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Cheltenham Competition 2020 Day 1: Robin Goodfellow’s racing pointers – best possible bets for Tuesday, March 10

Sportsmail’s racing expert Robin Goodfellow, eight times champion jockey Peter Scudamore, Britain’s No 1 horse watcher Ken Pitterson and Irish expert Jane Mangan share their tips for day one of the Cheltenham Festival featuring the Champion Hurdle. 

Pentland Hills' cruising speed could prove a valuable asset in the Champion Hurdle

Pentland Hills’ cruising speed could prove a valuable asset in the Champion Hurdle

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL DAY ONE

ROBIN GOODFELLOW 

1.30 Abacadabras

2.10 Notebook

2.50 The Conditional (nap)

3.30 Pentland Hills

4.10 Benie Des Dieux

4.50 Hold The Note

5.30 Carefully Selected

GIMCRACK 

1.30 Edwardstone

2.10 Esprit Du Large

2.50 Vinndication

3.30 Pentland Hills (nap)

4.10 Benie Des Dieux

4.50 Hold The Note (nb)

5.30 Lord Du Mesnil

SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE 

(1.30: GRADE ONE — 2 MILES AND 87 YARDS) 

Backers and fans of Shishkin won’t want to be reminded that 128 horses have arrived at Cheltenham since 2003 off the back of a Huntingdon preparation and all of them were beaten.

Perhaps more concerning is the record of those horses which have emerged from Shishkin’s races.

They have a subsequent record of 0-62, while the last eight winners of this race had all won a Graded novice hurdle.

Despite those damning statistics, Nicky Henderson’s classy hurdler has posted impressive victories at Newbury and, of course, Huntingdon, with his debut success over obstacles reminiscent of Altior in the way his turbo kicked in late.

ABACADABRAS, fourth in last year’s Festival Bumper, has not been seen since Christmas, but he has finished closer to Envoi Allen over hurdles than any other horse when runner-up in the Royal Bond. A subsequent Grade One win at Leopardstown showcased his natural pace and class.

He includes the classy Latest Exhibition among his victims this term and should be on the scene, along with dual Sandown scorer Fiddlerontheroof, who should love the likely stiff stamina test.

BEST BET: ABACADABRAS 6-1

NEXT BEST: FIDDLERONTHEROOF 7-1

Henry de Bromhead’s unbeaten Notebook could take all the beating in Arkle Novices' Chase

Henry de Bromhead’s unbeaten Notebook could take all the beating in Arkle Novices’ Chase

ARKLE NOVICES’ CHASE 

(2.10: GRADE ONE — 2 MILES) 

There is potential for a strong pace with a host of front-runners in the field, and Maire Banrigh, Global Citizen, Cash Back and Put The Kettle On out to dominate.

Fakir D’Oudairies is another that relishes being ridden on the speed and he is sure to relish the easy ground given how well he ran in the Drinmore at Fairyhouse before Christmas.

However, the last 10 winners all won last time out and the last nine winners were aged six or seven, which means he is reluctantly overlooked in favour of NOTEBOOK, the horse that beat him at Leopardstown on Boxing Day. 

The selection has gone on to withstand a strong challenge from Cash Back in the Arkle Novice Chase at the Dublin Festival and, providing he doesn’t repeat his pre-race antics when he bolted to the start at Leopardstown, he could take all the beating.

Sandown Grade One winner Esprit Du Large and Brewin’upastorm are likely to sit off a generous pace and the duo could benefit from patient rides.

The last-named was an honourable fourth in the Ballymore 12 months ago and he could be a huge threat late on given he is a strong stayer at the trip.

BEST BET: NOTEBOOK 3-1

NEXT BEST: BREWIN’UPASTORM 6-1

ULTIMA HANDICAP CHASE 

(2.50: GRADE THREE — 3 MILES AND 1 FURLONG) 

Vinndication has been favourite for this race for some time and it is easy to see why given he was an honourable fifth in the JLT Novices’ Chase behind Defi Du Seuil 12 months ago.

