Tuesday at 1:25pm nerves will be at maximum levels for everyone in National Hunt circles. We’ll be five minutes away from the famous roar at the beginning of Cheltenham Festival 2018. A race in which we tipped a 50/1 winner in Labaik to get off to the best possible start.
This year’s renewal could offer up another big price winner with the rain Cheltenham are currently having and how that will affect the ground. Our job of course is to find the winner regardless of price, so with countless hours of study done here is our take:
1.30pm Supreme Novices Hurdle
Kalashnikov – 4/1
Comes into this race as the number one British contender having won the Betfair Hurdle last month with a gutsy performance for a novice. Amy Murphy’s charge should, in a lot of shrewd judge’s minds, be far closer in the betting to the favourite than he is. If he was trained by Willie Mullins and rode by Ruby Walsh then maybe he would be favourite but he’s not.
He disappointed in his penultimate run in Sandown where his trainer stated the ground was too soft for him, but that defeat has taken away from his overall profile. He looked in trouble for a long time in the Betfair, but he rallied well and sprinted away from the last in impressive style, I would however have question marks over the form of that race.
He would be a very popular winner and at 4/1 with ComeOn! he would represent a decent price. Concerns would be that he might not be as fresh as some of his rivals which could be a crucial factor and the way he travelled in the Betfair would leave him too much to do against classier rivals.
Mengli Khan – 12/1
Last year’s winning trainer Gordon Elliott’s representative in this year’s renewal is winner of The Royal Bond and has been on an upward curve all season until running out in Leopardstown at Christmas. That race would explain his current double figure price and at them prices he looks a cracking each way bet. He is a huge horse with a high cruising speed and a very nimble jumper for his size. His trainer has stated that his run behind current favourite Getabird in Punchestown was not his true running and the fact that he also gave him weight that day makes him a live contender.
Summerville Boy – 9/1
Another interesting contender having been the only horse to beat Kalashnikov under rules at Sandown on his last run. He’s another double figure price and will relish the forecast ground so no surprise to see him run a big race.
Paloma Blue – 14/1
Is another who will probably attract a lot of money on the day due to his connections and his form behind the brilliant Samcro. A strong traveller who could be one of the last off the bridle he would be a decent in running lay as I feel he’s the strongest of finishers and could paddle a little coming up the hill.
Our tip: Getabird – 7/4 (favourite)
That leaves us with Getabird the favourite for this year’s race. After spending a lot of time trying to find someone to beat him at a bigger price I just kept coming back to Willie Mullins representative. He should be available at bigger than 2/1 on the morning of the race due to most people trying to oppose him because of the amount of short price favourites on the day.
One thing about Getabird is, its only price that makes people oppose him, he has done nothing wrong on the racecourse so far, impressive as a bumper horse and exciting so far in his two hurdle starts he ticks a lot of boxes. Connections thought him a stayer that might lack a turn of foot but his impressive defeat of Mengli Khan told a different story. He looks to have the speed and staying power that Supreme winners need, the ground getting soft will only help him and when you look at the top horses in the betting and their respective jockeys and trainers Getabird’s connections give him an outstanding profile.
Ruby on board in a rapid two-mile hurdle race is worth a few extra pounds for any horse and with Willie stating that he had left a bit to work on from the Punchestown run it ticks too many boxes to ignore. Getabird is our selection to get us off to another flyer in this year’s Supreme Novices Hurdle.
Having hopefully got off to a wining start, we move on to the Arkle. A race that has now only five runners yet could be one of the standouts of the festival. The top three in the betting really look like serving up a brilliant an intriguing battle.
Brain Power – 15/2
Could serve up a surprise if the others go too hard up front but with an unseat and a fall in two of his three chase starts he represents a leap of faith for his backers and fans.
Footpad – 5/4
Currently the short price favourite for the race and rightly so, he’s been as impressive a novice chaser as you could hope to see. Willie Mullins backs that theory up stating he’s as good a novice as he’s seen jump. His jumping has been excellent, and his turn of foot is not in question as he finished fourth in last years Champion Hurdle. He’s beaten the current second favourite already this year so he it’s very hard to find any holes in him.
However, sometimes in this game I’ve learned that you have to go with your gut and on this occasion, I have a nagging doubt that he might just get turned over by a horse who could be something special but more of that later.
Petit Mouchoir – 3/1
Is second favourite, although a better hurdler than Footpad it looks as if the tables have turned over fences so far. That might not be the case though as he had a set back after his first start this season and when the pair met he hit the first two fences very hard and did well to finish so close in the end. His trainer had said before the race that he wasn’t 100% fit and he would be fitter at Cheltenham so plenty of reasons for backers to think he’ll turn the tables. It could well happen but maybe he’ll beat Footpad and still finish second.
Our tip: Saint Calvados – 3/1
Could just be the fly in the ointment of the two more fancied runners. A brilliant front running sort who has been just as impressive as any novice this season. He was such a tempting bet already for this race when the ground was supposed to be faster than ideal for Harry Whittington’s star but with the ground now swinging in his favour, he’s irresistible at 3/1.
His jumping is a thing of beauty to watch, he attacks his fences and is very economical in the air. His high knee action means that soft ground looks ideal and he does have several similarities to 2015 Arkle winner Un De Sceaux. His round of jumping in Warwick where he made 158 rated chaser North Hill Harvey look a lowly handicapper was brilliant viewing. He could get his own way up front with the other two happy to sit in behind and pick him up on the run in but if his jumping is as brilliant as it has been he might just be able to pull away up the hill unchallenged.
We will have the rest of our tips for day one on our twitter feed but hopefully Getabird and Saint Calvados will get us off to a winning start. Best of luck to all on day one and we’ll circle the wagons and get ready for day two come Tuesday evening.