hopes for the week and, given a virtually blemish-free record over fences, is extremely difficult to knock — so I won’t!
But RIVIERE D’ETEL (Cheltenham, 2.10) has probably achieved more in her chasing career and was unlucky not to win the Irish equivalent of this race at the Dublin Racing Festival. Coeur Sublime, third that day, is a tall price for a horse of his ability, with some firms offering four places.
Edwardstone represents one of the best British hopes at Cheltenham this week
ULTIMA HANDICAP CHASE
This race has been kind to the connections of GERICAULT ROQUE (Cheltenham, 2.50), who landed this race twice with Un Temps Pour Tout in 2016 and 2017.
CLOSE BROTHERS MARES’ HURDLE
QUEENS BROOK (Cheltenham, nap, 4.10) looked as though the run would do her good when chasing home Burning Victory at Punchestown last month and she looks a decent bet to reverse placings.
BOODLES & NH CHASE
GORDON ELLIOTT may enjoy a favourable conclusion with THE TIDE TURNS (Cheltenham, 4.50) holding a strong hand in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, while RUN WILD FRED (Cheltenham, nb, 5.30) boasts all the attributes to lift the finale.
Your best chance of beating the bookies this week is to stick with Sportsmail’s brilliant team of tipsters, led all the way through the Festival by National Hunt legend Peter Scudamore…
PETER SCUDAMORE (Eight-time champion jockey)
HONEYSUCKLE may well win the Champion Hurdle but she is long odds-on favourite and not a price the vast majority of punters will want to play at.
But there is a decent each-way option in TOMMY’S OSCAR, the tough little gelding who represents Ann and Ian Hamilton who train him and his three stablemates alongside 1,000 sheep and 300 cattle on their Northumberland farm.
Theirs is a real David versus Goliath challenge but Tommy’s Oscar, who has risen sharply through the ranks, should be given maximum respect. Admittedly, he has not taken on the level of rival he faces today but he is on a sharp upward curve in form, having won his last four races.
He is a slick jumper of hurdles, the ground should suit him and he is ridden by an excellent jockey in Danny McMenamin.
My best bet of the day is JONBON in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. It’s a red-hot race but he is unbeaten and has impressed me with his turn of foot.
1.30 Jonbon (nap)
2.10 Saint Sam (ew)
2.50 Noble Yeats
3.30 Tommy’s Oscar (ew)
4.10 MRS MILNER
4.50 The Tide Turns
LIZZIE KELLY(Festival Winning Jockey)
BURNING VICTORY has got one of the best form lines in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle with her third to Flooring Porter and Klassical Dream — the two most fancied horses in Thursday’s Stayer’s Hurdle — at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting.
She had some good horses behind her that day and probably found the three-mile distance a touch too far, so the drop back to two and a half miles will suit her.
Willie Mullins has won the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle seven times and he has an excellent chance of adding to that with DYSART DYNAMO, who impressively won the Moscow Flyer Novices’ Hurdle at Punchestown, a race with a history of turning up top-class winners.
SAINT SEGAL, runner up in the Grade One Finale Hurdle at Chepstow looks reasonably handicapped in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
1.30 DYSART DYNAMO
4.10 BURNING VICTORY (nap)
4.50 SAINT SEGAL
5.30 RUN WILD FRED
MARCUS TOWNEND (Captain Heath)
VANILLIER was an easy winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last season’s Festival. His runs over fences this season and his jumping have been slightly disappointing. They include a defeat by today’s rival Stattler last time out but the extreme stamina test of the National Hunt Chase will be right up his street.
1.30 CONSTITUTION HILL
3.30 TEAHU POO (ew)
4.10 MRS MILNER
4.50 HMS SEAHORSE
5.30 VANILLIER (nap)
FORMCAST (Nigel Taylor)
GAELIC WARRIOR may have been seriously underestimated by the handicapper after only three runs in France. He has since joined the powerful stable of trainer Willie Mullins, who looks to have deliberately preserved Gaelic Warrior’s handicap rating by not running him since his arrival in Ireland. He looks a good bet to win this competitive race.
1.30 Dysart Dynamo
2.50 Kiltealy Briggs
4.10 Stormy Ireland
4.50 Gaelic Warrior (nap)