Alex Hammond’s Tip of the Day: Sky Sport’s Alex Hammond provides a race-by-race guide to day one at the Cheltenham Festival. Cheltenham free bet if you lose
SKY BET SUPREME
The race that really gets the party started. The question is: will it start it with a bang?
At the time of writing, running plans are up in the air for a couple of the entries including Neon Wolf; a horse I’ll be backing whether he runs here or in the Neptune.
In the run up to the festival, the chat has all been about Melon, but although he won his maiden hurdle doing handsprings, I’m happy enough to take him on despite the fact he is the Willie Mullins buzz horse.
In fact, of the Mullins entries, I’m keen on Bunk Off Early who was way too keen in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle won by stablemate Bacardys, but he still ran well to finish second. The drop back to two miles will be ideal for him and he is better value at 6/1 with Sky Bet.
There are cases to be made for quite a few of the horses entered and it looks a quality renewal; what a race to start to four-day spectacular. Please let Harry Fry run Neon Wolf in the Neptune and not in this opening race. Don’t forget that Sky Bet are offering money back as a free bet if you lose on the first race every day at Cheltenham.
Altior…over and out!
ULTIMA HANDICAP CHASE
Tom George has kept his string in great form and his Singlefarmpayment can run well off a decent weight.
By all accounts, this horse has taken some getting to know by George since he joined him from Tom Lacey, but they appear to have got to the bottom of him now and were rewarded with a win at this track on New Year’s Day.
He was in the process of running a big race when brought down back at Prestbury Park at the end of January and runs off the same mark on Tuesday. He’s 8/1 with Sky Bet.
I’ve been flying the Buveur D’Air flag for some time and now isn’t the time to change my mind. It’s disappointing that the race is missing some of its stars, but it makes for a competitive contest and Nicky Henderson’s six year old has reverted from chasing with style.
He is quick, slick and talented and should run a big race. I have one proviso: he likes soft ground, so I hope it’s soft enough for him. As you know, I love Vroum Vroum Mag and if Willie Mullins decides to let her take her chance here she should run a big race if anything like up to her best. Buveur D’Air is 4/1 with Sky Bet and Vroum Vroum is at 7s.
This has to be Limini‘s race for the taking. I’m sure Vroum Vroum will run in the Champion and the fact Limini wasn’t supplemented for that race means she is a short price to win this one. She’s currently 5/4 favourite.
I love the four miler and it invariably throws up some very smart young chasers. A few horses keep being bandied around for this, one of which is David Pipe’s Champers On Ice. Currently an 8/1 shot with Sky Bet, he has plenty in his favour if they go this route with him.
You could certainly do worse than back this horse, who has only run nine times in his life and is yet to be tested over a trip this far. He was beaten by an exciting young horse called American (trainer Harry Fry could be set for a good week) at Warwick on his penultimate start and that was no disgrace.
American would be a horse to keep on side if he turns up in the RSA and if the ground has enough dig in it as he is fragile and prefers cut in the ground. Champers On Ice ran a funny race at Cheltenham last time out, but he was staying on and he should find improvement for this marathon trip.
CLOSE BROTHERS NOVICES’ HANDICAP CHASE
A really competitive tight handicap, but I’m sticking with Dan Skelton’s Value At Risk.
There should be enough ease in the ground for him to run well and he’s a horse that has gone well fresh in the past, so I’m not concerned that he hasn’t run since October.
He has got his act together now at his obstacles having made a sketchy start to his chasing career, he’s in good hands and off his current mark could be well handicapped. He’s 8/1 with Sky Bet.
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