Mister Whitaker could be a huge threat now he has made the line up in Close Brothers Chase

Cheltenham Festival 2018 Day 1: Robin Goodfellow’s racing tips

Sportsmail’s racing expert Robin Goodfellow dishes out his tips for day one of the Cheltenham Festival as well as Tuesday’s meetings at Southwell, Newcastle and Sedgefield.

Mister Whitaker could be a huge threat now he has made the line up in Close Brothers Chase

Mister Whitaker could be a huge threat now he has made the line up in Close Brothers Chase


SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE

(1.30: GRADE ONE — 2 MILES AND ½ FURLONG)

The last nine winners of this race had all run at least four times over hurdles, which raises a doubt over the experience of favourite Getabird.

That said, he boasts an Irish point – to-point win and jumped with great fluency at Punchestown to thump Mengli Khan last time out. It goes without saying he is respected, but there is a chance FIRST FLOW may have been underestimated.

He will love the prospect of atrocious ground having ploughed through deep conditions to win at Haydock and, as a robust, chasing type, today’s examination should hold no fears for him. Of his rivals, Paloma Blue should relish the stronger gallop generated by a big field if his effort at Leopardstown behind the all-conquering Samcro is anything to go by.

He was too exuberant for his own good that day but it was still a fine performance. Summerville Boy is another thought to want better ground than he has tackled for much of the winter but it is worth recalling he beat Betfair Hurdle winner Kalashnikov in Grade One company at Sandown in January.

Footpad has looked a natural over fences and could be very difficult to beat on Tuesday

Footpad has looked a natural over fences and could be very difficult to beat on Tuesday

ARKLE TROPHY CHASE

(2.10: GRADE ONE — 2 MILES)

FOOTPAD has looked a natural over fences from the word go and will be very difficult to beat if showing the same aptitude for his obstacles as he has done in all three starts this term. He made all to see off Petit Mouchoir at Leopardstown in Grade One company last month and, although some expect the latter to turn the tables as it was first run in 108 days, he will have to jump more proficiently here.

The selection barely put a foot wrong at Leopardstown and was well on top at the line, which suggests there is a good deal more to come. And it is worth recalling he was fourth in last year’s Champion Hurdle as a five-year-old.

Saint Calvados is the only novice chaser at two miles which can hold a candle to Footpad in the jumping stakes. He has accumulated a swift hat-trick over fences this year and rattled up another exemplary round at Warwick when seeing off another small field from the front. The deep ground will be no issue for him and he is likely to take some pegging back if establishing a good rhythm early on.

ULTIMA HANDICAP CHASE

(2.50: GRADE THREE — 3 MILES AND 1 FURLONG)

In this event 12 months ago Singlefarmpayment was narrowly beaten into second and his whole campaign looks to have been centred around going one better. He had every opportunity to win 12 months ago, but looked to be outfought on the run to the l ine and may be vulnerable again. Novices and second-season chasers have won 14 renewals this century so COO STAR SIVOLA makes plenty of appeal on the back of a facile Exeter warm up.

Trainer Nick Williams has had this race in mind all season for his horse, who finished fourth in last year’s Martin Pipe Hurdlefourth and has accrued plenty of experience of the Cheltenham fences in decent novice chases this season. The step up to three miles appeared to bring more improvement and he is pleasingly handicapped.

It is debatable whether Grand National aspirant Gold Present will like the ground this bad, but David Pipe has won this event three times in the last decade so confirmed mudlark Ramses De Teillee fits a number of the trends of past winners, while conditions will represent no issue.

Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old Buveur D'Air (left) has been installed as red-hot favourite

Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old Buveur D’Air (left) has been installed as red-hot favourite

CHAMPION HURDLE

(3.30: GRADE ONE — 2 MILES)

BUVEUR D’AIR will achieve the perfect ten if he can repeat last year’s victory in this race and bookmakers believe his claims are highly compelling. Nine previous wins have led to Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old being installed as the red-hot favourite to follow up his four-length defeat of stablemate My Tent Or Yours and, given the conditions, he is difficult to oppose, with Faugheen fighting to regain his best form.

That may prove beyond the 2015 champion, even with cheekpieces applied for the first time. The last hurdler to win this race at his age was Sea Pigeon in 1981. Given My Tent Or Yours is another year older, the International Hurdle winner won’t attract the support of trends fans, but his Cheltenham record reads 222221 and those figures include being runner-up three times in this event. Given such a consistent Prestbury Park record, My Tent Or Yours could well make the frame again.

