Cheltenham Day 1: Seedling can spring an upset
by CANDICE HARE
Day one of the Cheltenham Festival is upon us and we kick things off with the Supreme Novices Hurdle, which is contested over a distance of two miles and 110 yards. Mullins trainee Douvan is a heavy favorite after winning three of his four starts over hurdles, including a 12 length victory at Gowran and more recently a three and three quarter lengths victory over two miles at Punchestown. While he’s rumored to have been working in fine fashion back home, his form has all come over ground much softer than he’ll get here. We’ll instead place win/place wagers on Seedling, who has shown a preference over this type of ground and has Cheltenham form, having won over fellow runner Some Plan over 17 furlongs in December in which he did well to get the win given he was roughly eight lengths back two out. He may not be a flashy type, but he’s battle tested, which should serve him well here.
The Arkle features a short-priced favorite in Un De Sceaux. He’s been very impressive of late, particularly in the Irish Arkle, but Josses Hill appeals at a larger price given they’ll be going at a strong gallop early, which suits his style and it was something he didn’t get last time out. He’s never finished outside the top two and he was second to the well regarded Vautour locally iin last year’s Supreme Novices Hurdle . We’ll play him in an exacta under Un De Sceaux.
The feature of the first day of the Festival is the Champion Hurdle, which is run over two miles, and favorite Faugheen looks the good thing of the meeting. He’s never truly been tested and although this will be the toughest field he’s faced to date, he’s undefeated in eight starts under rules and looks to have plenty more to give. He’ll be too short to play to win, however, so we’ll box him in an exacta with Jezki, the defending champion of this race who should relish this trip over what will be better ground than he’s raced over all season. Faugheen will ensure a fast pace, which suits Jezki and if one is to hand the former his first defeat, it looks to be this seven-year-old son of Milan.
Our last wager will come in the nightcap, the Novices Handicap Chase, which draws a field of 20 to race over two miles and four furlongs. Stellar Notion provides some value after struggling at his most recent start at Cheltenham in January, but that was over soft ground, which won’t be an issue here. He was also much worse off in the weights compared to chief rival Generous Ransom in that contest. Prior to that race, however, Stellar Notion easily won his two other starts over fences, including defeating Generous Ransom at Kempton. Good to soft or better ground looks to be the key for Stellar Notion, so we’ll back him to reclaim his form here.
And don’t forget, Twinspires will be offering a 10% exacta bonus, where you earn a bonus equal to 10% of your gross winnings ($500 maximum per player for the card) for every exacta you cash in any race.
Race 1: Seedling to win/place
Race 2: exacta Un De Sceaux / Josses Hill
Race 4: exacta box Faugheen / Jezki
Race 7: Stellar Notion win/place
Candice will blog each day of the Cheltenham Festival for TwinSpires.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHARE889 for real-time insights into the races, including her 10% exacta bonus plays!