A stylish Ascot comeback in a race which worked out well promised plenty and, although a setback means he hasn’t been seen since, victories following absences of 277 and 233 days mean he can’t be dismissed.

More of a concern is his preference for right-handed tracks, with all seven of his wins achieved that way round. With that in mind, two horses with track form make more appeal and THE CONDITIONAL gets the vote narrowly ahead of Discorama.

The Conditional failed to see out Warwick’s Classic Chase last time, but he travelled strongly and, with the runner-up and sixth-home winning since, it could be a race to take seriously. An October win over course and distance on desperate ground lifts confidence and he was an honourable runner-up in the Ladbrokes Trophy.

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Discorama has been second in a National Hunt Chase and in the conditionals’ handicap hurdle, so has Festival experience and looks to have been trained for today.

BEST BET: THE CONDITIONAL 7-1

NEXT BEST: DISCORAMA 7-1

Pentland Hills can put himself back in the limelight by winning the Champion Hurdle

Pentland Hills can put himself back in the limelight by winning the Champion Hurdle

CHAMPION HURDLE

(3.30: GRADE ONE — 2 MILES)

Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins have dominated the last 11 runnings of this race, winning eight between them, and the duo boast a strong hand again with the former saddling four excellent chances and Mullins responsible for Cilaos Emery and the enigmatic Sharjah.

Epatante will arguably be the most fancied of the Seven Barrows quartet, given her impressive demolition of Silver Streak and Ballyandy in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

The market suggested she was capable of a display of that nature (in contrast to stablemate Fusil Raffles, who drifted before being pulled up) and she will relish the prospect of a genuine gallop.

The only negatives are her poor performance at last year’s Festival and the fact she was coughing a fortnight ago. However, connections believe there were factors other than the Cheltenham experience to explain her flop last year, and she is reported to have emerged from the coughing scare with a clean bill of health.

Stablemate PENTLAND HILLS, the authoritative winner of last season’s Triumph Hurdle, polarises opinion, with statisticians pointing to the record of five-year-olds in this race since 1987, which stands at 2-102. Last year’s winner Espoir d’Allen blew that argument out of the water, though, and the selection has had a small wind operation to help him finish his races more strongly.

He has raced too keenly on both starts this term, but a bigger field and the presence of front-runners Not So Sleepy, Petit Mouchoir and Cornerstone Lad should enable him to settle better, and his cruising speed could prove a valuable asset.

Cilaos Emery has been supplemented on the back of a rout when sent off a short price at Gowran last month.

His trainer is a master of understanding what is required to win this race, so he is difficult to dismiss, especially as he was fifth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2017 and therefore boasts Festival experience.

With layers offering enhanced place terms, Ballyandy and Silver Streak, third in the race 12 months ago, are going to be popular because they possess Cheltenham form and experience of big-field hurdle events.

Ballyandy’s course record when he has completed reads 1134432, while three of his career wins have been achieved in fields of 13 or more.

Silver Streak has run three times at Prestbury Park, finishing 223, with his record for rider Adam Wedge reading a most impressive 112235132, so both have each-way appeal.

BEST BET: PENTLAND HILLS 7-1

NEXT BEST: SILVER STREAK 20-1

Benie Des Dieux (above) poised for clash of superstars with Honeysuckle or Paisley Park

Benie Des Dieux (above) poised for clash of superstars with Honeysuckle or Paisley Park

CLOSE BROTHERS MARES’ HURDLE

4.10: GRADE ONE — 2 MILES AND 3 FURLONGS 

Many will feel BENIE DES DIEUX and Honeysuckle should be in different races, but the fact they go head to head here means a cracking spectacle is in prospect.

The former looked a machine at Gowran Park last time when hammering the highly talented Penhill by 21 lengths, and she was three lengths clear and still going well enough when coming down in this race 12 months ago.

It will take a special mare to get her off the bridle, but Honeysuckle is on the road to becoming just that judged on being unbeaten in all eight starts. She displayed terrific tenacity to win the Irish Champion Hurdle over a trip short of her best and connections felt she could have won by further but for losing concentration after clearing the last.

