The 2018 Cheltenham Festival is here, have you decided who to back on the opening day?
Here is our race by race preview, don’t forget to view all of the fantastic offers from our betting partners at the bottom of the page!
1:30 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Getabird is unbeaten in four starts and justifiably heads the betting for the Festival curtain-raiser. Trainer Willie Mullins has enjoyed success in the race in three of the last five years, and he will be confident of another victory with a horse that was in imperious form to win the Moscow Flyer at Punchestown in January.
But given that 10 of the last 13 favourites to be sent off at 2/1 or shorter in this race have been beaten, the chances of Getabird following in the footsteps of Champagne Fever, Vautour and Douvan may not be that straight forward.
One major rival could be Kalashnikov, who was impressive in landing the Betfair Hurdle last month. Doubts remain whether he will be able to handle the slightly heavier ground, but four wins in his last five races represents a horse in form. Another option is Summerville Boy, who defeated Kalashnikov in the Tolworth Hurdle in poor conditions and finished second in the trial back in November.
2:10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase
Just five runners left, but the second race of the day could be one of the most enthralling throughout the week.
Consecutive Grade 1 triumphs at Leopardstown means that Footpad arrives in superb form. His transition to fences has been a breath of fresh air and he will take some beating if he replicates his recent form.
Petit Mouchoir was second behind Footpad last time out, and the former Ryanair Hurdle winner impressed in the Champion Hurdle in 2017, before fading to finish seven lengths behind Buveur D’air.
One that might suit the ground is Saint Calvados, who has won his three starts this season, whilst Nicky Henderson’s Brain Power could outrun his odds despite a frustrating couple of outings at Ascot and Sandown.
2:50 Ultima Handicap Chase
Always one of the most difficult races to predict, the Ultima Handicap Chase has staggeringly seen just two favourites prevail since 1977.
Tom George’s Singlefarmpayment has enjoyed some good form over this course and distance, whilst Beware The Bear impressed at Newcastle at the back of 2017 before being pulled up in the Welsh National.
Nick Williams’ horses have been impressive in handicaps since Trials Day, and Coo Star Sivola, a comfortable winner at Exeter last month, has been tipped as a future Gold Cup contender and should set the pace here.
3:30 Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
The superb Buveur D'Air is set to face 12 rivals as he defends his crown in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.
After triumphs in the Fighting Fifth and the Christmas Hurdle, Nicky Henderson’s horse is odds on to win again. If Faugheen can replicate former glories then we could see one of the best Champion Hurdle battles of all-time, but that could prove to be a very big ‘if’.
Elgin has won half of his career starts over hurdles and looks ready for the promotion into the racing elite after winning the Greatwood Hurdle and the Kingwell.
The experience of My Tent Or Yours should provide a decent each-way bet, while Melon shouldn’t be discounted on the back of a second-placed finish in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2017.
4:10 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle
Willie Mullins enjoyed eight straight victories in the races from 2009-2016, six of which came with the legendary Quevega, until Apple’s Jade won in 2017.
Gordon Elliott’s six-year-old is a strong favourite to do the same again after an unbeaten season thus far, the highlight of which was the way she defeated Nichols Canyon with ease at Fairyhouse.
Warren Greatrex’s La Bague Au Roi looks to be the best each-way alternative and arrives on the back of a stunning win in a Grade 2 at Ascot in January.
4:50 National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase
Those who are the most experienced over fences should fare well in this testing four-miler.
Derek O’Connor has won with both Chicago Grey and Minella Rocco before, and he rides No Comment in this year’s renewal. Third in the Scilly Isles Chase last time out, the seven-year-old is highly fancied to take the penultimate race of the day.
Sizing Tennessee and Keeper Hill look strong each-way bets in a race that looks wide open given the heavy conditions.
5:30 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase
Barney Dwan looks to be the standout in the declarations for the final race of the day. A progressive chaser with a big cruising speed, Noel Fehily could provide Fergal O’Brien with the perfect end to a strong breakthrough season.
Elsewhere, it is young handicappers like De Plotting Shed that are leading to many people backing Gordon Elliot to be the top trainer at The Festival. He will enjoy the testing conditions and is likely to start as favourite in a big field.
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