Cheltenham Festival 2023 Tips: Constitution Hill the main attraction on day one in Champion Hurdle


s opening days of the Cheltenham Festival, things get little if any better. Can we see the performance of the greatest of all time, Constitution Hill, in the feature or will the hype train derail?

Despite a dry February, they are likely to start on soft ground, a welcome situation for track staff as recent snow and cold snaps have meant limited drying in recent weeks. Strong winds are expected today with some rain later in the week.

The festival kicks off with the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30), which took a dim turn at the Dublin Racing Festival, where previously unbeaten Facile Vega bombed behind stablemate Il Etait Temps. Willie Mullin’s criticism of Paul Townend’s ride came somewhat out of the blue, but it’s no surprise that Townend remains loyal to Quevega’s son.

He can’t be a confident pick but if Facile Vega comes back he should have enough class. Marine Nationale remain undefeated but would probably have preferred better ground.

The make-up of the Sporting Life Arkle (2.10) is tempting for weather. Nine are running, but most are 33-1 or higher, so the other four deserve close scrutiny. Jonbon is a beautiful specimen and did little wrong on the vaults for trainer Nicky Henderson. Owner JP McManus also relies on Saint Roi, who could have run somewhere else – maybe a tip in itself.

The key is the near certainty of a strong tempo. Dysart Dynamo and El Fabiolo, both stablemates of the selection, like to go forward, as does Effernock Fizz. This should play to the strengths of overtaker Saint Roi who was impressive in his last completed start.

Cheltenham Festival tips

day one

1.30 Simple Vega

2.10 Saint Roi

2.50 Fastorslow (nap)

3.30 Constitution Hill

4.10 Brandy Love

4.50 bad

5.30 Mahler mission

Bookies will be fighting for your tribe with extra each-way places in the Ultima Handicap Chase (2.50), and for good reason, because it’s fiendishly difficult on paper, but Fastorslow is a sporting nap on day one.

Irish trainers’ record at this race has been bleak, but trainer Martin Brassil set last year’s narrow Coral Cup runner-up for this race and it seems no surprise that the tongue-tied tongue is holding up again. Last year’s winner Corach Rambler is 6 pounds higher in his repeat bid but still appears to be the favourite.

The Unibet Champion Hurdle (3.30) appears to have a real superstar for the first time since Hurricane Fly won 10 years ago, but the expectation is that Constitution Hill will be even better.

It now seems incredible that 12 months ago he was sent off 9-4 in the opening race with this card putting on one of the greatest rookie shows ever seen at a circuit.

Henderson’s son by Blue Bresil will go away as the favorite in the history of the lowest priced race in 1927. If he was somehow scratched, State Man would be a similarly low price to win the race. In fact, the direct prediction that Constitution Hill will beat the Mullins bishop is hopeless.

Two previous Champion Hurdle winners, Honeysuckle and Epatante, meet in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (3.40). This has so much to add to its narrative, Honeysuckle is trying to win again after two tough losses, but Brandy Love may have too much toe for Mullins now that she’s finally turning left-handed.

The Fred Winter (4.50) is looking tough, with Tekao perhaps a vulnerable favorite. Bad, well supported in the last few days and ridden by Rachael Blackmore, is a shot in the dark in his British debut.

Mullins has his cheapest runner of the day in Gaillard Du Mesnil in the Wellchild National Hunt Challenge Cup (5.30), but Mahler Mission has the advantage in every respect, trainer John McConnell is having a stellar season. Cheltenham Festival 2023 Tips: Constitution Hill the main attraction on day one in Champion Hurdle

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