Cheltenham 2018: Day 1 Preview, Champion’s Day

The opening day of the Festival, and it’s the opening race that produces the now famous ‘Cheltenham Roar’. There are some big races today including the Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase and the National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup to look forward to, ahead of Ladies Day tomorrow, St Patrick’s Day on Thursday and finally the Gold Cup on Friday.

Champion’s Day Betting Offers & Free Bets

13.30 The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race

Often this race is won by one of the market leaders and it’s been a good race for the Irish in recent renewals. Last year the Supreme was won by the Nicky Henderson trained Altior, who denied Willie Mullins and owner Rich Ricci of a four-timer in the race. For the previous three years that pair supplied the winner and the favourite.

14.10 The Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase

This is a race for the leading 2m Novice chasers. Some of the greatest chasers have won this contest, including Moscow Flyer and Sprinter Sacre. Last year’s winner could yet join the top table as Douvan looked every inch the finished article and has sound claims in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on the Wednesday this year.

14.50 The Ultima Handicap Chase

This race is often targeted by owner J P McManus, and who can forget the ride A P McCoy gave his Wichita Linesman in 2009 to somehow get him home after looking beat for the whole of the final circuit? JP is sure to have at least two representatives and it could pay to concentrate on jockeys in the famous green and gold hoops.

15.30 The Stan James Champion Hurdle

This is the highlight of Day 1, and recent renewals went to those at the top of the market. Favourites won four of the last six runnings. Mullins is the first port of call as he has made the race his own in recent times and has an embarrassment of riches to go to war with as illustrated last year. The winner Annie Power was, in fact, the substitute for Mullins after reigning champion Faugheen was sidelined through injury.

16.10 The OLBG Mares’ Hurdle Race

The Mares’ hurdle is relatively new to the Festival and was first run in 2008, but it’s not taken long for it to be known as the ‘Willie Mullins’ hurdle as he saddled the last eight winners of the race.

16.50 The National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup (Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Steeple Chase)

This is one of three races at the Festival that is restricted to amateur riders, and it is also the longest race of the meeting. Trainer Jonjo O’Neill has the best record in the race by far, having saddled the winner on six separate occasions, and normally it’s for his main patron J P McManus.

17.30 The Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap

A tough finish to the first day as this is normally a pretty tight maximum field handicap. Last year’s winner Ballyalton (12/1) was a welcome relief for bookmakers, who had taken a beating on Day 1, but even this winner didn’t go unbacked as bets of £14,000 – £1,000 and £7,000-£500 testified.