Brian Hughes Previews Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival

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Champion jockey Brian Hughes gives his tips for the first day of the Cheltenham Festival exclusively for the MansionBet Blog!

Brian Hughes Previews Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival

The much-anticipated Cheltenham Festival starts tomorrow! Unfortunately, I won’t be there as I’m riding at Sedgefield but I’m going to be writing about my thoughts on all the Grade 1 races this week…

13:20 – Sky Bet Supreme Novice’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m

It’s not a very big field but it’s small and select. Appreciate It (4/5), trained by Willie Mullins, finished second in the Champion Bumper last year and has done nothing wrong over hurdles this season so definitely deserves to be favourite. Obviously, he’s beaten Ballyadam a few times and it will be interesting to see how the horses who switched stables two weeks ago will fair.

Harry Fry’s runner, Metier, is the best of the English brigade on paper, but he’s never run around Cheltenham and I think I would side with the favourite. One thing to note with all horses at the Festival, is if they have Cheltenham Festival form, they’ve been there and done it, they have an advantage. A lot of horses, on a normal year, wouldn’t handle the atmosphere, so I think Appreciate It is the worthy favourite and the one they all have to beat.

Brian’s Selection: Appreciate It

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13:55 – Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

The favourite, Shiskin (1/2), stands out – winner of the Supreme Novice last year, he’s done nothing wrong in his three runs over fences and his form stacks up well. Obviously, you’ve got Allmankind, winner of the Kingmaker and Henry VIII, but he was only 3rd in the Arkle last year and you’d have to think Shiskin was slightly preferred to him. If there’s a strong pace, the Willie Mullins horse, Franco De Port, might be one for those who don’t want to back an odds-on favourite, he dropped in and came off a fast pace to win a Grade 1 at Leopardstown at Christmas so could be one who stays on at the end and is a bigger price.

Brian’s Selection: Shiskin

15:05 – The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (feature race) 2m½f

It’s a great renewal and you could make a case for several of these. I’m going to forgive Epatante’s below par run the last day as I think you can forgive any horse a below par run. I think her form in last year’s race and her Newcastle run was very eye-catching. The bookies think Honeysuckle is the one to beat but she’s dropping back half a mile at Cheltenham, which might not be a barrier for her, but I just prefer Epatante (4/1) for this one.

Brian’s Selection: Epatante

15:40 – Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m4f

Again, I think Concertista who has Cheltenham form is a worthy favourite. I do like the chances of Dame De Compagnie, winner of last year’s Coral Cup, and think she could run well at a bigger price. Also, Roksana was very impressive the last day and goes there with a big chance. I just think on ratings and form, Concertista (5/4) is the one to beat.

Brian’s Selection: Concertista

*All odds correct at time of writing.

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Brian Hughes is the 2020 Champion Jump Jockey and he writes exclusively for the MansionBet Blog every week with previews and tips for upcoming races.

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