Published On: Tue, Mar 12th, 2024

Cheltenham Festival tips: Horses to back on day 1 including State Man | Racing | Sport

Champion Hurdle horse by horse guide

Willie Mullins has the bookies fearing a monster payout as the Cheltenham Festival kicks off today.

The meeting’s dominant trainer has six of seven favourites, led by State Man’s Unibet Champion Hurdle (3.30, trb) charge.

Paul Townend’s big race mount sets a high standard after a health scare for 2023 titleholder Constitution Hill.

State Man finished second to him last year, but the absence of Nicky Henderson’s superstar leaves the door wide open.

Mullins’ eight-time Grade One hero has a 10lb advantage over fellow Irish raider Irish Point, who is fancied to fill the forecast spot.

Colonel Mustard

Longest-priced of all eight contenders, having come up short receiving 3lb from Nemean Lion at Wincanton.

Hard to see him reversing the form, despite Lorna Fowler’s application of first-time blinkers – and is expected to be nearer last than first.

Iberico Lord

Supplemented by Henderson’s team for £18,000 on the back of two big wins in handicaps this season.

His two-and-a-half length Greatwood Hurdle effort at today’s venue is particularly strong, with multiple form boosts since.

Holds stablemate Luccia (third) and Nemean Lion (fifth) and is a key place player with testing conditions no issue.

Rest of the day one action

Fan favourite Rachael Blackmore can give Cheltenham Festival punters plenty to cheer with a day one double.

The only female jockey to win the Gold Cup rides SLADE STEEL in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30).

Henry de Bromhead rerouted him to today’s curtain raiser to avoid his Dublin Racing Festival conqueror Ballyburn.

And it looks a shrewd move, as Telescope’s son finished a clear second and that is some of the best form on offer.

Soft ground brings his extra stamina into play and he is preferred to Tullyhill, who had it all his own way at Naas and the freegoing Mystical Power.

QUILIXIOS is next on the racecard for trainer and jockey in an open My Pension Expert Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (2.10).

The 2021 Triumph Hurdle winner is one of just two course scorers – and My Mate Mozzie’s October success does not add up to much.

A prominent runner, an advantage in this two-mile contest, Quilixios travelled strongly for a convincing Naas strike and has more to give.

On a day the Irish are expected to dominate, Nigel Twiston-Davies should strike back with Ultima Chase (2.50, Nap) fancy WEVEALLBEENCAUGHT.

The home team have taken charge in this since 2006 – and this locally-trained hope has chase form with Graded horses Broadway Boy and Flooring Porter.

Not right on his last run, the pricey purchase has reportedly worked well in recent weeks and is on a handy mark of 134.

Willie Mullins-trained ‘banker’ Lossiemouth is opposed in favour of proven stayer ASHROE DIAMOND in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (4.10).

Yet to be beaten by a mare over the smaller obstacles, a step back up in trip is a big positive on pedigree for Patrick Mullins’ partner – and she is an excellent each-way bet against her stablemate.

Punchestown eyecatcher LARK IN THE MORNIN is expected to go close in the 22-runner Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (4.50).

Not fluent at the last jump in his final prep run, the four-year-old was finishing strongly but lost his balance after clipping the top bar.

Three qualifying runs from Joseph O’Brien, successful in 2019, have set Soldier Hollow’s son up for a big run.

Patrick Mullins also rides EMBASSY GARDENS in the National Hunt Chase (5.30, nb), run in memory of his late grandmother Maureen.

The novice has flourished for the switch to fences, winning by 13 and 10 lengths at Punchestown and Naas.

A better jumper than Corbetts Cross, who ran out when challenging in last year’s Albert Bartlett, my selection has all the attributes for a poignant victory.

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