Through The Card: The Timeform view on every race on day one of the Festival
Timeform run through the card at Cheltenham on Day One of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival...
"...he's looked talented in his two starts for Joseph O'Brien so far, and the 8 lb age allowance looks significant for a runner who looks particularly forward for his age."
Timeform on Fakir d'Oudairies
13:30 - This year's renewal of the Supreme is particularly wide open, to the point that it still remains to be seen at the time of writing this morning who will start the race as favourite. There are several candidates worthy of the accolade, and considering how open the race is, it looks worth siding with two against the field, namely AL DANCER (1) and FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES (18). The former arrives here having won the Betfair Hurdle, a race which has become a key indicator for this in recent years, and is difficult to fault considering he sets the standard on that with more improvement likely. Fakir d'Oudairies is an interesting candidate, too, considering he's still only a four-year-old. The fact that J.P. McManus already has the favourite for the Triumph in Sir Erec is perhaps the reason why he's here, but he's looked talented in his two starts for Joseph O'Brien so far, and the 8 lb age allowance looks significant for a runner who looks particularly forward for his age.
14:10 - Like the Supreme 40 minutes earlier, this looks particularly wide-open, though the one who makes plenty of appeal is GLEN FORSA (4). Not many of these stand out as bona fide Grade 1 performers on what they've shown so far, but Glen Forsa's effort to defeat Kalashnikov by 19 lengths in last month's re-routed Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Sandown was certainly down that avenue. He's a terrific jumper for a novice, something which will play into his hand this afternoon, and it isn't difficult to envisage him getting into a good rhythm up front. The Irish raider Duc des Genievres got off the mark in great style at Gowran Park last month and is feared on the back of that, while Lalor and Paloma Blue are two more to consider.
14:50 - A highly competitive renewal of the Ultima, as you'd expect, in which it's worth taking two against the field. The first of those is MINELLA ROCCO (4), who appeals as being particularly well-handicapped. He's still only a nine-year-old, which is perhaps surprising considering how long he's been around, and he looks well-treated off his current mark based on his effort to finish second in the 2017 Gold Cup. He's entitled to have needed both of his runs so far this season, and considering he now has cheekpieces and a tongue tie combined for the first time since that Gold Cup run, he's chanced to return to form. At a price, it's also worth siding with the top weight, LAKE VIEW LAD (1), who has run really well in two starts since being bought by Trevor Hemmings, winning a competitive handicap at Newcastle in December, before following up in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby later that month. His mark is perhaps too high for next month's Grand National, but it isn't out of the question that he can feature here, particularly if this turns into a strong test of stamina as it is expected to, and if it indeed does, there won't be many staying on stronger at the line.
15:30 - A fascinating renewal of the Champion Hurdle, in which all eyes will rightly be on Buveur d'Air, as he bids to become just the sixth horse in history to win this race three times. His claims are solid considering he has dominated the division over the last two years, but chinks have started to appear in the armour of late, particularly when suffering a shock defeat at Kempton over Christmas, and he's very well matched with APPLE'S JADE (8) on form. She's been in scintillating form so far this season, winning her four starts (three of which were in Grade 1 company) by a combined total of 73 lengths, and her 7 lb sex allowance tips the scales overwhelmingly in her favour. Fellow mare Laurina is a big threat, too, though this is the first time she will face the boys and as such she has something to prove.
16:10 - It's difficult to see past last year's winner, BENIE DES DIEUX (1). She was a brilliant winner of this race last year, and the defections of Apple's Jade and Laurina to the Champion Hurdle make her task far easier. The fact we haven't seen her since winning the Punchestown equivalent of this last April isn't too much of a concern, either, considering Willie Mullins campaigned Quevega so similarly to win six straight renewals. The presence of Limini and Stormy Ireland means there's every chance Mullins will have a 1-2-3, though Mia's Storm and Lady Buttons both have creditable place claims.
16:50 - While a favourite hasn't won this since 2012, the winner of the Close Brothers is regularly well-found in the market, and the one who's catching the eye is the Joseph O'Brien trained TOWER BRIDGE (7). He's yet to win in three starts over fences, but was a useful, Grade 1-winning novice hurdler last season, and he got close to that form when second behind Duc des Genievres at Gowran Park last time. He could get a lovely form boost if that rival runs well in the Arkle, but either way, he'll be spot on for that run, and his opening handicap mark is an attractive one, so he shades the vote in whats a wide open affair. A Plus Tard, Riders Onthe Storm and Highway One O One are three more to consider.
17:30 - This year's renewal of the National Hunt Chase looks a good one, and it's hard to ignore the claims of OK CORRAL (13), considering that this seems to have been the plan for him for some time. The booking of top amateur Derek O'Connor when winning a listed contest at Warwick in good style in January was a big clue that this was the plan at the Festival, and he's unlikely to have any trouble at all with the four mile trip. He'd have strong claims in the RSA, so the fact he's here makes him difficult to ignore for his powerful connections. Ballyward is another with big claims - the form of his win at Naas keeps getting better and better - and he's respected, while Impulsive Star is interesting at a price.
Minimum Bet Guarantee
Betfair's 'minimum bet guarantee' on all races in the UK and Ireland - which means all customers are able to bet to win a minimum of £500 – now covers all races from the Cheltenham Festival 2019, including antepost markets. T&Cs apply.
13:30 - 1, 18
14:10 - 4
14:50 - 4, 1
15:30 - 8
16:10 - 1
16:50 - 7