The Cheltenham Festival opens on Tuesday, with seven contests at the Cotswolds venue beginning the most eagerly awaited four days in the racing calendar.
Constitution Hill looks a monster in the Champion Hurdle (3.30pm) and will be hard to beat for any of his rivals but, away from the feature race, our racing expert has put together a Lucky 15 for Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival.
Day 1 Cheltenham Festival Lucky 15 tips
Odds are correct at the time of publishing and are subject to change.
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Il Etait Temps can do it all over again
In last month’s Grade 1 Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival, IL ETAIT TEMPS came home the victor with nearly 10 lengths in hand over reopposing Inthepocket, with Dark Raven third and Facile Vega a long way back in fifth – while High Definition unseated his rider.
They all meet again here, and Facile Vega is favourite to bounce back. The presence of High Definition should once more ensure a generous pace and that is only going to aid Danny Mullins on Il Etait Temps if that outing five weeks ago is anything to judge by.
He perhaps has not got the credit he deserved, with his more sexy stablemate atop the betting once more, despite history suggesting he has got a mammoth task to rebound from that kind of run and win a race of this ilk next time.
Lucky 15 selection: Il Etait Temps @ 4/1 with William Hill
Happy to go again in Ultima
Last year’s winner Corach Rambler goes for glory again in the Ultima but it is 2021 runner-up HAPPYGOLUCKY that appeals more. He won soon after that at Aintree and then missed 595 days before his Rehearsal Chase third to one-time Gold Cup contender L’homme Presse in November.
That was a good run and he is now 8lb better off with Into Overdrive for a three-length defeat, while his New Year’s Day spin here over 2m 4½f is of little consequence in regards to this race. With first-time cheekpieces deployed, Kim Bailey’s charge looks a sound player back in this race.
Lucky 15 selection: Happygolucky @ 14/1 with William Hill
Love conquers all in Mares’ showdown
This is probably the best Mares’ Hurdle that has ever been run. There are two Champion Hurdle winners in the picture, Honeysuckle and Epatante, as well as reigning champion in this race Marie’s Rock. Her connections were very tempted with a go at the Stayers’ Hurdle but came back to this instead.
It is a quality race but last year’s Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle winner LOVE ENVOI could be the one that is getting overlooked.
She clearly enjoys this track and her only defeat so far came behind Brandy Love at Fairyhouse last April at the end of a hard six-race season.
She has been carefully prepared for this, with two Sandown wins, and is sure to be suited by the ease in the ground that exists going into the Festival. She is underestimated.
Lucky 15 selection: Love Envoi @ 9/1 with William Hill
Blackmore a good booking on Bad
Ben Pauling’s French hurdles winner BAD was attracting some good interest ahead of his British bow in the Boodles even before the trainer secured the services of Rachael Blackmore.
He ran well in all three starts in France and won the last of them, at Bordeaux in November, on a testing surface.
He held a Triumph Hurdle entry, but with Ireland assembling such a strong team in that race his connections have looked here instead, seeking to exploit a mark of 126.
Pauling is having a fine season and his recent strike rate is upwards of 30 per cent so this British debutant is fancied to hit the ground running.
Lucky 15 selection: Bad @ 15/2 with William Hill
All odds within this article are correct at the time of publishing and are subject to change.