Each day throughout this year’s Festival, we’ll cast an eye over the cards and pick our top three horses per race.
Cheltenham 1.30 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Trainer Willie Mullins is sure to be a popular pick among Telegraph Fantasy Racing enthusiasts for this year’s Festival and the Irish Champion Trainer has a strong hand in the opener. Klassical Dream showed a game attitude to get the better of stablemate Aramon in a Leopardstown Grade 1 last time and the pair have solid claims of giving Mullins his sixth success in the race. Fakir D’oudairies is another Irish contender with a live chance after a wide-margin success on trials day.
- Klassical Dream
- Fakir D’oudairies
Cheltenham 2.10 – Arkle
Lalor couldn’t have been much more impressive when winning the trial for this race at the Open Meeting and Kayley Woollacott’s charge can bounce back from a below par run at Sandown where he may have found the ground too testing. Glen Forsa made easy work of a Grade 2 contest last time and his sound jumping will hold him in good stead while each-way players may want to consider Ornua who represents an in-form Henry de Bromhead.
- Glen Forsa
Cheltenham 2.50 – Ultima Handicap Chase
A typically competitive renewal of this race but one that may go the way of Lake View Lad who could prove to be some value in the each-way markets. The nine-year-old was mightily consistent last season and is clearly going the right way at present, unbeaten in two starts this time around. Singlefarmpayment isn’t straightforward but he ran well in 2018’s renewal of this and has plenty of solid placed form around Cheltenham.
- Lake View Lad
- Shantou Village
Cheltenham 3.30 – Champion Hurdle
This is a stronger renewal than last year, but it will take something special to dethrone Buveur D’air who bids for a third consecutive Champion Hurdle success. Nicky Henderson’s seven-time Grade 1 winner bounced back from a rare defeat when winning at Sandown in dominant fashion last time and he’s sure to be the banker on day one for many Fantasy Racing players. JP McManus’ other runner Espoir D’allen is progressive and looks like the each-way play in the race.
- Buveur D’air
- Espoir D’allen
Cheltenham 4.10 – Mares’ Hurdle
Willie Mullins has enjoyed a stranglehold on the Mares’ Hurdle since its inception in 2008, having won nine of the 11 renewals and Benie Des Dieux is a rock-solid favourite this time. The eight-year-old hasn’t been seen this season but her trainer is a master at readying them off an absence and she can secure a second success in the race. Ruby Walsh’s mount will take up plenty of the market, which may tempt Fantasy Racing players to side with each-way player Lady Buttons who has been in fine form throughout this campaign.
- Benie Des Dieux
- Lady Buttons
Cheltenham 4.50 – Novices’ Handicap Chase
Trainer Neil Mulholland could hardly be arriving at the Festival in better form, running at a near 30% strike-rate in recent weeks and his best chance on day one is Walt. The eight-year-old won a high-class renewal of a Kempton Grade 3 last time and while he drops in trip here, this race is often won by a horse that stays further. A Plus Tard looks like a well-handicapped Irish raider while Lough Derg Spirit could go well if the headgear has the same effect second time.
- A Plus Tard
- Lough Derg Spirit
Cheltenham 5.30 – National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup
This has been the long-term target for Ok Corral and the son of Mahler won with plenty in hand at Warwick last time. Nicky Henderson’s charge performed well when runner-up in the Albert Bartlett last year and top amateur Derek O’Connor takes the ride, an obvious positive in a race of this nature. Stablemate Chef Des Obeaux could run well at a bigger price.
- Ok Corral
- Chef Des Obeaux