Through The Card: Cheltenham Festival, Day 1

Cheltenham crowd
The Champion Hurdle is the feature race on Day 1 of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival

Timeform take you through the card on Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday...

"...he looks a strong contender for a yard that know what it takes to win this race..."

Timeform on Asterion Forlonge

13:30 - This looks another brilliant renewal of the Supreme, and the one that stands out is the Willie Mullins-trained ASTERION FORLONGE (3). He only made his debut over hurdles in January, but he has quickly made up into one of the top novices around, landing a Grade 1 at Leopardstown last month on just his second start in this sphere. His tendency to jump right at his hurdles is a slight concern, but there in no denying his ability, and he looks a strong contender for a yard that know what it takes to win this race. At a bigger price, it could also be worth keeping EDWARDSTONE (7) on side, too. He beat Fiddlerontheroof on his hurdling debut and went on to get the better of Harry Senior on his next start, so his form stacks up, and he wasn't suited by the way the race developed at Haydock last time. The likely strong pace he will get her should ensure he settles better and it would be no surprise were he to outrun his odds.

14:10 - An open renewal of the Arkle, but it is hard to pick holes in NOTEBOOK (7), who has showed the best form in this division by winning all four of his starts this season. Admittedly, his temperament before his latest win at Leopardstown is something of a concern (he also played up before the Ballymore at this meeting last year), but connections have stated he will wear ear plugs which should help. Notebook's jumping is one of his best attributes, and he showed a tenacity when beating Cash Back last time that will stand him in good stead, and it is hard to see him out of the first three in this field.

14:50 - A typically competitive handicap, but VINNDICATION (1) looks attractively weighted, and is very much unexposed over staying distances. He was a very smart novice last season, winning his first two starts over fences, and finished fifth behind Defi du Seuil in the JLT Novices' Chase at this meeting. Vinndication made his opening handicap mark look very lenient on his return from eight months off at Ascot in November, and that race has worked out well, so a subsequent 8 lb rise could prove lenient. Admittedly, there is room for improvement in his jumping, but he has likely been saved for this and he holds leading claims.

15:30 - A big field is set to go to post for the Champion Hurdle and there are several horses you can make a strong case for. It is PENTLAND HILLS (12) who tops the shortlist, though. He was a good winner of the Triumph Hurdle at this meeting last year, and has shaped much better than the bare result on both starts this season. He has since undergone a breathing operation, which will help his finishing effort, and he is one of only a few in this field that we haven't seen the best from yet. His stablemate EPATANTE (17) was very impressive in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton last time, and also has to be supported. She flopped at this meeting last year, but looks an improved performer this time around, and is well worth another chance.

16:10 - This is between too high-class mares in the shape of BENIE DES DIEUX (1) and Honeysuckle. Ready preference, however, is for the former, who was unlucky not to win this race (for the second year running) 12 months ago, travelling smoothly and around four lengths to the good when falling at the last. She has won all three of her starts since, looking seriously impressive when beating Penhill by 21 lengths in the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran last time. Honeysuckle will surely prove a potent threat, but whether she is on the same level as Benie des Dieux remains to be seen.

16:50 - This race was won in devastating fashion by A Plus Tard last year and, while there perhaps isn't a horse of that one's quality, it still looks a good renewal of this novice handicap. One that stands out as being potentially well handicapped is GALVIN (10), who has shaped well behind some smart types the last twice. There is a feeling that he has been ridden with an eye to the future, and he wasn't disgraced in the Ballymore last season, so has Cheltenham Festival experience. It would be no surprise were he to go close for a yard that know how to ready one for this meeting. ESPOIR DE GUYE (3) is another who looks ahead of his mark. He could hardly have done it any easier in a handicap at Ascot last time and, while it is a slight concern he missed his intended next start in January after suffering a panic attack in the horsebox, he undoubtedly remains with the potential for better, so also needs keeping on side.

17:30 - Not the deepest renewal of this race and the favourite Carefully Selected looks vulnerable. It therefore could be worth siding with SPRINGFIELD FOX (13), who has made an impressive start over fences. Unbeaten in points, it was always likely he was going to make up into a much better chaser than hurdler, and the manner of his 17-length win at Exeter last time marks him down as one to keep on the right side. Springfield Fox should also be well suited by the step up to this marathon trip and there are lots to like about his chances.


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