Cheltenham Festival day one preview – Goshen out to become Champion Hurdle king

The 2021 Cheltenham Festival is finally upon us and the action on day one (Tuesday) promises to live up to the hype.

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 12:40 pm
Updated Saturday, 13th March 2021, 12:42 pm
The festival action gets under way on Tuesday / Picture: Getty

The Champion Hurdle takes centre-stage with the headline acts including Epatante, Honeysuckle and Goshen who is trained in Sussex by Gary Moore. Elsewhere, a heavyweight clash is on offer in the Arkle between Shishkin and Energumene. We’ve previewed all of the action with our race-by-race guide.

1.20pm Grade One Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Willie Mullins has farmed this race in recent years and holds live claims of recording a seventh win in the opening race of the meeting with Appreciate It. Unbeaten in three starts over hurdles, he is a relentless galloper who also finished second in the Champion Bumper at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.

His main rivals look to be Ballyadam who was second to the selection at Leopardstown last time and the unbeaten Metier. However, Appreciate It should have too many gears and can get punters off to the perfect start.

Selection: Appreciate It 5/4

1.55pm Grade One Arkle Novices’ Chase

Shishkin captured the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s meeting and is targeting a fourth straight win over fences having eased to victories at Kempton and Doncaster so far this term. His main rival for this event was set to be Energumene but he has been ruled out through injury. That leaves Allmankind as arguably his toughest rival following a season which has included Grade One success at Sandown and a smart success in a Graded event at Warwick last time out.

However, Shishkin is proven at Kempton and gets the vote to remain unbeaten over the larger obstacles.

Selection: Shishkin 8/156

2.30pm Ultima Handicap Chase

An ultra-competitive handicap for punters to get stuck into, but Lieutenant Rocco makes appeal for Nick Mitchell. He could just be a Graded horse masquerading in a handicap having run well when second at Cheltenham earlier this year, before winning at Ffos Las on his latest start. A handicap mark of 147 looks fair and he is capable of further progression.

Selection: Lieutenant Rocco 6/1

3.05pm Grade One Champion Hurdle

A vintage renewal of the two-mile hurdling championship. Epatante bids to retain her Champion Hurdle crown following a destructive success last year where she powered up the Cheltenham Hill. However, she takes on another progressive mare in the shape of Honeysuckle who remains unbeaten in 10 starts and will be suited by a stiff test of stamina.

Sussex trainer Gary Moore might have something to say however. Despite giving both mares 7lb, Goshen looked right back to his best last time out when storming clear in the Kingwell Hurdle. Before falling in the Triumph, he was putting up a sensational performance and this track clearly plays to his strengths. If he getsa an easy lead in front, he could be hard to peg back under Jamie Moore.

Selection: Goshen 4/1

3.40pm Grade One Mares’ Hurdle

Concertista could be one of the best bets of the meeting. She easily landed the 2020 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and has looked electric in two starts this term. This year’s Mares’ Hurdle seems to lack quality and she can record a first Grade One victory.

Selection: Concertista 11/10

4.15pm Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

A tricky handicap open to juveniles. Saint Sam is yet to win in three starts for Willie Mullins, but has shaped well in Ireland, whilst Houx Gris caught the eye on his first start for Paul Nicholls. Gary Moore looks likely to saddle top-weight Nassalam who would not be without a chance based on his second in Grade One company at Chepstow, whilst Zoffanien is of interest off a mark of 130 having scored easily in Ireland for Denis Hogan last time out.

Selection: Zoffanien 12/1

4.50pm National Hunt Chase

Royale Pagaille would be very tough to beat here if lining up for Venetia Williams. He has looked imperious in three starts this term, including when easily winning the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock last time out. If connections decide to head here rather than the Gold Cup, he would make plenty of appeal.

If not, Galvin is a solid alternative. He has won all four of his starts this year, including at Cheltenham in October and promises to be suited by ground conditions and this longer trip.

Selection: Royale Pagalle 6/4 (if he runs) or Galvin 10/3

In association with Betting Expert