Steve Hughes previews the opening day at Cheltenham.
The Irish challenge looks particularly strong at Cheltenham on Tuesday. I have selections for the first four races on the opening day.
Cheltenham 1.30: Abracadabras
Despite slight misgivings about the going, Abracadbras looks the one to be on in the opener.
He took high ranking amongst the bumper horses, but looks a better hurdler and has only been beaten by Envoi Allen this season – his tablemate of course is going down the Ballymore route. He comfortably won the Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas but that Fairyhouse defeat looks the best form all season either side of the Irish Sea.
Whilst he is a pacy horse, he won on testing going at Navan in the autumn when beating Latest Exhibition.
Cheltenham 2.10: Fakir D’Oudairies
The nap of the day has to be Fakir D’Oudairies.
A decent hurdler, he was fourth in the Supreme as a 4yo last season. However he looks a brilliant jumper of a fence and is a vastly better chaser. I am sure he would have beaten Samcro anyway when that rival fell at Fairyhouse and he was a good second to Notebook at Leopardstown.
The overnight rain will help my selection better, as will the stiffer track and he looks the ideal sort for the Arkle – a horse with the pace for 2m but the stamina for futher.
Cheltenham 2.50: Discorama & The Conditional
Two against the field for the opening handicap of the meeting.
I am interested to see that Discorama has had a wind op since his last run and he can go one better than the last two seasons here. Second in the Martin Pipe in 2018 (coming from way too far back) he was just outgunned in the 4m chase last season. He has not been at his best this term, but this bigger test of stamina will help and the handicapper has not raised him since that Festival second last year.
The Conditional has been much improved since joining David Bridgwater this season. He won over this course and distance in October and surpassed that when second in the Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury. He did not quite get home over 2m5f at Warwick last season, but this stiff extended 3m is ideal.
Cheltenham 3.30: Call Me Lord & Cilaos Emery
Not a great Champion but an open one.
Call Me Lord was disappointing when beaten at his beloved Sandown last time, but prved he could go left-handed when winning the International Hurdle here in December. Able to stay further than this trip, the rain won’t do his chances any harm and he looks a straight forward ride.
Cilaos Emery has had an unorthodox build up to this having been chasing, but several previous winners have gone down the same route such as Buveur D’Air. He won well back over hurdles at Gowran last time and connections have supplemented him given the huge number of fancied rivals that have been force out through injury.
1pt each-way – Abracadbras – 1.30 Cheltenham – 11/2 Bet365, Coral, Ladbrokes (1/5 odds 1st 4)
2pts win – Fakir D’Oudairies – 2.10 Cheltenham – 4/1 general
0.75pts each-way – The Conditional – 2.50 Cheltenham – 15/2 general (Paddy Power 1/5 odds 1st 6)
0.75pts each-way – Discorama – 2.50 Cheltenham – 8/1 general
1pt win – Cilaos Emery – 3.30 Cheltenham – 15/2 general
0.75pts each-way – Call Me Lord – 3.30 Cheltenham – 18/1 Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 4)
Next column – Wednesday 11th March – Day Two Cheltenham