We're at home for Cheltenham but that doesn't mean there won't be drama on the Betfair markets and we've got it covered here along with expert insight on our daily live blog...
"One for the romantics as veteran outsider Vintage Clouds made all the running before finding extra up the hill to win unchallenged from favourite Happygolucky."
Welcome to Day 1 of our live Cheltenham blog. How ever you're doing the Festival this year, we'll be here to guide you with the latest tips, news, market movers and quick results.
And that's your lot for Day 1. After a somewhat low key start to the Festival with the two favourites romping home, there was plenty of drama in the end, with a 120.0119/1 BSP winner in the form of Jeff Kidder, the old timer Vintage Clouds recording a romantic victory and a lorry load of winners for another old timer, Tony Calvin (only joking, TC).
Before we go, take a look at our Day 2 Cheat Sheet, featuring tips and insight from Tony Calvin, Kevin Blake, Paul Nicholls and more.
We'll be back tomorrow at around 11:00 for Wednesday's action.
National Hunt Novices Chase
Betfair Starting Price and ISP: 6.59 BSP 4.57/2
Antepost High of Winner: 9.08/1
Notable In-Running Highs and Lows: Galvin 11.010/1, Escaria Ten 1.211/5, Next Destination 2.26/5
A searching test of stamina as always, and it was three market principals battling away at the end, before the more-experienced began to pull away to land an unexpected bonus for new trainer Ian Ferguson.
Galvin brought home a nice each-way double for Al Dudman's Cheltenham Multiples column, with Sharjah landing the place earlier in the day.
A decent day for the Betting.Betfair team.
Oh, for a time machine.
Our main man Tony Calvin has been having a fine day and look what he recommended on Twitter last night, this would have been a tasty double. Tony is on Homme Public in the next.
Lucky 15s are not for me I am afraid. In fact, I have never had all four bets up in a Yankee, ever. Stick to singles, mate. For tomorrow though, I love Sharjah and Black Tears each way without the front two in their respective races. They have shortened but maybe double those up https://t.co/Ty6Ru7gEIa? Betfair Racing (@BetfairRacing) March 15, 2021
David Cleary on day one and a bet for day two
Bright sunshine, a light breeze and ground that on times was good to soft and likely to dry further - the scene for the opening day of this year's Cheltenham Festival. There were hot favourites in the championship events as well, and all three delivered in very convincing fashion.
So far as the Champion Hurdle was concerned, the heavy support for the unbeaten Honeysuckle was rewarded with scarcely a worry. Just pushed along going down the hill as the pace lifted, she quickened on into the straight and soon had the race won. Honeysuckle really does appear 'bombproof', and it is hard to point to a moment in any of her races where she's looked in trouble.
She's going to take the beating at this level for some time to come.
With last season's runner-up Sharjah, a latter-day Theatreworld, again taking second spot, it's clear several of the main challengers failed to run to their best. 2020 heroine Epatante left the impression she was just a bit short of her peak and lacked her usual gears. Goshen was the big disappointment, though, hanging badly right and generally not applying himself as the field headed into the back straight.
The meeting opened with a wide-margin victory for the hot favourite Appreciate It in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. A beaten favourite in the Champion Bumper a year ago, he made amends in tremendous style, powering away from his rivals after two out. He's a powerhouse to look at as well and will surely be back as a leading contender for the Arkle in 2022. His stable companion Blue Lord would have been a clear second but for falling at the last. He's learning still and bound to benefit from a longer trip, so his future looks bright too.
The absence of Energumene robbed the first day of what was perhaps the most anticipated clash of the week, but he'd have had to be really good to deny Shishkin. In a race run at a furious gallop, Shishkin was kicked for home after three out and soon had his race won. He's as good a winner of the Arkle as his stable companions Sprinter Sacre and Altior, and has the potential to go on and achieve further successes at the Festival.
With conditions not so testing as the official going suggested at the start of the afternoon and the ground sure to dry out further, it might well be tomorrow's card takes place on near good going.
As such, it might be worth chancing the strong-travelling ASHUTOR in the Grand Annual at 16:15.
Paul Nicholls' runner will benefit from the drop back to two miles and it's easy to see him sitting just behind what is sure to be a strong pace before taking over in the straight.
Winner: Black Tears
Betfair Starting Price and ISP: 1211/1 BSP 1211/1 ISP
Antepost High of Winner: 9594/1
Notable In-Running Highs and Lows: Black Tears 5554/1, Concertista 1.21/5, Roksana 2.466/4
Some drama at this finish this time, and bookmakers strike back, as Black Tears stays on well after the last hurdle to overhaul the Mullins hotpot just as the pair hit the line.
Tony Calvin tipped up the winner there, making it four wins from five so far, so don't miss out who has his selection in the Boodles.
Well, that was breath taking, wasn't it? Honeysuckle remains unbeaten after romping home by over six lengths.
The show goes on and we turn our attention to the Mares next, where, Concertista has been backed in all day and is now odds-on. Will she be able to make it back to back wins at the Festival? Timeform certainly think so: read their opinion here.
