Matt Chapman: Laurina can prove just Champion at Cheltenham’s opening day

There's only one Cheltenham Festival and there's only one Matt Chapman to guide you through it ...

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FINALLY! finally, Cheltenham 2019 is upon us and remember all the big races are on ITV with me!

For most winning is quite simply what it is all about, so let’s just get straight to it and try and go through the card on Day 1! And remember Paddy is money back on the the 2nd, 3rd & 4th as a free bet on the opening day.

Of course the feature on Tuesday is the Champion Hurdle over 2m at 3.30pm where Buveur D’Air bids to emulate See You Then and Istabraq by banging in a third Champion Hurdle on the spin.

I respect Nicky Henderson’s star but I have to take him on. In his Champion successes he’s beaten Melon and Mick’s Jazz, plus My Tent or Yours and Petit Mouchoir. While he can only beat what is there on the day – they were not strong renewals.


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On Tuesday, the two mares Apple’s Jade and Laurina will be a potent threat, with each getting 7lb.

Apple’s Jade has been in tremendous form this season and was awesome at Fairyhouse earlier in the campaign.

However, LAURINA might just be a superstar for Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins. Unbeaten in six starts for Mullins, Laurina has destroyed every horse that has seen her. And while she’s not faced the test she does on Tuesday, she might just be a monster in the making. I hope so. Come on Ruby Walsh.

The meeting opens with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over an 2m at 1.30pm, and provided the weather hasn’t turned the ground desperately soft, ARAMON has a great each-way chance for Mullins again.

My hope was beaten by stable companion Klassical Dream last time at Leopardstown, but he might have won if he’d had the rail to run against and Paul Townend should have a good spin at decent odds.

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It’s the Arkle at 2.10pm, and the each-way mover has been HARDLINE in recent days, who is down in trip after finishing third to La Bague au Roi at Leopardtown at the Dublin Racing Festival. He had beaten Getabird before that and must have place claims at least.

Next up is the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f at 2.50pm, and to be quite frank it looks a nightmare. Mister Whitaker is interesting up in trip, but I’ll have a few quid on recent Cheltenham winner BEWARE THE BEAR. He’s up in the weights now for Nicky Henderson, but he stays very strongly and ran well in this contest last year.

For many, the nap of the day comes in the 4.10pm over 2m4f, the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle. Defending champion BENIE DES DIEUX is considered the best chance of Mullins having a winner this week.As I am hoping for a first day treble – let’s hope she goes in! Rich Ricci’s tough sort has not raced since last April, but has outstanding claims if at her best.

The penultimate race on the card is the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase over 2m 4f at 4.50pm, and the one that catches the eye is A PLUS TARD, who seems to run his best races in big, competitive fields, which is a bonus. Henry de Bromhead trains for Cheveley Park Stud and Rachael Blackmore has an excellent chance on a horse who stays well and will appreciate a decent gallop.

The 4m National Hunt Challenge Cup for amateurs at 5.30pm brings the curtain down on the opening day and I have long thought OK Corral will take some beating. However, I’ll back IMPULSIVE STAR each-way at double-digit odds. He was impressive in a tough heat at Warwick last time and should give former Gold Cup winning jockey Sam Waley-Cohen a big run.

Good luck everyone. And hope for a Yeeehaaa or two! You hear me Paddy?

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What do you think?