Thursday, 20 July 2017

Cheltenham Festival 2018: Tuesday's Early Favourites

Our man James Stevens believes day one of the Cheltenham Festival is the best, and he's run us through the early favourites. His antepost selections, and more previews are coming throughout the build up to Cheltenham.

Supreme Novices Hurdle - Fayonagh (14-1)

Gordon Elliott's Fayonagh has been priced at 14-1 for the curtain raiser at the Festival, after picking up two Grade One prizes last season. He came far from the back to land the Champion Bumper, before adding more top level glory at Punchestown. He has looked head and shoulders above the rest, and should stack him up well. His victory at the Cotswold was mightly impressive, and rarely do you get a Champion Bumper winner that doesn't go on to win more top level honours.

Debuchet is a second favourite (16-1) for the curtain raiser, he finished second behind Gordon Elliot's star before going on to add listed glory by just over five lengths. Willie Mullins' Getabird (20-1), Gigginstown's unbeaten Samcro (20-1) and Nicky Henderson's Daphne Du Clos (25-1) all outside chances.

Arke Novices' Chase - Defi Du Seuil (10-1)

Another impressive Cheltenham winner was Defi Du Seuil (10-1), who is a three-time Grade One winner at the age of four. He won Chepstow's Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle, before enjoying a convincingly five length success in the Triumph Hurdle. He completed an unbeaten season at Aintree, when winning the 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle. He hasn't been tested over fenced, but he looks a remarkable prospect especially if he remains a novice.

Neon Wolf (14-1), who was narrowly defeated in the Neptune, is expected to go the the Arkle with a chance. Whilst the bookmakers aren't ruling out Supreme first and second Labaik (14-1) and Melon (16-1), popular top class hurdler Yanworth (16-1), and Irish Champion Hurdle winning Petit Mouchoir (16-1).

Champion Hurdle - Buveur D'Air (4-1)

Nicky Henderson's star hurdler Buveur D'Air is best priced at 4-1 to reclaim his Champion Hurdle prize, making him the first to do so since Hardy Eustace twelve years ago. He was impressive when winning the prize last season, beating stable rival My Tent Or Yours in an impressive manner before beating the same rival easily at Aintree a fortnight later. Rightly so, he is the one to beat at this stage of the season.

Faugheen (10-1) won the Champion Hurdle in 2015, but has missed out on a chance to retain his prize in the previous two renewals. Arkle favourite Defi Du Seuil (8-1) may stay over hurdles, and if so would be fancied in Tuesday's feature contest.

Mares Hurdle - Apples Jade (3-1)

Last year's Mares Hurdle was an absolute thriller with Apples Jade (3-1) battling hardest up the hill to deny hot favourite Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag. She is currently the bookmakers favourite to reclaim the Grade One prize, but she may have some other options available against the boys.

Limini is priced at 8-1 to turn the form around in the Cotswolds, whilst stable companion Vroum Vroum Mag is 10-1 for Willie Mullins. Another Mullins and Rich Ricci star mare Let's Dance is priced at 12-1, whilst former Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power is 8-1.

National Hunt Chase - Ballyoptic (16-1)

Nigel Twiston-Davies' former Sefton winner Ballyoptic (16-1) is an early favourite in what looks a very open National Hunt Chase. He hasn't shown much since winning at Aintree, with his best run coming second behind the Unowhatimeanharry in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury. The seven-year-old was last seen finishing seven lengths behind Yanworth in the Liverpool Hurdle. A switch over fences and a longer trip should benefit him this season.

Gordon Elliott's Fagan (20-1) couldn't have done much more when winning by 95 lengths on his chasing debut; in the 2016 Festival he finished second in the Stayers' Hurdle. Nicky Henderson's Constantine Bay (20-1),  Henry De Bromhead's Monalee (20-1) and Gordon Elliott's Sutton Place (20-1) are all in with chances. Ben Pauling's Barters Hill is a 25-1 chance to earn a Festival victory.

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