This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 12 December, 2018

Fab four? These horses could get your Cheltenham off to a flyer

Here’s our Lucky-15 for the first day of the 2018 festival.

Will Melon do the business in the Champion Hurdle?
Will Melon do the business in the Champion Hurdle?
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

IT HAS FINALLY arrived; the greatest show on turf is back and this year’s Cheltenham Festival looks bigger and better than ever before.

Four swashbuckling days of highs and lows around the Cotswolds are ready for embracing, and we’re on hand to tackle all 28 races.

The opening day has long-carried the tag of punters’ pal with a few hotpots lining out for Willie Mullins in a row, but this year may well be trickier to negotiate.

However, we reckon this each-way Lucky 15 could be the key to securing profit and avoiding suspect shorties. If you agree, you can have a flutter here.

1.30pm – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Source: Brian Lawless/PA Images

While logic should dictate this race is an apprenticeship to the Champion Hurdle, winners tend to graduate straight to novice chases. Willie Mullins should be confident in Getabird, but Melon went off joint-favourite in last year’s renewal – and Min was preferred to the might of Altior the year before.

It’s not that straightforward and Amy Murphy’s charge Kalashnikov will likely ensure the Mullins charge doesn’t get it all his own way.

After his emphatic demolition of a 24-strong field in the Betfair Hurdle, there’s certainly enough logic behind pitching him from handicap company into this level of race – but Amy Murphy will know she can’t let the short-price favourite dictate from the front.

This could well set it up for a closer finish and Mengli Khan travelled ever so well when beaten by Getabird in Punchestown in January.

However, the selection was only two weeks removed from the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle that saw him run out, and he was giving away six pounds on that occasion. The flat background up against the point-to-pointer – this could be quite a finish if Getabird is forced off the bridle earlier than Ruby Walsh would want.

Selection: MENGLI KHAN (12/1)

2.10pm – Arkle Trophy

Source: Julian Herbert/PA Images

All aboard the Irish jolly? Nope.

Did any novice jump better than Footpad this year? That’s the question everyone’s asking. However, instead of looking for the answer, ask why you’re asking the question? Footpad travels well into races, granted – but nobody has quite impressed like Saint Calvados.

If people want to talk about pitching handicappers into races of this magnitude, then Harry Whittington’s gelding should be the prime example of a winner. Granted his win over a small field at Warwick was expected, but if an Irish raider took a race like that by 22 lengths, we’d all be sat here expecting an odds-on poke.

The elephant in the room is Petit Mouchoir – who was rated 162 over hurdles, so theoretically, he should be enough to claim these two with a bit to spare. However, he didn’t jump a single fence particularly well in the Irish Arkle and to suggest that form is better than Saint Calvados’ per the betting is a mystery that we look forward to someone explaining.

North Hill Harvey was rated 149 over fences going into the Kingmaker and he was thumped by 39 lengths – seemingly without any defects. At the prices, we know where we’d want our money.

Selection: SAINT CALVADOS (3/1)

3.30pm – Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

This hasn’t looked like much of a race since Faugheen went down to Supasundae, after being pulled-up at Leopardstown at Christmas. Willie Mullins fits cheekpieces on the son of Germany to try and eek out improvement, but it feels like a resignation more than anything else.

While the majority will go into this hoping, more out of sentiment than actual expectation, that the 10-year-old can rediscover his form that led him to so many magical moments, it just seems unlikely and he’s discarded for that reason.

Yorkhill is an enigma that your money doesn’t need to solve and Wicklow Brave will probably hand them half the track at the start. You’re starting to see who the real banker of the day is, aren’t you?

Despite solid experience, Melon can still be too keen in races but he’s still the selection here following the withdrawal of My Tent Or Yours.

Selection: MELON (16/1)

4.10pm – Mares’ Hurdle

Source: Julian Herbert/PA Images

There are many, many horses throughout these four days that don’t deserve to be as short as they are, but Apple’s Jade simply isn’t one of them. She’s proved one of the most durable, consistent and classy performers – mare or otherwise – and it’s very much likely that she’ll romp these in a heartbeat.

However, that isn’t to say there aren’t some stylish types in behind and the battle for places will be intriguing as Apple’s Jade is getting her rub-down. Benie Des Dieux has won her three races since crossing the Channel, by a total of 40 lengths.

Her body of work entitles her to be second-favourite, but the whispers are doing the rounds at preview nights for La Bague Au Roi, who has made marked improvement this year and according to Ben Pauling, Warren Greatrex considers her the best he’s ever trained. She had Jers Girl’s number at Kempton and there’s little to suggest that form flips.

Selection: LA BAGUE AU ROI (13/2)

Each-way Lucky-15

13:30 – Mengli Khan (12/1)
14:10 – Saint Calvados (3/1)
15:30 – Melon (16/1)
16:10 – La Bague Au Roi (8/1)

Fancy a punt on Cheltenham? Ireland’s biggest bookmaker Paddy Power have the odds on every market – plus money back as a free bet on all losers if the SP favourite wins. Check out our Cheltenham odds here, or simply download the Paddy Power app for iOS or Android

For more tips, insight and the odd star columnist, head over to Paddy Power news.

All odds correct at time of writing.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

About the author:

The42 Team

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel