Cheltenham Festival Tuesday Round Up: Mares Dominate Day One

Cheltenham Festival Tuesday Round Up: Mares Dominate Day One
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Tens of thousands flocked to Prestbury Park for the first day of the Cheltenham Festival, with a mouth-watering card ensuring not many were scared off by threats of a Coronavirus outbreak.

The Festival opener was a hotly contested affair, with Shishkin coming out on top in the end after a hard battle up the hill with the Gordon Elliott trained Abacadabras. Shishkin was subject to a monumental drift before the off - he was 6/1 with most top bookies after being as short as 9/4 in the market in the weeks building up to Cheltenham but had been all but written off by some analysts.

Market leader Asterion Forlonge caused carnage at the obstacles, with his tendency to jump right frighteningly evident. He took out the likes of Captain Guinness - who had been travelling well and was in the mix - and Elixir D’Ainay a couple of hurdles from home. Shishkin was also badly hampered during the melee, but produced an almighty performance to pip Abacadabras to the post.

Next up Put The Kettle On became the first mare to win the Arkle when she got the better of Fakir D’ourdairies at 16/1 with Aidan Coleman on board. Then, in the Ultimate Handicap Chase, trainer David Bridgwater secured his first-ever Cheltenham Festival winner when The Conditional stayed on well up the hill to get the better of Kildisart and joint-favourite Discorama.

Then it was time for the feature race of the day, the Champion Hurdle. The market told the whole story here as Nicky Henderson’s mare Epatante was well backed, shortening from 3/1 to 15/8 in places. Barry Geraghty was motionless coming around the final bend as rivals mustered up a challenge but when he eventually pressed the button Epatante answered in style to pull away and win by three lengths.

Sharjah stayed on gamely in second for Willie Mullins, while the heavily tipped Darver Star was third at 12/1. It was the second win of the day for Henderson, leaving top Irish trainers Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins empty-handed so far at the pinnacle of horse racing.

Honey For The Money

Arguably the race of the day was next and punters in attendance were in for a treat as one of the festival bankers, Benie Des Dieux (4/6) took on the unbeaten Honeysuckle in the Mares’ Hurdle. The renewal did not disappoint, with the pair streaking clear of their closest rivals at the final fence before a titanic battle up the hill.

However, it was Henry De Bromhead’s charge who upset the odds and emerged victorious - much to the delight of De Bromhead and winning jockey Rachael Blackmore.

It’s been a hot start to the festival so far for De Bromhead’s who left Day One with two wins in the shape of Put The Kettle On and Honeysuckle, with Nicky Henderson similarly fortuitous after Shishkin and Epatante’s first placed finishes.

The two joint-favourite finished in the top two at 4.50 in the Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase. The well backed Imperial Aura, 4/1, fought off a late charge from Galvin up the hill to earn victory for Kim Bailey and David Bass.

Elliott Confident on Further Winners

Gordon Elliott got his festival off the mark when Ravenhill won National Hunt Novices' Chase under a masterful ride from Jamie Codd. Elliott earmarked Day One as his weakest day of the week following the win and will be hoping his short-priced selections Envoi Allen and Tiger Roll can add to his 2020 tally tomorrow.

There is plenty more action tomorrow with a stunning seven races on the card including:

13:30Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) (2m 5f)
14:10 RSA Novices' Chase (Grade 1) (3m 1/2f)
14:50 Coral Cup (Grade 3) (2m 5f)
15:30 CHAMPION CHASE (Grade 1) (2m)
16:10 Cross Country Handicap Chase (3m 6f)
16:50 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (2m 1/2f)
17:30 Champion Bumper (Grade 1) (2m 1/2f)

New broke earlier today that superstar Altior, a multiple time winner at the festival, was withdrawn from the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Trainer Nicky Henderson was speaking to reporters at Prestbury Park, and his frustration was clear as he discussed the “brutal” revelation.

"He hasn't improved at all from last night, whereas the night before he improved dramatically,” explained 69-year-old Henderson.

“Consequently I think it's only right now that he will be taken out of the race. It's brutal - it's not an issue that has ever bothered him before, he's never taken a lame step in his life. The timing is just ridiculous."

Meanwhile, great Irish hope and dual-national winner Tiger Roll is will be bidding to land a third successive Cross Country Chase. The Gordon Elliott trained stud will no doubt be sent off as heavy favourite considering him dominance the last few years, with EVEN money the best price available among bookmakers.

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