Elliott set for bumper return to the Festival

Cheltenham Festival selections Tuesday 15th March

Having been suspended for the 2021 Festival, Gordon Elliott is back for 2022 and has a raft of strong fancies for the opening day, including a big each-way fancy for the big race the Champion Hurdle. I have selections for four races on Tuesday.

Cheltenham 1.30: Constitution Hill

We are likely to see another tidal wave of Irish winners this week, but the British challenge for the curtain raiser may be strong enough in the form of CONSTITUTION HILL.

This horse has looked electric in two wins at Sandown, including the Grade 1 Tolworth on his last start. Whilst the basic form of those races might not add up to too much, it is the manner of those wins that look significant. He makes a brilliant shape over his hurdles and has a very high cruising speed that is ideal for race like this where we can presume Dysart Dynamo will make this a true test.

However that rival could get bothered by Silent Revolution that could prove decisive in allowing Constitution Hill to pounce late on, just as stable stars Altior and Shishkin have done in recent years.

Cheltenham 2.10: Blue Lord & Saint Sam

The Arkle has usually involved a short priced banker in recent years, such as Shishkin and Footpad, however this looks more open and we have another English favourite in Edwardstone. Whilst he is an admirable horse, he is yet to take on the best of the Irish and I have a feeling he just might come up slightly short.

Instead Willie Mullins holds a strong hand and I like two of his contenders. First choice has to be BLUE LORD, who has won all three starts over the bigger obstacles, jumping efficiently in the process. He cantered to the front in the Irish Arkle last month, but was nearly all out at the finish to hold off Riviere D’Etel. I suspect he was just idling though and was value for more than a half-length. Two pounds better off today, I think the strong pace and course configuration should allow Paul Townend to bring his mount through later, leaving more left in the locker for the run to the line.

If ridden with more constraint, SAINT SAM looks value at his current odds. He was only beaten 4l in that Irish Arkle, but made all the running and was left vulnerable to the closers. He has traditionally raced keenly, but he responded well to hold up tactics here in the Fred Winter last year when a strong finishing second and I am hoping he tracks the pace today. I am sure this horse will be stepping up in trip soon and with the likes of Magic Daze sure to ensure a fast pace, stamina will be coming into play late on which will suit Saint Sam – as long as is not compromised by being ask to force a strong pace.

Cheltenham 2.50: Floueur, Fantastikas, Gericault Roque

The presence of Frodon here keeps the weights down for the others and three novices off a featherweight are fancied here.

First choice is FLOUEUR who ran an eyecatching prep in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown last month. That was his first handicap chase and he looks well treated here. A stamina test is clearly what he needs and he flew up the hill when third off top weight in the Martin Pipe last year. That was over 2m4f but an extra 5f today will leave hi more in his comfort zone.

The one main issue with him is how his jumping holds up. Connections gave up chasing last season after a couple of clumsy efforts, but now with Gordon Elliott I am hoping his extra experience will stand him in good stead. I think the drying ground will be a help in that respect.

FANTASTIKAS has taken supremely well to fences and he has already won twice at Lingfield this season. Most recently he won at the Winter Million meeting on heavy going, showing plenty of determination in the process. However he also won in style on much quicker going in the autumn, so ground conditions should be no issue. He was a fine third to L’Homme Presse in a Grade 2 here over an inadequate 2m5f on New Years Day but he really needs 3m and has enough tactical pace to lie up with the gallop throughout.

GERICAULT ROQUE has to run from 5lbs out of the handicap, but he looks a winner waiting to happen in a big handicap and I don’t want to miss out when he does strike. Very professional for one so inexperienced he chased home runaway winner Eclair Surf at Warwick when probably left with too much to do. He is a maiden over fences, but is improving fast at the age of six.

Cheltenham 3.30: Teahupoo

From a punting perspective the one that stands out in what is probably a below par Champion Hurdle is TEAHUPOO.

Of course it will be hard to beat Honeysuckle but at such prohibitive odds for a stable out of form in recent weeks, I prefer an each-way alternative. Appreciate It definitely has the class, but can he deliver on his first start since winning on this card twelve months ago?

There are no such doubts with Teahupoo who ran away with the Red Mills at Gowran last month. He beat nothing of real Grade 1 quality that day, but he reminds me of Espoir D’Allen who crept under the radar as a 5yo into this race without running in a Grade 1 prior, then ran away with the race on the day.

Encouragingly whilst the ground was heavy at Gowran, jockey Robbie Power thinks he will be better for quicker going which he gets today. He certainly won easier enough on similar ground at Naas in the autumn. Kept away from the big Festivals last year, he has been allowed to mature at his own pace and I think it will be difficult to keep him out the frame at least.

Recommended bets:

2pts win – Constitution Hill – 1.30 Cheltenham – 5/2 general

1pt each-way – Blue Lord – 2.10 Cheltenham – 5/1 Bet365, Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 4)

0.5pts each-way – Saint Sam – 2.10 Cheltenham – 9/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 4)

1pt each-way – Floueur – 2.50 Cheltenham – 7/1 general (Skybet & William Hill 1/5 odds 1st 7)

1pt each-way – Fantastikas – 2.50 Cheltenham – 12/1 Skybet, William Hill, Betfred 1/5 odds 1st 7)

0.5pts each-way – Gericault Roque – 2.50 Cheltenham – 12/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Teahupoo – 3.30 Cheltenham – 10/1 Bet365, William Hill

Already advised

The Tide Turns – 4.50 Cheltenham (currently 7/1 general)

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