Cheltenham Festival 2024 Day 1 | The Master is underrated

Cheltenham Festival 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 is finally here, where months of build-up come to fruition in either the right or wrong ways.

Across the next four pieces, I’m going to talk through all 28 races with my main thoughts in a short and snappy summary.

Enough of the introduction; let’s begin.


Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Firefox @ 6/1 with William Hill & Tellherthename @ 25/1 with BetVictor

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Ballyburn’s absence from the Supreme has left the race a bit more open, and that has allowed me to side with Firefox.

A first glance at his profile reveals he beat Ballyburn at the start of the season over two miles on soft ground, which shows he has class, and he beat another highly-touted Willie Mullins-trained horse in Ile Atlantique at Fairyhouse last April.

On his last start, he was sent off a well-fancied 15/8 and could only manage fourth, but the Lawlor’s Of Naas came in a bad patch for the Gordon Elliott yard and he returned home from the race lame.

With the ground likely to be softer on the Tuesday, conditions should suit well.

Speaking of conditions, my long-term each-way play into this race has been Tellherthename, but the slower ground would generate some cause for concern considering he was pulled out of the Betfair Hurdle due to the heavy surface.

Still, away from that, his form reads favourably.

Having beaten Envoi Allen’s full brother, Joyau Allen, by five lengths in a point-to-point, he finished second to Jango Baie, a subsequent Grade 1 winner, at Ascot on hurdles debut and then put 14 lengths between himself and Lucky Place, a horse who ran Gidleigh Park close at Cheltenham.

I’m a fan of the way he deals with his hurdles as regains his galloping stride on the landing side with efficiency, and the end-to-end gallop that the Supreme will deliver could bring out the stamina that he possesses.


Arkle Novices’ Chase – Gaelic Warrior @ 5/2 with Boylesports & Master Chewy @ 16/1 with BetVictor

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Since the end of the Dublin Racing Festival, the horse I’ve kept onside for the Arkle is Master Chewy, though I didn’t expect to see Gaelic Warrior declared on Sunday morning.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ seven-year-old has found the winners’ enclosure twice this season, though it’s his most recent start that intrigues me the most.

He beat Nickle Back, a subsequent Grade 1 winner, in the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase while still jumping out to his left.

Forgive his last run as stablemate Matata nearly took him out at the start, and his profile is interesting coming into this.

Saying that, Gaelic Warrior is a horse I’m keeping onside due to his raw talent.

On the recent Only Fools Love Horses Cheltenham Preview, Danny Mullins suggested his run at the Dublin Racing Festival was an off day, and videos of his work in the days after showed all was seemingly well.

He set such a vicious pace in the early parts of that Ladbrokes Novice Chase at Leopardstown, so one could argue a fast-run Arkle should plenty to his strengths.

On his day, he is the best of these in here, and while his right-handed jumping is a concern, that is accounted into his price.


Ultima Handicap Chase – Meetingofthewaters @ 6/1 with William Hill & Trelawne @ 7/1 with Boylesports

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A few listeners of the Only Fools Love Horses podcast will already know my stance on the Ultima, and that stance is one alongside Meetingofthewaters and Trelawne.

The former isn’t a typical Ultima type as he comes into this race 17lbs higher than his last winning mark, but the manner of that Paddy Power Chase success was taking.

Whether you believe the hype around him being a potential Gold Cup horse of the future or not, he travelled to the last in that Paddy Power Chase as if he had just joined in and the second, Panda Boy, has threatened to win a big race for a while. On that form, he holds strong claims.

As for Trelawne, one of two runners for Kim Bailey, he hasn’t tried three miles over fences yet despite winning over the trip as a novice hurdler.

His form when behind the likes of Ginny’s Destiny, Grey Dawning, Colonel Harry, and Crebilly is very good and he is one from one in handicap chases.

Connections had a tough decision as to whether to bring him here or go elsewhere, but hopefully he can reward their faith with a big run in this competitive handicap.


Champion Hurdle – Zarak The Brave W/O State Man @ 7/1

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State Man looks the likely winner of this year’s Champion Hurdle after Constitution Hill’s scratching from the race, but I’m still happy to back Zarak The Brave without State Man at big odds.

Based on his juvenile form of finishing second to Lossiemouth twice, both times giving weight away, he is right there and he has taken to open company well this season.

A Galway Hurdle success off 145 while beating My Mate Mozzie, Icare Allen, Mighty Tom, and Bialystok is also good form and he showed his well-being at Naas last time out.

He’s an improving hurdler and the ground should cause no issues.


Mares’ Hurdle – Echoes In Rain W/O Lossiemouth @ 11/1

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Similar to the previous comments, Lossiemouth will be a formidable opponent in the Mares’ Hurdle, but Echoes In Rain is a horse I think who has plenty of class.

She has run in the last two renewals of the Mares’ Hurdle without placing, but she was given plenty to do on both occasions having travelled well into each respective renewal.

Now an eight-year-old, she has learned to settle a little bit better in her races and she has run good races behind State Man three times this season.

On what could be her swansong, she could have a class edge over some of these to hit the frame.


Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Batman Girac @ 15/2 with William Hill, Liari @ 8/1 with William Hill & Ose Partir @ 12/1 with BetVictor

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Three horses in the Boodles. I know, it’s slightly criminal, but to slightly back this up, I have put all three of these horses up across various Only Fools Love Horses podcasts (insert trumpet).

All three are worth backing each-way on the day, however, and they are ordered accordingly in first to last preference.

The long-term project for this race is Batman Girac who impressed when fourth behind some nice horses – including Kala Conti, Kargese, and Nurburgring – on Boxing Day. Connections have saved him for the race and the vibes about him are bubbling nicely below the surface.

The next horse that joined the list last month was Ose Partir as he ran with promise in the same race that Batman Girac finished fourth in, and he has plenty of experience on his side from his days on the Flat in France. A mark of 126 could interest plenty.

Finally, the horse Paul Nicholls was keen to mention on his media day was Liari, highlighted as his best handicap chance.

He is three from three for Manor Farm Stables and he brushed aside a nice field in Musselburgh. Top weight is a query, but he has class and the attributes to win a race like this.


National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Chase – Kilbeg King @ 11/1 with BetVictor

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In the final race of the day, the each-way proposition about Kilbeg King for Anthony Honeyball and William Biddick interests me.

Despite a few long-distance defeats on his record, it’s fair to say that the nine-year-old by Doyen is unexposed over three miles.

His last three races over the trip include his facile success in a handicap hurdle at Punchestown, a good third behind Il Est Francais and Hermes Allen in the Kauto Star at Kempton, and his defeat at Ascot last time out.

He wasn’t unlucky in the Reynoldstown at Ascot last month as his jumping didn’t stand the test of the contest, but a longer (and potentially slower) pace might help him get into a rhythm.

I’m a fan of his experience and profile heading into the National Hunt Chase, and his price is big-enough to play each-way.

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