Cheltenham Festival Day One Preview - Champion Hurdle Takes Centre Stage At Prestbury Park
It's the day we've all been waiting for. The 2019 Cheltenham Festival is upon us and day one is set to be an absolute corker with the seven-race card getting under way at 1:30pm and you can check out all the Cheltenham Festival Racecards here. A host of Graded races are joined by some devilishly difficult handicap races, and we set the scene for the 'Greatest Show On Turf' here.
A plethora of emerging talents will raise the curtain on Tuesday afternoon as the hugely competitive Supreme Novices' Hurdle will kick off proceedings at Prestbury Park. The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Al Dancer will be a prominent figure in the betting, but Klassical Dream, Angels Breath and Fakir D'Oudairies will all be leading contenders for what is a wide open contest.
The novice chasers then come to the fore with the Arkle Challenge Trophy and Glen Forsa and Lalor will spearhead the British challenge for the Grade 1 two-mile crown, but Hardline has been well backed over the last few weeks, and Gordon Elliott's raider will be flying the flag for the Irish at 2:10pm.
On to race three, and it's the Ultima Handicap Chase which will attract a number of experienced handicappers and former Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Minella Rocco will be aiming to strut his stuff around the undulations of GL50, and the JP McManus-owned charge will be the one to beat at 2:50pm.
The main event bursts into prominence at 3:30pm as the Champion Hurdle serves up an absolute stonking three-way clash. Reigning champion Buveur D'Air is aiming to emulate the mighty Istabraq by bagging a third consecutive Champion Hurdle crown, but star mares Apple's Jade and Laurina head into the race in the form of their lives and they will put up a bold bid for glory in what is arguably the race of the entire festival.
Top-class action continues at 4:10pm with the Willie Mullins-trained Benie Des Dieux heading into the Mares' Hurdle as the red-hot favourite. The Closutton inmate was a fine winner of the race 12 months ago and it's going to take a classy rival to beat her in a race that has been dominated by the aforementioned Mullins since its inception.
Another tough handicap chase is the penultimate race on the card at 4:50pm with the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase attracting a field of progressive performers. A Plus Tard and Tower Bridge are lively players and will be thereabouts, but as the betting suggests there could be one of a number of winners in a rock-hard betting conundrum.
Day one concludes with the longest race of the entire meeting and it will give a golden opportunity for the amateur jockeys to show their talents in the National Hunt Chase, which is off at 5:30pm. Ballyward and OK Corral have been prominent figures in the betting for this race for the last few weeks and they should serve up a spectacular duel in this energy-sapping four-mile contest, and it will draw the curtain on Tuesday's action in fine style.
Enjoy the action!