Cheltenham – A Jump For Joy!

First is off at 15h30 - get the chair and snacks ready!

Tuesday is Champions Day and the highly anticipated opener of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival.

South Africa is represented via the Kieswetter family’s Barnane Stud and the Hollywood Syndicate, while Nigel Riley’s Heversham Park stood the late Soljskaer, sire of a runner in the Arkle Challenge.

The curtain-raiser of the Cheltenham Festival is the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the beginning of this 3200m Grade 1 contest always draws a huge cheer from the crowd – known as the ‘Cheltenham roar’.

Second up is the Arkle, a Grade 1 novice chase over two miles. The winner of the Arkle regularly develops into a key contender for the Queen Mother Champion Chase the following year.

Third on the card is the Ultima Handicap Chase, a fiercely competitive handicap chase, run over three miles and a furlong.

The feature race on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival is the Champion Hurdle, the first of the ‘Championship’ races during the week.

In the second half of the afternoon, the Mares’ Hurdle will be the fifth race of the afternoon, while the Fred Winter and National Hunt Chase conclude a sparkling opening day of top quality Jumps at Prestbury Park.

The handsome grey Irish Arkle winner IL ETAIT TEMPS carries the hopes of the Hollywood Syndicate and the Kieswetter family’s Barnane Stud in this 3200m race.

There is further South African interest in the Arkle Chase in the shape of the competitive FOUND A FIFTY who is a son of late Summerhill and Heversham Park sire, Solskjaer.

Barnane Stud also have another two runners on the day with KARAIS DES BLAISE (runs in the Boodles Juvenile and raced in partnership with Owen Heffer) and ECHOES IN RAIN, who runs in the Mares Hurdle.

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (15h30)

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle kicks off the Cheltenham Festival and the roar before the race begins is spine-tingling. With Ballyburn looking likely to head to the opener on Wednesday rather than Tuesday, this race looks a more open affair than previously thought but FIREFOX can kick things off in perfect fashion for Gordon Elliott. He beat Ballyburn fair and square earlier in the year and can be forgiven for flopping in the Lawlors Of Naas.

Arkle Challenge Trophy (16h10)

There is a strong Irish contingent in the Arkle, with the handsome grey DRF winner Il Etait Temps, racing for the Hollywood Syndicate and Barnane Stud, jousting with Gordon Elliott’s Found A Fifty, a son of the late Summerhill and Heversham Park sire Solskjaer,  for favouritism. JPR One looks the best of Britain, however it is former Triumph Hurdle winner QUILIXIOS for Henry De Bromhead who makes most appeal. He has Cheltenham form, has experience on his side and his jumping should see him make lengths on the field in this speed test.

Ultima Handicap Chase (16h50)

The first handicap of the Festival looks a wide open affair, however the claims of THE GOFFER (third in the race last year) are impossible to ignore. The race last season was arguably the strongest in history and he finished a cracking third off a higher mark. He looks to be one of the handicap each-way plays of the week, for all there are progressive sorts in here.

Champion Hurdle (17h30)

Sadly we will not see Constitution Hill defend his Champion Hurdle title in 2024 as he is out of Cheltenham. This leads to STATE MAN being heavily odds-on and it is hard to fancy anything else. Willie Mullins’ charge is a model of consistency and has won at Cheltenham before. It’ll be a big Tuesday shock if he is beaten.

Mares’ Hurdle (18h10)

Another odds-on Willie Mullins charge in LOSSIEMOUTH looks the obvious tip here. She won the Triumph last season here and made her seasonal reappearance with a brilliant win back at Cheltenham in the International Hurdle. Her stamina is unproven but she looks classy enough to cruise to victory here, with her stablemates looking her biggest threats. ECHOES IN RAIN runs for the Kieswetter’s Barnane Stud.

Boodles Juvenile Hurdle (18h50)

The Boodles is arguably the trickiest race to solve all week, but WODHOOH has become a winning machine so far this season and she could well bag her biggest prize yet here. She will be one of Ireland’s leading chances in here and her experience, and winning experience, could prove crucial in a race that can often become frenetic. Barnane Stud and Owen Heffer are represented here by KARAIS DES BLAISE.

National Hunt Chase (19h30)

Wrapping up Tuesday is the National Hunt Chase and SALVADOR ZIGGY looks interesting for Gordon Elliott. He has no stamina doubts and is a very tough horse, with ambitions to win Nationals in future. He looks overpriced compared to the market leaders Corbetts Cross and Embassy Gardens.

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