Cheltenham Day One Review: Honeysuckle, Appreciate It, Shishkin & Day 2 Lookahead

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TwinSpires Staff

March 16th, 2021

by Josh Powell

History for Honeysuckle as Appreciate It and Shishkin live up to the hype

TwinSpires writer Josh Powell will be on site every day for the 2021 Cheltenham Festival in Great Britain. Josh will provide daily assessments and analysis of racing trends, track play and bias, and other key track-side information punters desire.

It was a thrilling opening day of the Cheltenham Festival as the Henry De Bromhead-trained super mare Honeysuckle maintained her unbeaten run and took her 11th career win with the Champion Hurdle. Jockey Rachel Blackmore broke the glass ceiling and became the first female jockey to win the race on a day where fans were blown away by Appreciate It and Shishkin.

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Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Paul Townend and Appreciate It bounded up the hill to win for favourite backers in the opener. It was a breathtaking performance with all the other challengers unable to lay a glove on Appreciate It as he quickened up to win by an incredible 24 lengths.

Blue Lord fell at the last and Ballyadam made a terrible mistake at the hurdle before the turn for home, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Appreciate It was different class.

The Arkle Chase

Captain Guinness and Allmankind took off in this race at a ferocious pace and that set the race up for the favourite Shishkin. Jockey Nico De Boinville just had to point him in the right direction and Shishkin did the rest with a performance that was just as emphatic as Appreciate It before him.

He won by 12 lengths with Eldoradoallen chasing his tail home in second.

Ultima Handicap Chase

Eleven-year-old Vintage Clouds rolled back the years to give jockey Ryan Mania his first Cheltenham Festival winner in a fairy-tale story in the first handicap of the Festival. After winning the Grand National Ryan Mania stepped away from the sport with mental health issues, so to see him return with a Cheltenham winner is just fantastic.

Vintage Clouds had a wind operation and was fitted with cheekpieces for the first time, and that was the key as he jumped like a stag and traveled like a train. Happygolucky was the favourite and got up for second, followed by the ever-so-gutsy Aye Right and Cepage in fourth.

Champion Hurdle

Rachel Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle as she guided Honeysuckle to an incredible victory – retaining her unbeaten career and extending her record to 11 wins. The super mare once again put in a scintillating performance to reward bettors and become the third favourite to win in the first four races. Sharjah chased her home in second but was always well beaten, while former Champion Hurdle Queen Epatante was third.

Mares’ Hurdle

Concertista was aiming to become yet another winning favourite and give Willie Mullins his 10th success in this race, and although it looked that way as she ramped up the pressure and turned for home, Black Tears got up to deny her on the line. Jack Kennedy’s mount popped over the last hurdle and was closing on Concertista with every stride – getting up to win by a head. Roksana was another three lengths back in third.

Boodles Handicap Hurdle

There was a huge surprise in the Boodles Handicap as massive outsider Jeff Kidder sliced through the field up the home straight and won well to upset the odds. There were four in a line as they jumped the final flight, but it was Jeff Kidder who kicked on from the well-fancied Saint Sam, Elham Valley, and Houx Gris.

National Hunt Chase

In the final race of the day we got the clash we were hoping for as Escaria Ten, Next Destination and Galvin all flew over the final fence together in a battle up the hill. It was Galvin, the outsider of the three, who got the better of the other pair of challengers. He stretched away after the final fence and showed a brilliant burst of pace to win by 1 1/2 lengths to Next Destination.

Chacun Pour Soi the star attraction on day two

On to day two and Willie Mullins’ Chacun Pour Soi is trying to give the Irish trainer his first win in the Champion Chase. He is favourite for the feature race on day two after dominating in the Dublin Chase last time out.

It could be a thrilling day for Mullins, which is fitting given it is St Patrick’s Day. The Champion Trainer has Gaillard Du Mensil, who is well fancied, in the opening race, the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, and then the unstoppable Monkfish runs for him in the Festival Novices’ Chase.

Kilcruit and Sir Gerhard dominate the market in the final race, the Champion Bumper, both for Mullins, and either of them could bring up a big four-timer on the day.