Sporting Life: Cheltenham Festival Day One

The Cheltenham Festival begins today with seven races kicking off one of the sport’s flagship weeks of the year. 

Sporting Life brought in host Ben Linfoot, along with David Johnson from sports data company Timeform and Matt Brocklebank from Sporting Life to preview day one of Cheltenham.

The Supreme Novices Hurdle is the opening race at 13:30 and Brocklebank believes that Mighty Potter stands a good chance to win it all. 

“Confidence is really growing in this horse,” said Brocklebank. 

“No doubt there’s some really good horses in here, but I think Mighty Potter’s probably the one that’s being underestimated. I think what we’ve got in him is a grade one winner already.”

SportingLife sponsor the next race of the day at 14:10 with the ‘SportingLife Arkle Challenge’. Edwardstone is a strong favourite but Brocklebank highlighted Coeur Sublime with an outside shot, with Johnson echoing the same sentiment. 

“The key take-outs for me are that Coeur Sublime is pretty much as good a hurdler as what Blue Lord and Edwardstone were,” remarked Johnson. 

“He just hasn’t had quite the same opportunity to show that same level of form over fences. He might be a little bit of a weak finisher, there is a history of that.  But at the prices, I’m prepared to hope that its all going to come right for him.”

The 14:50 Ultimate Handicap is a race which features a lot more horses than the previous two races. Brocklebank and Johnson looked at some of the runners with large odds, tipping Doctor Duffy and Ben Dundee respectively. 

The feature race of day one is the ‘Unibet Champion Hurdle’ and the overwhelming favourite heading into the race is the hugely popular Honeysuckle

“She’s the clear standard on form,” said Johnson. 

“The only way she isn’t going to win this is perhaps as if she doesn’t give a run-in. I guess you could argue she does have a few rivals in there that do bring a different narrative.”

Although being a clear favourite, Honeysuckle is up against fresh opposition, one of those being the Willie Mullins trained Appreciate It. Despite being out for over a year, Brocklebank believes you can’t hold that against the horse. 

“I think if anything, if Willie wanted a clear run with the horse… he would have got a clear prep into him,” states Brocklebank. 

“He was much the best of those novice hurdlers (last year), he’s got a serious future ahead of him if he’s going to come here and beat Honeysuckle.”

The panel discuss the rest of the races from day one of what is expected to be an exciting first day of racing at Cheltenham.