Last year’s winner Roksana benefited from the last-fence fall of Benie Des Dieux, but she was finishing off to decent effect herself and has had a slightly different preparation this time.

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She holds strong frame claims once more, as does Stormy Ireland, who inherited the runner-up berth 12 months ago and comes into today’s race in great form courtesy of three wins since the middle of November.

BEST BET: BENIE DES DIEUX 4-6

NEXT BEST: HONEYSUCKLE 3-1

NOVICES’ HANDICAP CHASE

4.50: HANDICAP — 2 MILES AND 4 FURLONGS

Three of the last four winners of this contest fought out a Graded novice chase on their previous start, so HOLD THE NOTE makes plenty of appeal having shaped with a good deal of promise at Warwick last time.

The three-mile trip in deep ground proved just beyond the six-year-old, but he bumped into a horse that day with copper- bottomed stamina at the trip, so there was no disgrace.

Today’s drop in distance looks ideal for a horse which boasts plenty of pace and ran well in a bumper at this venue (eight of the past 13 winners ran in a National Hunt flat race). Hopefully his jumping, which has looked pretty sound in three starts over fences (11 of the last 12 winners had run three or four times over fences) will stand up and he can deliver another big performance for connections, who won this race with Mister Whitaker in 2018.

Imperial Aura looks a huge threat following a fine run behind Simply The Betts in a strongly-run course-and-distance handicap on Trials day in January.

He had Champagne Court behind him that day, but the latter could narrow the gap as he is rated better than his finishing position.

BEST BET: HOLD THE NOTE 7-1

NEXT BEST: IMPERIAL AURA 5-1

AMATEUR RIDES NOVICES’ CHASE

5.30: GRADE TWO — 3 MILES AND 5 FURLONGS

There is little doubt that CAREFULLY SELECTED sets a decent standard here, but his jumping technique is far from foot perfect and he overcame his latest huge blunder to score at Naas in Grade Three company.

The positive from that display is his ability and resilience to withstand such a mistake and, if his rider can find some rhythm in front, he could be a tough horse to outstay because he is a relentless galloper with a good attitude. Forza Milan was four lengths adrift that day and it is difficult to envisage him turning the tables unless Carefully Selected makes another seismic error. With that in mind, Ravenhill could prove more of a threat, given his trainer has saddled three winners of this race from just seven runners.

Ravenhill has hardly enjoyed the most orthodox preparation, given he hasn’t been sighted since falling in the Troytown last November, but he is usually a sound jumper and with six starts over fences under rules and seven starts in points, he does not lack experience.

Lord Du Mesnil is another live candidate if he can transfer his excellent Haydock form to an undulating track.

BEST BET: CAREFULLY SELECTED 2-1

NEXT BEST: RAVENHILL 11-2

PETER SCUDAMORE – EIGHT TIMES CHAMPION JOCKEY

SELECTIONS

1.30 ASTERION FORLONGE 5-2

2.10 FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES 4-1

2.50 DISCORAMA 7-1

3.30 EPATANTE 3-1

4.10 HONEYSUCKLE 3-1

4.50 GALVIN 6-1

5.30 FORZA MILAN 8-1

Four of the last seven Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winners have been trained by Willie Mullins and he can get off to a flying start again with ASTERION FORLONGE. The form of his latest win at Leopardstown looks good and he is a gelding who has improved a lot in a short time. The best hurdles form often translates well in the Arkle.

Although Fakir D’Oudairies was beaten by Notebook over Christmas, the Joseph O’Brien-trained contender — fourth in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle — can gain revenge under what I expect will be a more positive ride.

I am an EPATANTE fan in the Champion Hurdle with Pentland Hills and Silver Streak holding strong claims to fill the places. I just side with HONEYSUCKLE in her head-to-head with Benie Des Dieux in the Mares’ Hurdle. DISCORAMA came second over hurdles and fences in the last two Festivals. He has had a breathing operation and a tongue tie fitted. I am expecting another huge run. Big River, from the stable of my partner Lucinda Russell, was fourth last year and has place claims again if his jumping holds up.

