The opening day of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival sees some fantastic racing on show. There are a number of feature races on the card with the highlight being the Champion Hurdle where we get to see the best 2m hurdlers in racing battling it out.
The support card on Tuesday isn’t too shabby either as we have the Supreme Novices Hurdle, the Arkle and the Mares Hurdle among other races. We’ve picked out bets in two of those races and we’ll begin a look at them with the main race.
15.30 Cheltenham: Champion Hurdle
The big race of the day for the speedsters over the small obstacles, it’s the 2 mile Champion Hurdle where we see the queen of hurdling, Honeysuckle, aiming to repeat her success of 12 months ago. What more can be said about this superstar; she’s 14 from 14 over hurdles & quite honestly, looks hard to oppose but I’m not one for backing odds on shots so will look to find value elsewhere. Appreciate It is her nearest market rival after scooting up in superb fashion in last year’s Supreme but that was the last time she raced & surely that’s a major worry. If anyone can get one ready, it’s Willie Mullins but it’d be a remarkable training achievement in a race of this magnitude & odds of 7/2 appear skinny in the extreme.
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It’s 10/1 bar the pair with Teahupoo next in the market. He’s 6 from 7 in his career & 3 from 3 this season but he’s yet to race at the very top level so whilst he could be anything, I’m against him. Epatante won this in 2019 & ran well to finish 3rd last year but there are more progressive types in the field so she’s another to oppose. It would be a fairytale if Tommys Oscar was in the shake up but I just don’t think he’s good enough whilst Adagio loves Cheltenham so could run into a place. The other at huge odds who may sneak into the places is Saint Roi for Mark Walsh & Willie Mullins; he’s run well here before, winning the County in 2020.
Honeysuckle aside, I feel this is really open & the one I like at current odds is the 5 year old Zanahiyr. He might not have the unblemished record of some of his rivals but in the company he’s kept, a hurdles record of 4 wins & 4 seconds from 9 starts is still credible. He was 4th in last year’s Triumph after going off favourite but looked to be outpaced at a crucial point & then closed in all the way to the line. This race will be run at a furious gallop, I’d imagine, & that should suit the selection. Since then, he’s won a Grade 2 & finished second on his other 4 starts, all in Grade 1 company. However, he’s been keeping some pretty good company; second twice to Sharjah who was 2nd in this race last year & has only been beaten off 1 horse in the last 2 years, that being Honeysuckle. The 2nd of those 2 defeats was by just a neck off level weights & I’d argue that form is the best this season on offer here, bar that of the favourite. On his last start, he was actually 2nd to Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion after blundering the first badly. I’m not sure he can make up the 6 lengths on the winner but I do think he can again give her the most to do.
Back Zanahiyr (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 26.00 William Hill BOG (⅕ odds 1-3)
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Back Zanahiyr (e/w) in the without Honeysuckle market for a 1/10 stake at 11.00 BetVictor (⅕ odds 1-3)
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