Matt Chapman: My 7 super selections for day one of the Cheltenham Festival

The time for talking is over.


Let’s get ready to rumble!

The 2020 Chetlenham Festival has finally arrived, and with 28 races to look forward to this week I’m full of hope we can bang in a few decent winners. Remember William Henry last year at 28/1?

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!

The feature race is the Grade 1 Champion Hurdle at 15.30, a wide-open event in a year where there is no standout challenger but a number who might step their game up to be best of the current crop.

My two against the field are PENTLAND HILLS and SUPASUNDAE. Pentland Hills, last year’s Triumph Hurdle hero, has not had conditions to suit all season, but will finally get a bigger field to run at for Nicky Henderson.

My main hope now is for Supasundae who is trying to become the first 10-year-old to win since Sea Pigeon in the 80s, but he’s got plenty of Cheltenham form over further and has class. He could surprise a few for Jessica Harrington. Remember he landed the Irish Punchestown Champion Hurdle over this trip and is an Aintree Hurdle winner.

He is no old slouch like Paddy Power!

Of course, the likely favourite Epatante could be the new kid on the block for JP McManus. However, I I am not convinced by her and she flopped in the mares hurdle last year  – so I have to take her on.


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The day opens with the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over the same trip at 13.30. I think FIDDLERONTHEROOF has a great each-way chance here for Colin Tizzard. He’s already a Grade 1 winner who jumps and stays well in the ground.

He also has plenty of experience.

It’s the Grade 1 Racing Post Arkle at 14.10. The one I will have a few quid on each-way here is the Olly Murphy-trained BREWIN’UPASTORM. He was fourth in the Ballymore Hurdle last year and has looked good over fences.

All being well he’ll be running on up the hill under a strong Richard Johnson drive.

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The 14.50 is the tough-to-sort-out Ultima Handicap over 3m 1f. DISCORAMA ran well at the Festival in the National Hunt Chase and he might be the one here for the excellent Paul Nolan and Bryan Cooper, once the Gigginstown first jockey.

He’s been knocking at the door and has a reasonable enough racing weight.

One of the bankers of the meeting comes up at 16.10 in the mares hurdle when BENIE DES DIEUX takes on Honeysuckle in a great match up for the Grade 1 contest over nearly 2m 4f.

Trained by Willie Mullins, Benie won this in 2018 and should have landed this easily in 2019, but fell at the last under Ruby Walsh. She can make amends here in style for Paul Townend.


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Another hard race follows with the Novices’ Handicap Chase at 16.50. It’s a bit boring, but I honestly believe the likely market leader IMPERIAL AURA will take some stopping for Kim Bailey.

He has run well at the track the last twice and seems to be improving at the right time. The trip is no issue. And finally, the 17.30 is the National Hunt Chase for novices’ over nearly 3m 6f.

He has stamina to prove, but most believe the Mullins team of Willie and son Patrick have this in the bag with CAREFULLY SELECTED. My hope is on a four-timer and scored with ease at Naas when last seen.

So good luck everyone and hopefully we get day one off to a flyer. You hear me Paddy?


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What do you think?