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FORZA MILAN, ridden by ace amateur Derek O’Connor, will relish the stamina test of the National Hunt Chase. 

Peter Scudamore is a racing expert for Freebets.com

JANE MANGAN – THE IRISH VIEW

SELECTIONS 

1.30 FIDDLERONTHEROOF 7-1

2.10 NOTEBOOK 3-1

2.50 THE CONDITIONAL 7-1

3.30 EPATANTE 3-1

4.10 BENIE DES DIEUX 4-6

4.50 BEAKSTOWN 14-1

5.30 CAREFULLY SELECTED 2-1

WE hold all the aces in the Arkle Novices’ Chase. Notebook is favourite but I thought he might be an even shorter price.

He can track what I expect to be a frenetic pace, with Cash Back one of the pacesetters and Fakir D’Oudairies also back racing more prominently. Notebook gave Fakir D’Oudairies 7lb and beat him at Leopardstown over Christmas and I see no reason why he won’t confirm that form.

Notebook’s trainer Henry De Bromhead has a golden touch with two-mile chasers and this horse is really exciting.

I question the strength of the Irish novice hurdler, barring Envoi Allen, who runs tomorrow. I am not convinced Abacadabras will handle the soft ground and the time recorded by Asterion Forlonge when he won last time at Leopardstown was not impressive.

That draws me to FIDDLERONTHEROOF. He’s a Grade One winner already and has a great jockey on his back in Robbie Power.

I can’t see any of the geldings being able to give EPATANTE 7lb in the Champion Hurdle. Cilaos Emery has a huge engine but he doesn’t jump well enough while I can see Supasundae being placed.

Jane is a pundit on Racing TV — the only place to watch every Festival race, live and uninterrupted. Visit racingtv. com or call 0844 472 5566.

KEN PITTERSON – BRITAIN’S NO 1 HORSE WATCHER 

KEN PITTERSON spends his working life on the racetrack watching horses. Here he gives his verdict on day one…

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hope ABACADABRAS (1.30) finished fourth in last season’s Festival Bumper. Having seen him again this season, he has really developed physically. He travelled really well when second in the Royal Bond Novices’ Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December, getting outstanding winner Envoi Allen — favourite for tomorrow’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle — off the bridle for a couple of strides. 

The championship pace should bring out the best in him. EDWARDSTONE (1.30) has improved physically with every run this season and is an each-way option. Arkle entry CASH BACK (2.10) made favourite Notebook pull out all the stops last month at Leopardstown and the Cheltenham hill will play to his strengths. 

CHAMPAGNE COURT (4.50) looks a good eachway option in the Novices’ Handicap Chase. Fourth in last year’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, he has graduated to fences with wins at Plumpton and Sandown. He didn’t look at his best when beaten at Cheltenham in January but looks like he has been targeted at this race. 

CAPTAIN HEATH (MARCUS TOWNEND)

Things have not panned out quite as hoped for BEAKSTOWN this season but astute trainer Dan Skelton has found him a slot in the novice chase handicap with an attractive handicap mark.

FORMCAST (NIGEL TAYLOR)

EPATANTE (3.30) was an easy winner of the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day. That form, given she can take advantage of the 7lb mares allowance, should see her eclipse Champion Hurdle rivals.

CAPTAIN HEATH’S SELECTIONS 

1.30 CHANTRY HOUSE 7-1

2.10 FAKIR D’OUDAiRIES 4-1

2.50 VINNDICATION 11-2

3.30 EPATANTE 3-1

4.10 BENIE DES DIEUX 4-6

4.50 BEAKSTOWN 14-1

5.30 SPRINGFIELD FOX 8-1

FORMCAST’S SELECTIONS 

1.30 ASTERION FORLONGE 5-2

2.10 NOTEBOOK 3-1

2.50 WHO DARES WINS 8-1

3.30 EPATANTE 3-1

4.10 BENIE DES DIEUX 4-6

4.50 ESPOIR DE GUYE 7-1

5.30 CAREFULLY SELECTED 2-1

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