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Lucky Loader’s Day 1 Cheltenham 2024 Preview: Don’t write off the British

After what has felt like an eternity, Cheltenham is finally here!

I will be sharing my thoughts and selections with Rhino Bet throughout the week, and hopefully I can give you some winners along the way.

Many punters will want to be siding with the Irish horses, but with the exception of State Man, I don’t think they’re miles clear on the opening day.

1.30 – Supreme Novices Hurdle

If you have been following me in recent weeks, you’ll know how much I’ve been going on about Ben Pauling’s novice hurdlers. For me, he has the best team of young horses in England, and Tellherthename might just be the best of them. In the racing media, he’s not held back on his admiration for this horse, and he said he’ll have some big targets in the spring, including the Supreme.

His form this season reads well, and he looked very smart when winning at Huntingdon in January. The only blip for him came when he was pulled up at Aintree in the Formby Novices’ Hurdle, but he had excuses that day, and he can be forgiven for that run. As long as the ground isn’t too soft, I think he’s a live, each-way chance.

Another horse I’ll want to keep on side is Favour And Fortune. The last time we saw him, he finished second in a Listed race behind Funfunfun, who subsequently went in again over the weekend at Naas. He was giving her 10lbs that day, and I think the effort should be marked up. At the current price of 25/1 with Rhino, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him get involved.

Selections:

Tellherthename – EW (20/1)

Favour And Fortune – EW (25/1)

2.10 – Arkle Novices’ Chase 

Willie Mullins has certainly thrown the cat among the pigeons by sending Gaelic Warrior here. He is clearly the most talented horse in the race, but the fact that he always jumps to the right when going left-handed has to be a major concern, and therefore I cannot trust him.

Again, I’m looking at the home team here with JPR One. I don’t think he has much to find on the Irish horses, whose form seems to be much of a muchness.  JPR One was impressive when winning at Lingfield in January, and he seemed to have plenty in hand that day. He also would have bolted up at Cheltenham in November if he hadn’t stumbled after jumping the last fence. In my opinion, he is the best 2m novice chaser in Britain, and I think he can improve further.

Master Chewy is also worth keeping an eye on. He finished a respectable second behind Grade 1 winner Elixir Du Nutz in a handicap at Newbury in November when sent off an odds-on favourite. He also beat Nickelback at Kempton, who went on to win a Grade 1 at Sandown. If some of the market principles fall short, he wouldn’t have to find much to take a hand in the race.

Selections:

JPR One – EW (8/1)

Master Chewy – EW (18/1)

2.50 – Ultima Handicap Chase

Headgear and novices are a combination that often goes very well in the Ultima, and that’s why I am going for Trelawne. His third-placed effort at Cheltenham behind Ginny’s Destiny and Grey Dawning is very strong form, and he looks like he’s been crying out for the extra distance. His trainer, Kim Bailey, likes to target one at this race, and I think he has every chance of going well.

I’ll also have a saver on Eldorado Allen. He’s clearly not the force of old, but he’s got some good Festival form over the years, which includes a second in an Arkle and a third in a Ryanair. This season he has run well in some valuable handicaps, and with Freddie Gingell taking a handy 5lb off his back, I wouldn’t rule him out each way.

Selections:

Trelawne – EW (15/2)

Eldorado Allen – EW (16/1)

3.30 – Champion Hurdle

State Man is in a different league to the opposition in this year’s renewal. He’s a seven-time Grade 1 winner, and with no Constitution Hill to worry about, it’s his Champion Hurdle to lose. If you want to stick him in Cheltenham multiples, I wouldn’t put you off.

Moving away from the obvious, it’s fair to say the Champion Hurdle has a nice each-way look to it. The one I am prepared to give a chance to is Iberico Lord, even though Nicky Henderson does have a cloud over it. He comes from the handicap route after winning the Greatwood and Betfair Hurdle this season, where both races have had their form boosted. It’s interesting that JP McManus supplemented him for the race, as he could have gone to the County Hurdle, where he would have a good chance.

The reason he is probably running here is because of the soft ground, as he seems to come alive in it. If there is enough juice, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him make the frame, and if State Man does come unstuck, he might be good enough to pick up the pieces. 

Selection: 


Iberico Lord EW (16/1)

4.10 – Mares Hurdle

For many people, Lossiemouth will be many people’s banker on the day, but I can’t have her at the prices. If she was running over 2m, then I would be siding with her, but the fact she’s stepping up in trip to 2m4f is a concern for me. She looks like she’s all speed, and her pedigree suggests that, with her being from the family of Group 1 winner Lord Glitters. If you’re backing horses that are odds-on, you want all the boxes ticked, and the stamina one is not ticked off yet.

I think there are a few horses that can take her scalp, with one of them being Hispanic Moon. She’s impressed me since joining Henry De Bromhead’s team. The last time we saw her, she won the Grade 3 Quevega Hurdle with ease, powering away from all her rivals in the closing stages. She’s a horse that is still improving. She’ll have no problem staying this trip and will handle any ease in the ground. 

Love Envoi would also be happier stepping back up to this trip. I think he she finds 2m too sharp these days. She’s got a great record at the Festival winning the Mares’ Novice and finishing second in this race last year behind Honeysuckle. I think if she can bounce back to that form with first-time cheekpieces fitted, I can see her getting a lot closer to Lossiemouth.

Selections:

Hispanic Moon – EW (40/1)

Love Envoi – EW (18/1)

4.50 – Boodles Juvenile Handicap 

This race has to be one of the hardest of the week, but I am going to take a chance with Latin Verse for Syd Hosie. He bolted up by 19 lengths at Ludlow last month on soft ground when taking on older horses, which is no easy feat. The handicapper gave him a 9lb rise for that success, but he could still be well ahead of his mark and can go well here.

Ose Partir is a horse that I’ve had my eye on for a while. He has been quietly campaigned in Grade 1 company at Leopardstown with handicaps in mind. The British handicapper has given him a mark of 126, which could be lenient as we know that Martin Brassil likes to target his horses at a Festival handicap. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him around the places.

Selections:

Latin Verse – EW (14/1)

Ose Partir – EW (11/1)

5.30 – National Hunt Chase

Once again, punters will be looking at the Irish-trained pair of Embassy Gardens and Corbetts Cross, who are at the top of the market, but I don’t think their form amounts to much.

I like the improving British pair of Kilbeg King and Henry’s Friend. They both met each other at Ascot in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase last month, where both could be separated by head, with the latter taking the prize. Furthermore, the trainer of Henry’s Friend, Ben Pauling, trained the winner of this race in 2019 with Le Breuil, so he knows what it takes to win it. I think both horses are overpriced, and I can see them both being up there at the last fence.

Selections:

Kilbeg King – EW (9/1)

Henry’s Friend – EW (14/1)

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