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Cheltenham Betting Preview Day One - Champion Day

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Cheltenham Betting Preview Day One - Champion Day

Featured Image Credit: PA Images

The long wait is finally over. The "Greatest Show On Turf" gets underway at Cheltenham this afternoon with a feast of top-quality action for punters to enjoy. Day 1 of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, Champion Day, sees a thrilling seven-race card take place, featuring dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D'Air take on the mighty mares Apple's Jade and Laurina in a stellar renewal of the two-mile hurdling championship. Our betting experts at ODDSbible have marked your cards for all the action and here are our top tips for Prestbury Park:

1.30pm Supreme Novices' Hurdle

The traditional curtain-raiser looks a wide open renewal this year, but make sure you take advantage of Betway's money back as a free bet offer if your horse loses in the two-mile event. This looks a tricky renewal of the £125,000 contest with a host of unexposed horses vying for favouritism. However, Nigel Twiston-Davies' Al Dancer is unbeaten in four starts this term, including over course and distance at Cheltenham in December. The six-year-old son of Al Namix was a hugely impressive winner of the ultra-competitive G3 Betfair Hurdle at Ascot last time and the forecast rain will play to his strengths. Naunton handler Twiston-Davies has described Al Dancer as "the best novice hurdler I've trained" and connections are bullish of a bold performance from the gelding. His chief rivals look to be the Nicky Henderson-trained Angels Breath who was beaten in the Dovecote at Kempton last time out, but will appreciate the greater emphasis on stamina in this contest, whilst his stable companion Mister Fisher impressed in the Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle on his latest start. However, Al Dancer's ability to jump fluently, coupled with his tactical speed, make him our fancy for the opener.

ODDSbible Tip - Al Dancer 9/2

2.10pm Racing Post Arkle

Won in the past by the likes of Altior and Sprinter Sacre, this year's contest is arguably lacking a superstar, but there is certainly plenty of strength in depth. Glen Forsa easily accounted for Kalashnikov in the rearranged Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Sandown Park in February, but the return to a left-handed, galloping track will certainly suit Amy Murphy's charge, who is potentially overpriced at 10/1, a year on from his second-placed finish in the Supreme. The Gordon Elliott-trained Hardline has been well-backed in the last week and has plundered three victories so far this term. A creditable third behind the likeable La Bague Au Roi last time, he stays further than this two-mile trip and is of definite interest. Lalor, like Kalashnikov, was not suited by Sandown Park last time and he had previously impressed with the manner of his victory at Cheltenham in November, but he has drifted in the market of late. At 10/1, it could be worth taking a chance on Kalashnikov. The six-year-old son of Kalanisi needs to jump better than he has done in his four chase starts to date, but he stays further than two miles and if they go quick up front, this race could play into his hands.

ODDSbible Tip - Kalashnikov 10/1 E/W

2.50pm Ultima Handicap Chase

An excellent renewal of the three mile and one furlong contest, with a host of established stars doing battle. Grand National entry Give Me A Copper has been well found in the market following a respectable fourth on his comeback from a long absence at Sandown Park earlier this term. Paul Nicholls is bullish of a bold showing from the nine-year-old, but he lacks big-race experience in competitive handicap company. With that in mind, Mister Whitaker looks an attractive each-way proposition. Successful in the Close Brothers Limited Novices' Handicap Chase at The Festival 2018, he looks to have been crying out for the step up in trip this year. Fourth to the highest-rated horse in training, Cryname at Ascot in January, that was a nice pipe-opener and connections have earmarked this race for a while. Brian Hughes, who rode the seven-year-old son of Court Cave when he landed the Close Brothers takes over the reign once more and he is of interest.

ODDSbible Tip - Mister Whitaker 8/1 E/W

3.30pm Champion Hurdle

A fascinating edition of the two-mile hurdling championship with Buveur D'Air bidding to join greats such Hatton's Grace, Sir Ken and Istabraq as a three-time winner of the G1 contest. Nicky Henderson's charge was a neck winner of the 2018 renewal, but the Seven Barrows maestro reported Buveur D'Air to be around 10lb below his best that day and better is expected this time around. A bloodless eight-length defeat of Samcro in the G1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in December, the eight-year-old son of Crillon suffered a shock reversal when losing to stablemateVerdana Blue in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. A facile winner of the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown last time out, he will need to be at his best to retain his crown. Apple's Jade has emerged as one of the leading mares in training following another sensational season thus far. The seven-year-old daughter of Saddler Maker captured her 10th G1 in emphatic fashion in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last time out and she looks the chief threat to Buveur D'Air. There is a slight fear that she won't get her own way out in front and she was in-season when failing to defend her Mares' Hurdle crown last season. However, Apple's Jade seems to have improved again this year and connections have been bullish about her chances in the build-up to this event. Completing the triumvirate at the head of the market is Laurina, who recorded a devastating victory at last year's Festival and has hosed up in two starts this term. Willie Mullins' charge has to step up again on that form to figure here, but she is the unexposed candidate in the line-up. All things considered, we're leaning with Apple's Jade given her consistency this year and the possibility of her making this a stiff test of stamina on rain softened ground.

ODDSbible Tip - Apple's Jade 2/1

4.10pm G1 Mares' Hurdle

Identified by Ruby Walsh as his best chance of a winner this week, the Willie Mullins-trained Benie Des Dieux can justify odds-on favouritism by retaining her Mares' Hurdle title. Not seen since registering a three-length victory at Punchestown in April, the eight-year-old son of Great Pretender knuckled down gamely to land this contest last year and she can maintain her unbeaten record for the Closutton handler in the two miles and four furlong event. Lady Buttons, re-routed to this event from the Champion Chase is a lively each-way player, but she has it to find on ratings with Benie Des Dieux, who should prove too good for these rivals.

ODDSbible Tip - Benie Des Dieux 10/11

4.50pm Listed Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase

A competitive looking event with most of the field holding claims, but the vibes have been positive for Henry de Bromhead's A Plus Tard in recent days and he has been well found in the market. The five-year-old son of Kapgarde arguably lacks experience, but he was a comfortable winner of a competitive chase at Naas in December and he ran respectably when second to Winter Escape in a G3 event at Punchestown on his latest start. Ridden by Rachael Blackmore, targeting a first winner at The Festival, he looks a solid player.

ODDSbible Tip - A Plus Tard 6/1

5.30pm G2 National Hunt Chase

A fascinating contest to finish the card with Nicky Henderson's OK Corral a long-term fancy for many in this. Ridden by top amateur Derek O'Connor, he registered a bloodless success in Listed company at Warwick last time out and he gives the impression that the step up to four miles is within his compass. However, even his trainer Nicky Henderson has expressed slight reservations about the trip and whilst he has been identified as a potential Gold Cup contender of the future, he is still a nine-year-old who has evidently not been easy to train which slightly tempers enthusiasm. With that in mind, we like the look of Willie Mullins' Ballyward. The Closutton trainer is usually well-represented in this event, but he is interestingly Mullins' sole runner in the G2 event and that could speak volumes. The lightly-raced son of Flemensfirth bolted up in G3 company over three miles at Naas in January and this trip should suit. Interestingly, he finished two places behind OK Corral when fourth in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at last year's Festival. However, he might be able to reverse that form over fences in this event. The National Hunt Chase is another race in which Betway are giving you your money back as a free bet if your horse does not win so Ballyward looks worth supporting.

ODDSbible Tip - Ballyward 11/4

Josh Akers
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