2020 Cheltenham Festival Day 1: Best Tips

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We’re now just a few short weeks away from 2020 Cheltenham Festival, with all the glitz and glamour that has attracted a huge amount of interest in this annual event, not to mention the exceptional quality of the thrilling races being held. This is a genuine celebration of everything that’s great about the National Hunt scene in Britain, where the best of the best compete for glory and prestige.

As the start of the Festival, day 1 always attracts a great crowd of racegoers, all eager to enjoy the atmosphere and stake their bets on the races they’re watching. Typically known as Champions Day at the Cheltenham Racecourse, there are seven great races to enjoy throughout the day, with the highlight being the feature Champion Hurdle.

Competition is fierce in every race, given that all the leading jockeys and trainers are participating, urging their horses towards victory and fame on the opening day of races. This can make it difficult to pick winners, even amongst the pre-race favourites, given there are often several horses with excellent form behind them in any single race. That’s why browsing through some of the most interesting Cheltenham Day 1 tips can prove useful. 

Looking for good value odds can often help when deciding which horses to back, so with that in mind, let’s take a look at the schedule for Champions Day and the first day of action at the Cheltenham Festival, along with runners that have some of the most appealing odds.

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

The first race of the Festival is always one of the most anticipated, as the famous “Cheltenham Roar” is heard in the grandstand. Shishkin trained by Nicky Henderson is the early favourite with most bookmakers, with Abacadabras trained by Gordon Elliott also quite well fancied. However, one of the better value options is 6/1 shot Asterion Forlonge trained by Irish legend Willie Mullins. This horse has run just three races and won every one of them.

Arkle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1)

Named after the iconic horse that won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times in a row between 1964 and 1966, this Grade 1 steeplechase is the leading minimum-distance race in the National Hunt calendar. 7-year-old Notebook trained by Henry De Bromhead is the clear favourite for this race, largely thanks to four winning runs in Ireland since October 2019. In one of those races he narrowly beat Fakir D’Oudairies, who was held up early and went strong at the finish. The 5-year-old trained by Joseph Patrick O’Brien is in good form and should fare better around the shorter course.

Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3)

One of the more unpredictable races on the opening day and first run in 1946, this one can often produce winners at high odds. Early betting has Vinndication as 8/1 favourite thanks to a winning run in his last Grade 3 race at Ascot in November 2019, although he also finished fifth in the Grade 1 Novices’ Handicap at Cheltenham last year. The better option could be 10/1 shot The Conditional, who enjoyed a convincing win over the same course at Cheltenham as recently as October 2019. 

Champion Hurdle (Grade 1)

As the feature race of the day and with a history dating way back to 1927, this is always the one that attracts the most attention amongst punters. Epatante trained by Nicky Henderson is looking the strong favourite after good form at Kempten and Newbury late last year. However, this race has often brought surprise winners over the years, making 10-year-old Supasundae an interesting option to at least place in the top three, due to his vast experience on the Cheltenham course. This includes winning the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle in 2017 and running a close second in the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2018.

Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

This race was first run at the Cheltenham Festival in 2008, therefore it’s one of the more recent additions. Out of the past 12 years Willie Mullins has been the dominant trainer, with 7 out of 12 winning runners, including Quevega who remarkably won six years in a row. Needless to say, it’s hard to look past his quality mare Benie Des Dieux as the clear 4/5 favourite, given she has romped to victory 8 of her last 9 runs, and comfortably won this very race back in 2018.

Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed)

Established in 2005, Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to win this race last year riding A Plus Tard, a 5-year-old trained by Henry de Bromhead. As another race on the opening day that’s very open and competitive, predicting the winner can be tricky given the mixed form and type of races the horses have run previously. That said, Hold The Note trained by former soccer player Mick Channon is quite a novel option, tipped at 12/1 odds for the win.

National Hunt Challenge Cup (Grade 2)

The final race of the day really is a golden oldie with stacks of history, first held way back in 1860. It’s actually one of the races which inspired the formation of the Cheltenham Festival itself, so there’s always plenty of nostalgia attached and some great horses have won this race over the years, including the always popular Tiger Roll. For those who like picking horses based on their names, Carefully Selected is the 7/2 favourite, although some tipsters are going for Champagne Classic at 4/1 odds. If they’re right, we’ll all be toasting to a marvellous winner!


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