Paul Callaghan’s Cheltenham Festival Day 1 Tips

Former jockey and now broadcaster, Paul Callaghan, takes a look at the opening day of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. Enjoy!

1.20 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) over 2m 87y.

Unfortunately only 8 runners will assemble to get the 2021 Cheltenham Festival underway to a virtual roar, and despite favourites having a poor record in this race, it is hard to take on the Willie Mullins trained Appreciate It.

Despite winning at the Dublin Racing Festival, Appreciate It didn’t look at his best. Hhowever he was very impressive when scoring at Leopardstown over the Christmas period the time before.

I think the Tolworth winner Metier is underestimated at odds of around 9/2. Like Appreciate It, Metier is unbeaten over hurdles, he has more speed than the favourite should this turn into a tactical run affair and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the gap in the market between the pair close as we approach the starting time of the festival opener.

I think Soaring Glory’s experience when winning a competitive handicap hurdle at Newbury on his last run will stand to him here, but it will need to. He’s been let down in the jumping department in the past and will need to jump sharper in this company. I could see him running well without winning.

As a betting proposition, I fancy Blue Lord each way. He was my each way selection behind Apprentice It at the Dublin Racing Festival where he finished third at 14/1. He’s still learning and once again is pace reliant.

He can race quite keenly, so hopefully they will go a strong pace throughout which will help him settle and give him every chance of sneaking a place and rewarding each way backers.

1.55 – Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) over 2m.

This will be short and sweet! Barring a disaster, Shishkin wins. He was my ante post bet for this race at the beginning of the season at odds of 7/2 with BoyleSports. Unfortunately this race has fallen apart somewhat following the announcement that Energumene would not be taking his chance.

I respect Allmankind for the fact that I can’t recall many times that I have watched a horse race as keenly as he does and mange to find another gear at the end of his races. Do I think he will beat Shishkin? No. Shishkin is one for the multi bets and I hope we see something special.

3.05 – Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1) over 2m 87y.

I think whoever finishes ahead of Honeysuckle wins. The Henry De Bromhead trained mare put in a terrific display in the Irish Champion Hurdle on her last start.

I think the rain that fell at Cheltenham during Sunday night will increase her chances further. I think it’s great that connections have opted to go for the Champion Hurdle instead of the Mares’ Hurdle, a decision I hope pays off and wouldn’t it be fantastic to see Rachael Blackmore ride the Champion Hurdle winner?

I fancy Abacadabras as an each way bet, although his price has tumbled since Saturday evening. He has 10 lengths to find with Honeysuckle on their run at Leopardstown but he did push Shishkin to a hard fought success in last year’s running of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

He’s a horse I think saves a little for himself and doesn’t do a lot when he hits the front. I also think the empty stands will be to his advantage should he find himself in that position approaching the final flight of hurdles.

3.40 – Mares’ Hurdle (Registered As The David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle) (Grade 1) over 2m 4f.

The top two in the market should prove difficult to beat. However, I think Indefatigable will outrun her odds (currently 16/1). She won the Martin Pipe at last year’s festival under Rex Dingle. She has since disappointed in two runs, both at Kempton but this is her first start since having a wind operation and on her best form, she wouldn’t be far away.

4.15 – Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Registered As The Fred Winter) (Grade 3) over 2m 87y.

I like the look of the Oliver Greenall trained Homme Public, partnered by jockey Henry Brooke. He was second on two runs in France before joining current connections.
He finished second on UK debut at Catterick before running out a ready winner of a Juvenile contest at Market Rasen last month.

4.50 – National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) over 3m 6f.

A boring selection but I’m with Galvin for trainer Ian Ferguson and jockey Jack Kennedy.

Galvin is unbeaten since finishing second behind Imperial Aura at last year’s festival. Connections had no hesitation in putting Galvin away for this race, after he ran out a convincing winner at Cheltenham last October. He hit the line strong that day and his dam won over 3m 4f, in my opinion, he ticks all the boxes.

This Year’s Festival

This will be a festival like no other, unfortunately we have no crowds but thankfully we are racing.

I’m sure it will be a strange feeling among participants. Any jockey I have spoken to in the last number of weeks have said as much, but they’ve all echoed the same opinion: “once them tapes go back, it will be just as intense, crowd or no crowd”.

For the horses, I think it will suit the busier types having no crowd, those horses who tend to get themselves worked up before a race.

In my opinion though, I think there will be some horses who, like a footballer, will miss the crowd. The character who will grow and feed off the energy.

For example, can you imagine playing in an empty Wembley Stadium, it would be a completely different proposition if you put 60,000 people in there. I don’t know, but I’m guessing that would be the same for some horses.

One thing is for sure, we are set for some fantastic racing between now and Friday evening.

We wish everyone taking part all the best and you, the punter, best of luck with your bets and have a fantastic week!