Of all four of the exciting cards, there is no better way to start the Cheltenham Festival than with that of Champions Day! Raising the curtain with two thrilling Grade 1s straight off the bat — the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Arkle Challenge Trophy — you can’t take your eyes off the meeting for a single second, while the Champion Hurdle, the cards’ highlight, and the Mares’ Hurdle keeps the top-grade action flowing later in the afternoon.
With four Grade 1s, the only day of the meeting to boast as many high-level races, it really is an action-packed day and there is a lot for the average punter to break down and analyse when desperately scouring through the racing tips. So, to save you some time in your busy schedule, we’re now going to take a look at the key battles in the big contests on Champions Day — hopefully helping make your selection choices that bit easier! Read on to find out more.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Constitution Hill vs Dysart Dynamo vs Sir Gerhard vs Jonbon
Wow! The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is always a great opening race at the Festival, but if all four of these horses go off in the maiden Grade 1 contest then we are in for one hell of a treat. Two heavy Cheltenham heavyweights in the form of Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins and four of their best novices going head-to-head — what more could you possibly ask for?
Henderson’s Constitution Hill is the ante-post favourite at 9/4 having won both of his races this season, including the Grade 1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle, but the others all boast similar records — making this race so hard to call. Dysart Dynamo has won both his races this campaign by 19 lengths, most notably prevailing in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown in January, while Sir Gerhard doesn’t need much of an introduction after winning last year’s Champion Bumper before also going two for two over hurdles this year — winning the top-level Ireland Novice Hurdle last month.
It feels like Jonbon is being overlooked somewhat as the fourth favourite. Henderson’s second entry also boasts a 100% strike rate over hurdles, going three for three season and already has two Grade 2 victories under his belt. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the six-year-old show up his rivals in the Supreme!
Arkle Challenge Trophy – Edwardstone vs Blue Lord
Another exciting novices’ race, this time in the chasing division, there is so little between Edwardstone and Blue Lord in the Arkle ante-post market. Going into the race on the back of four successive wins, including in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase and two Grade 2s, being brought down by For Pleasure on his seasonal reappearance is well and truly a thing of the past.
Mullins’ Blue Lord will be no pushover though! The seven-year-old is three for three in chases this season after a disappointing time over hurdles last season — when he won just once in five attempts.
He stepped up to the Grade 1 plate last month, beating Riviere D’etel, another contender in this race, to win the Irish Arkle and prove his worth alongside Edwardstone at the fore of this ante-post market. Another tough one to call, but the Alan King-trained horse might just edge it for the British.
Champion Hurdle – Honeysuckle vs Appreciate It
There’s no need to delve too deep into this one, because there is no beating Honeysuckle on the defence of her Champion Hurdle crown. There was hope that Mullins’ Appreciate It would give the mare a run for her money in the day one feature, but he hasn’t even appeared yet this season and has drifted as far out as 7/1 as a result.
In the meantime, ‘the Queen of Knockeen’ has extended her unbeaten record over hurdles to 14 with two Grade 1 wins already under her belt this season. So, we have no doubt that the eight-year-old will breeze home in the Champion Hurdle for the second year in a row.
Mares’ Hurdle – Telmesomethinggirl vs Concertista
It could prove to be a very good afternoon for Kenneth Alexander, Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore, as they are tipped to follow up Honeysuckle’s Champion Hurdle success with a win the Mares’ Hurdle with Telmesomethinggirl.
Despite being yet to actually win this season, finishing third and fifth in her two outings, the seven-year-old is still the favourite to win the Grade 1 race — perhaps on the basis of her Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle win at Cheltenham last year.
That could have the punters favouring the Mullins-trained Concertista though, as the eight-year-old is two for two so far this season — albeit in chases. Narrowly beaten by the head of Black Tears in this race last year, the Irish handler will be confident that his mare can put the record straight on the opening day of the 2022 renewal.