Cheltenham Tips: Paul Jacobs’ full card preview for Day One of the Festival

PJ zips through the opening-day card to try and land on some winners.

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Paul Jacobs’ Cheltenham betting tips:

1.30 Supreme Novices Hurdle – High Definition (each way)
2.10 Arkle ChaseJonbon & Saint Roi
2.50 Ultima Handicap ChaseThreeunderthrufive
3.30 Champion Hurdle – Constitution Hill/I Like To Move It Forecast
4.10 Mares HurdleBrandy Love
4.50 Boodles Juvenile Handicap HurdleTekao
5.30 National Hunt ChaseMinella Crooner

1.30 Supreme Novices Hurdle – High Definition (each way)

At first glance when you compare the Supreme to the Ballymore, the instant reaction is that the day two starter has more strength in depth especially since the Leopardstown demise of Facile Vega. He could very well bounce back and when you recall the words of Willie Mullins at the beginning of the season about the son of Walk In The Park, many of you will quite understandably give him a second chance.

I actually think the most talented horse in the race is Marine Nationale. His chance depends hugely on the ground, the quicker the turf the better so he can use his natural speed. He has everything in my book, travels so well, quickens and has a cracking attitude. There is enough rain forecast before and during the Festival but probably not enough to compromise his chance.

With her allowance, Luccia would have been my pick but the Mares looks like her pathway to glory, while I think Tahmuras may not have the requisite speed on the sharp old course. So the vote goes to the Joseph O’Brien charge High Definition, who is worth forgiving parting company with JJ Slevin last time out. His jumping is solid and with his natural high-cruising speed, the son of Galileo is too big a price now at double figure odds on the course that should suit his run style.

2.10 Arkle ChaseJonbon & Saint Roi

This is likely to be the biggest pace blow out of the whole meeting and I definitely want to be on a hold-up runner at an each-way price. But I make no apologies for doubling up as I think that Nicky Henderson’s charge Jonbon is a hugely superior fencer to El Fabiolo and is the most likely winner. Forget his performance in a match at Warwick, this is going to be a completely different set-up.

So I am going to pair Jonbon with the J P McManus charge Saint Roi, who unseated in the aforementioned Dublin contest. By and large his jumping is solid and with several of these, headed by Dysart Dynamo, likely to bomb off, if he is hunted around and played late, he may yet play a role and the end game is no forlorn hope.

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2.50 Ultima Handicap ChaseThreeunderthrufive

The Ultima Handicap Chase has been farmed by the home team of late and that is unlikely to change. Corach Rambler forged home last season after looking badly outpaced for much of the race and although only slightly higher in the weights, Lucinda Russell’s charge is unlikely to be 100 per cent for this, with the Aintree Grand National his main aim this season.

Nassalam looks primed by Gary Moore but does make the odd mistake and will need luck to come from off the pace, while Oscar Elite (confidence boosting win last time out) and Irish raider Fastorslow have solid each-way claims.

However, as long as the ground is not genuinely soft or dead, the Paul Nicholls’ charge Threeunderthrufive has a race like this in his armoury. He travelled like the best horse in the race for much of the Warwick Classic but the heavy ground ultimately found him out. He’s back on a decent surface and off a rating of 150, he is a huge player.

3.30 Champion Hurdle – Constitution Hill/I Like To Move It Forecast

Having backed Constitution Hill at 2/1 pre season I will be shouting for the new king on the hurdling block to land this year’s first day feature race, which could well be trimmed down to five or six runners. As good and progressive as State Man is, the best he can hope for is second, but on a good surface he may well be vulnerable to runaway Kingwell Hurdle winner I Like To Move It.

The Greatwood hero is obviously well suited to this track – he would prefer the new course – but good ground is much more important to him. Outside of these three there is only Vauban who has had his limitations exposed, so a Champion Hurdle tip is severely limited. I will pitch in with the probable forecast.

4.10 Mares HurdleBrandy Love

A couple of months ago this was shaping up as the best and deepest race of the meeting but with Maries Rock set to go down the Stayers Hurdle route and that race having been bolstered by several recent performances, both are looking like red-hot renewals. For the record, if the Henderson charge Maries Rock runs here, she will win.

With Epatante now going down the Champion Hurdle route and Honeysuckle better over a bare two miles and on the downgrade, this may not be as deep as it looked at the back end of ‘22. Love Envoi is clearly talented and ultra tough, but I could only consider her if the going became testing in which case it would be hard to knock her out of the frame.

Echoes In Rain was impressive last time out, but I can’t bank on her settling here in which case even this sharp two and a half mile trip may well be beyond her. That leaves me with Willie Mullins’ charge Brandy Love. She travelled like the wrath of god on her belated Punchestown comeback when going right-handed and on the sharpest of the tracks there and was then predictably outpaced when probably about 75% fit.

At the relative stages of their careers she is the most talented mare in the field and if she has taken a big step forward from that first run and can bring her Fairyhouse form, she could be the gamble of this race and land the money.

4.50 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Tekao

This all revolves around the Willie Mullins-trained charge Tekao and he wouldn’t be out of place as an outsider in the Triumph Hurdle based on his performances in Ireland so a mark of 135 may wholly underestimate his medium-term talent. His biggest asset is his slick jumping which will stand him in good stead in a race which can sometimes be rough.

Of those further down the weights, we have yet to see the best of the Ben Pauling-trained Bad who had his three qualifying runs in France and showed a sparkling turn of foot on his final run there. Of course there is a question mark about this faster surface, but he could have huge potential and is preferred to the likes of Bo Zenith and the strong staying Irish challenger Metamorpheus, who comes here from a race at Naas that is a good pointer to the winner of the Boodles.

5.30 National Hunt ChaseMinella Crooner

It is hard to look past the hugely experienced Gaillard Du Mesnil, but he is priced up accordingly. I fancy seven times out of 10 he would land this gruelling staying event, but there is huge room to play an each-way investment against him with 6/1 the field available.

That brings into the equation Mahler Mission, brushed aside by Churchstonewarrior last time out, Chemical Energy and Ramillies. But I will going out on a limb here and having a value play on Gordon Elliott’s charge Minella Crooner. The ‘Crooner’ has looked like a galloper pure and simple on his four starts over fences. Three miles behind Velvet Elvis was plainly too sharp for him last time out at Fairyhouse and granted a clear indication that the seven-year-old will be very hard to keep out of the frame over this extended three and three quarter mile trip.

Paul Jacobs’ Cheltenham betting tips:

1.30 Supreme Novices Hurdle – High Definition (each way)
2.10 Arkle ChaseJonbon & Saint Roi
2.50 Ultima Handicap ChaseThreeunderthrufive
3.30 Champion Hurdle – Constitution Hill/I Like To Move It Forecast
4.10 Mares HurdleBrandy Love
4.50 Boodles Juvenile Handicap HurdleTekao
5.30 National Hunt ChaseMinella Crooner

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