Elgin coped with atrocious ground at Wincanton to win the Kingwell Hurdle and has been supplemented at a princely cost, which could well pay off with a huge run.

MARES’ HURDLE

4.10: GRADE ONE — 2 MILES AND 4 FURLONGS

A race lacking much strength in depth and, given she should have no issue with conditions, the marvellously consistent and admirable APPLE’S JADE is the clear standout. The selection hasn’t been out of the first two in 14 career starts and her victims this season in Grade 1 company include Supersundae and Nichols Canyon. The former is vying for favouritism in the Stayers’ Hurdle yet Apple’s Jade readily repelled his challenge at Leopardstown over Christmas to complete her fifth successive victory. It will take a dip in form for her rivals to trouble her as she looks a stronger mare this year.

Benie Des Dieux represents a stable that has won eight of the last ten renewals and she returns to hurdling after winning all of her three starts over fences for Willie Mullins. Those victories have been achieved with authority and it is difficult to assess how good she could be back over smaller obstacles. Those looking for a solid each-way bet should consider the tough and resilient La Bague Au Roi who represents the home challenge. She jumped beautifully to score at Ascot and looks the real deal this season.

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE

4.50: GRAND TWO — 4 MILES

Gordon Elliott has had a stranglehold on this race in recent seasons courtesy of victories for Tiger Roll, Cause Of Causes and Chicago Grey. In Jury Duty and Mossback, he holds two excellent chances of improving that record. The former sports the tongue tie for the first time which may make a difference as he doesn’t appear to be quite getting home in his races.

Mossback looks the stronger stayer of the duo and kept finding all the way to the line at Navan last time when narrowly beaten by Irish National contender Monbeg Notorious. Both are on the shortlist along with Rathvinden who was going well before falling two out in the Flogas Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown.

The home contingent are also worth seriously considering with SIZING TENNESSEE, partnered by the excellent Barry O’Neill, narrowly preferred to relentless galloper Duel At Dawn. There were six lengths between the pair when they met here over three miles before Christmas and the selection has gone on to run creditably behind Mister Whitaker on Trials Day here in January. Duel At Dawn has been subsequently beaten by Ms Parfois at Warwick, but this war of attrition will suit.

CLOSE BROTHERS CHASE

5.30: HANDICAP — 2 MILES AND 4 FURLONGS

De Plotting Shed has been a long-term fancy for this race in the ante-post betting since the markets opened and connections believe they have a very well handicapped horse, capable of delivering a huge performance.

His claims are tough to resist given the might of his stable, but the market is aware of his chance and there could be a little more juice in the price of MISTER WHITAKER who sits at the foot of the handicap after somehow managing to sneak into this race.

Initially, it looked like the six-year-old was too well handicapped for this event as he required a host of horses to come out to get a run, but he could prove a huge threat to all now he has made the line up. His defeat of the admirable Theatre Territory on Trials Day was achieved in cosy fashion as he pulled himself up when he hit the front and his style of racing should be well suited to Brian Hughes who likes to delay his challenge as late as possible. Any Second Now has been chasing Footpad round all winter which has ensured his rating has been carefully preserved. He looks a big player returning to today’s trip.

SOUTHWELL

ROBIN GOODFELLOW

1.10 Unnoticed

1.45 Best Tamayuz

2.25 Epitaph

3.05 Afandem

3.45 Haddaf

4.25 Kingstreet Lady

5.00 Ochos Rios

GIMCRACK

1.10 African Trader

1.45 Best Tamayuz

2.25 Epitaph

3.05 Crosse Fire

3.45 Haddaf

4.25 Kingstreet Lady

5.00 Reason To Believe

NEWCASTLE

ROBIN GOODFELLOW

5.45 Thankyou Very Much

6.15 Big Kitten

6.45 Regina Pacis

7.15 Nick Vedder

7.45 Bad Dog

8.15 Dark Alliance

8.45 Windforpower

GIMCRACK

5.45 Indian Red

6.15 Lumi

6.45 Dowitcher

7.15 Nick Vedder

7.45 Odds On Oli

8.15 Deansgate

8.45 Hisar

SEDGEFIELD

ROBIN GOODFELLOW

1.20 The Jam Man

1.55 Pineapple Rush

2.35 Roxyfet

3.15 Pronto Tonto

3.55 Instant Replay

4.35 Always Resolute

5.10 Peters Cousin

GIMCRACK

1.20 The Jam Man

1.55 Lostnfound

2.35 Roxyfet

3.15 Drums Of War

3.55 Instant Replay

4.35 Take A Break

5.10 Peters Cousin

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