James Crombie/INPHO Laurina and Paul Townend on their way to winning the Mares' Novices' Hurdle at last year's Cheltenham Festival.

3 tips to get your Cheltenham week off to a great start

In the first instalment of Heed Your Hunch, Thom Malone lays out his picks for Day One of this year’s festival.

CHELTENHAM 2019 IS upon us, and each day Heed Your Hunch will be bringing you tips for the first, the last and the feature race at Prestbury Park thanks to Betway. 

The Supreme Hurdle, the opening race on Tuesday doesn’t have the ‘Irish Banker’ of yore, but it’s not lacking depth of quality.

In the past, there were the successes of Vautour and Douvan alongside the defeats of Cousin Vinny, Dunguib and Min. Even the mad Labaik was a popular winner, although the volume of people claiming to have backed him doesn’t tally with his starting price of 25/1.

This year’s Supreme had the biggest volume of entries since 2014. That openness is reflected in the betting, with Al Dancer heading the market at around 11/4. Nicky Henderson is a trainer one would expect to have won more than three renewals of this race.

He has had some serious horses beaten it in it too, such as Binocular and Sprinter Sacre. Mister Fisher (8/1) will not be the stable’s first string but has done little wrong on the track over hurdles. It looks like James Bowen, who knows him well, will ride and at the prices, he is the selection.

32Red Winter Festival - Day One - Kempton Park Racecourse Julian Herbert Mister Fisher and Nico de Boinville. Julian Herbert

Occasionally, sporting events don’t live up to the hype — Trevor Immelman won the Masters, like! The Champion Hurdle on Day One of the Cheltenham Festival has the makings of a vintage renewal though.

Two mares, are shirking the “easier option” of the mares race and lining up against an underappreciated champ in Buveur D’Air, himself looking for three in a row. Apple’s Jade has been the hurdling star of the season with three Grade one wins, bringing her lifetime top level haul to ten.

Laurina arrives on a weather interrupted prep, but taking a road travelled by Annie Power to Champion Hurdle success in the past. At the prices and in rain-softened going, it’s Laurina (7/2), who won’t be stopping on her way up that famous hill.

The National Hunt Chase closes Day One of the festival and in this race it pays to stick with the best Irish amateur jockeys — Derek O’Connor, Patrick Mullins and Jamie Codd. Ballyward (11/4) is unique among Willie Mullins’ runners this week in that he only has one entry. The trainer quipped that Patrick must have been in charge of the entries that day, at a recent press event.

The horse’s form looks exceptional following his win at Naas when last seen powering up the hill from Chris’s Dream. The trainer/jockey combination was successful with Rathvinden last year and can repeat the trick with Ballyward this time round.

Get your money back as a free bet if your horse loses in the first or the last race over each day of the Cheltenham Festival with Betway’s Money Back Special. You can also win a prize of £25k each day of Cheltenham on Betway’s Insider Blog with 4 To Win, a free-to-play prediction game. Offer as above. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more, see BeGambleAware.org

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