Cheltenham 2016 Day 1 – Preview & Tips

Champion Hurdle

Outright Betting

Twelve months ago Willie Mullins completed an unprecedented opening day four-timer at the Cheltenham Festival but here we are again and the chances of a repeat look very high.

Mullins Has The Power
Mullins will saddle 13 runners on the opening day with Ruby Walsh looking to become the first jockey to ride four winners on one day at the Cheltenham Festival on Min, Douvan, Annie Power and Vroum Vroum Mag.

The Champion Hurdle would have surely been the biggest head scratcher for Walsh as he had to chose between Annie Power and Nichols Canyon – the latter being a top class horse in his own right and probably the favourite for this race had he not ran at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion Hurdle, but in truth, it is little surprise that Walsh has sided with Annie Power.

Personally, I can’t see the confidence behind the likes of The New One (6/1) and My Tent Or Yours (8/1) being justified, and for me, Annie Power will make it third time lucky at Cheltenham.

If Annie Power was to win the Champion Hurdle it would prove to be little consolation to those who were on the Mullins accumulator last year when she fell at the last hurdle in the Mares’ race.

This year’s renewal of the Mares Hurdle is likely to see Walsh wearing the Rich Ricci colours coming to the last hurdle with a clear advantage and hopefully there will be no repeat of 12 months ago and Vroum Vroum Mag can oblige at Evens.

Champion Jockey
Most people will have their own opinions fairly well made up on the Grade 1 races this week but the handicaps are a bit more difficult to unravel. One that does stand out tomorrow is Kruzhlinin in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

The Philip Hobbs-trained nine-year-old will look to give champion jockey elect Richard Johnson a first winner here for the week and while he has plenty of weight with 11st7lbs, he may still just have a little in hand to be able to win off a mark of 148.

Previously trained by Donald McCain, Kruzhlinin made a winning start to his career with Hobbs when winning at Kempton last time. The Sholokhov gelding might just appreciate better ground than he had that day and that might help him get over the 10lbs hike he got for beating subsequent winner Le Reve and at a best priced 10/1 with BoyleSports, hopefully he can get day one off to a good start.

Morning Assembly (12/1) is another interesting one in this race for Pat Fahy and a repeat of some of his novice form prior to his injury setback would see him hold every chance but maybe he is one for Aintree and the Grand National for which he is currently as big as 40/1.

*Prices correct at time of publication