Betfair Starting Price and ISP: 2.29 BSP 2.111/10 ISP
Antepost High of Winner: 55.054/1
Notable In-Running Highs and Lows: Honeysuckle 2.757/4, Sharjah 3.55/2, Aspire Tower 4
An awesome display from this still-unbeaten mare, her electric turn of foot settled the race in a matter of strides between the last two flights. A good performance from Sharjah in second, meaning Tony Calvin landed both of his each-way selections in the race.
Honeysuckle? Betfair Racing (@BetfairRacing) March 16, 2021
She is a sensation. #CheltenhamWithBetfair
Next up it's the feature race of the day, the Champion Hurdle (don't forget Betfair are paying four places here). Honeysuckle is the warm order, but Tony Calvin has found two ways to back Sharjah. His column is here.
Ultima Handicap Chase
Winner: Vintage Clouds
Betfair Starting Price and ISP: 50.049/1 BSP 29.028/1 ISP
Antepost High of Winner: 44.043/1
Notable In-Running Highs and Lows: Vintage Clouds 50.049/1, Alnadam 3.02/1, Happygolucky 1.42/5
One for the romantics as veteran outsider Vintage Clouds made all the running before finding extra up the hill to win unchallenged from favourite Happygolucky, who ran on into second.
It's now time for the Ultima. And with two favourites already in, Tony Calvin fancies the next one to be first past the post as well. Happygolucky is your current 16/5 favourite. Market here.
Arkle Novices Chase
Betfair Starting Price and ISP: 1.558/15 BSP 1.444/9 ISP
Antepost High of Winner: 1312/1
Notable In-Running Highs and Lows: Shishkin 1.584/7
Not a moment's worry for favourite backers once again, as Shiskin proved far too good for the rest, cruising clear up the straight to continue Nicky Henderson's proud tradition in this race.
Shishkin, still unbeaten over fences.? Betfair Racing (@BetfairRacing) March 16, 2021
BSP of 1.55 and never a moment to worry for backers. pic.twitter.com/ahrmEScjCx
Next up...Shishkin. Will favourite backers be smiling once again after the Arkle? Last year's Supreme winner is currently 4/9.
Supreme Novices Hurdle
Winner: Appreciate It
Betfair Starting Price and ISP: 1.748/11 BSP 1.728/11 ISP
Antepost High of Winner: 180
Notable In-Running Highs and Lows: Appreciate It 1.855/6
First blood to punters as the hot favourite runs away with the opener in emphatic fashion, would've been a 1-2 for Willie Mullins had Blue Lord not unluckily fallen at the last.
The wait is almost over, as the 2021 Cheltenham Festival begins in 20 minutes, with Appreciate It the odds-on favourite to land the Supreme. The market can be found here, for any last minute bets. Will you be taking on the favourite? Our traders have gone 10/11 from 4/5.
With Extra Places available on a number of the races at the Festival each day, we have asked Kevin Blake to cast his eye over the best each-way bets and he's found two to back for Day 1. Check out his column here.
Betfair ambassador Paul Nicholls' Next Destination is the hot favourite in the 16:50 National Hunt Chase.
Here's what he had to say:
"I spent a long time on the phone on Saturday night with his owner Malcom Denmark weighing up all the options before we decided to go for the NH Chase rather than the Brown Advisory a day later.
Three miles on nearly good ground would not be ideal for Next Destination who is a stout stayer, so with Royal Pagaille heading for the Gold Cup it made sense to go for the race that suited us best on what is likely to be the slowest ground of the week.
Next Destination continues to progress, jumps soundly and will be galloping on strongly up the hill. Solid chance."
Read what else Nicholls has to say on his day one runners here.
We've got a great daily offer at Betfair - bet £20 on multiples over the course of a day and get a free fiver to use on another multi. But where to place your Festival acca? Al Dudman will be on hand every day this week with a Cheltenham Multiple and he's kicking off with a juicy priced one.
Speaking of free bets, don't miss out on the chance of a £25 one in your account by taking part in our Guess The Result competition on Twitter.
We are giving away a £25 free bet every day of the #CheltenhamFestival as Guess the Result returns.? Betfair Racing (@BetfairRacing) March 16, 2021
Simply RT & REPLY telling us who you think will be the first 2 home in order in today's Champion Hurdle.
Get guessing...#CheltenhamWithBetfair pic.twitter.com/SYYsWOJIop
If you're still unsure on what to back today, where an earth have you been? Anyway, we've put together our day one Cheat Sheet, featuring best bets from Timeform, Kevin Blake, Paul Nicholls and of course, Tony Calvin.
Let's start with all the very latest from the Festival markets, courtesy of 'Betfair' Barry Orr.
"In the Festival opener, the Supreme, the Willie Mullins-trained Appreciate It has been backed as if defeat is out of the question and is, undoubtedly, the best backed horse of the day.
"On the Exchange, he has been matched at a high of 13/8 but is now odds-on 5/6. So far there has been £2.5m matched in the race and 60% of it has been on the hotpot from Ireland.
He may be getting plenty of backing but our traders are prepared to take Honeysuckle on and they've boosted his price from 5/4 to an industry best 6/4. Tasty.
Get a free £5 bet on multiples at Cheltenham!
Stake £20 on multiples over the course of a day, and, after the bets have settled, you'll get a free £5 to use on multiples. Bets must settle before 23:59 on the day they're placed. No opt-in required, T&Cs apply.