Going Green at Cheltenham 2024: Pick of the Irish Contenders on Day One

Cheltenham 2024: Pick of the Irish Contenders on Day One

As the build-up to Cheltenham 2024 begins to reach a fever pitch, the British trainers may be forgiven for shaking in their boots - or at least feeling a slight tremor of dread. Much as the likes of Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, and Dan Skelton covet the biggest prizes, recent evidence suggests that they may be up against it in many races, with the Irish-trained runners appearing to hold the upper hand.

Cheltenham 2023 was just the latest installation in the series of Irish dominance at Britain’s biggest jumps meeting, with no fewer than 18 of the 28 prizes on offer heading away from Prestbury Park on a ferry across the Irish Sea. With little sign of a change in where the power lies on the National Hunt scene, here, using analysis presented by NewBettingSites.uk, we will take a green-tinted view of the opening day – ruling out all British-based runners and making our selections from the remaining Irish challengers.

Tuesday 1:30 - Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Whenever Willie Mullins says a horse “has it all” it probably pays to take notice. We are happy to take the Cheltenham maestro at his word and will be backing the impressive Leopardstown Grade 1 winner, Ballyburn, wherever he shows up at the Festival.

As the only horse to beat Ballyburn this season, it also makes sense to have the Gordon Elliott-trained Firefox on our side. Disappointing last time out over 2m4f, he is expected to fare much better stepping back down in trip.

  • Top Tip - Ballyburn @ 5/4 with BetUK
  • Next Best - Firefox @ 7/1 with BetMGM

Tuesday 2:10 – My Pension Expert Arkle Challenge Trophy

Marine Nationale is another who needs to be forgiven a subpar effort last time out, but the tacky ground at Leopardstown looked a legitimate excuse that day, and he had been trading at odds-on for this race before that outing. As such, the 9/4 is hard to pass up about a horse who was so impressive in landing the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last season.

For an each-way punt, take a chance on another runner with solid Festival form – the 2022 Triumph Hurdle winner, Qulixios. Two from three over fences, stepping up in trip didn’t work out, but a strong pace at this trip ought to suit ideally.

  • Top Tip - Marine Nationale @ 9/4 with Spreadex
  • Next Best - Quilixios @ 10/1 with BetUK

Tuesday 2:50 – Ultima Handicap Chase

Gordon Elliott’s The Goffer ran a cracker to finish fourth in this last year, with only the talented trio of Corach Rambler, Fastorslow, and Monbeg Genius in front of him. He’s 2lbs lower this time, with a nice racing weight of 11st2lb, and is fancied to be in the mix once again.

At a bigger price, we also like the look of Fakir D’Alene. Also hailing from the Elliott operation, this one ran a mighty race at the 2023 meeting, when fourth in a gruelling edition of the Kim Muir. He’s also in that race this time, but this slightly shorter trip may prove ideal off a 1lb lower mark than in 2023.

  • Top Tip - The Goffer @ 8/1 with BetUK
  • Next Best - Fakir D’Alene @ 28/1 with BetUK

Tuesday 3:30 – Unibet Champion Hurdle

With the late doubts surrounding the participation of Constitution Hill, this year’s Champion Hurdle may be blown wide open. The clear pick of the Irish challengers is the 2023 runner-up, State Man. Eight times a winner in Grade 1 company, he has looked magnificent this season and is the obvious choice.

Of the others, Gordon Elliott’s Irish Point stands out as one who may be well suited to this test. The six-year-old is also in the Stayers Hurdle but may be kept away from stablemate Teahupoo to take a shot at this. A dual winner at around this trip, he was only beaten a head by Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Marine Nationale in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse, and if there is to be a surprise, he may be the most likely to cause it.

  • Top Tip - State Man @ 4/7 with BetGoodwin
  • Next Best - Irish Point @ 6/1 with BetGoodwin

Tuesday 4:10 – Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle

Having sent out the runner-up three times in the past five years, Willie Mullins will be itching to go one better this year. In Lossiemouth, he may have the mare to do it. An impressive winner of the 2023 Triumph Hurdle, she steps up to this trip for the first time, but Mullins rarely gets it wrong in that regard, and she may have too much class for these rivals.

For an each-way bet, side with Tellmesomethinggirl, who goes for last year's winning trainer and owner combo of Henry De Bromhead and Kenny Alexander. Having won the Mares Novice event in 2021, she was travelling well when brought down in the 2022 edition of this and may give the favourite most to do.

  • Top Tip - Lossiemouth @ 8/15 with BetUK
  • Next Best - Tellmesomethinggirl @ 20/1 with Livescorebet

Tuesday 4:50 – Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

Batman Girac is another strong chance for the Willie Mullins yard in this but must concede weight to a number of unexposed rivals, which may leave him vulnerable. The pick of those lower down the weights is the Joseph O’Brien representative, Lark In The Mornin. Touted as a Triumph Hurdle contender earlier in the season, he looks set to tackle this easier assignment and caught the eye when staying on for third following a troubled passage last time out at Punchestown.

When looking at the each-way options, it’s tough to split the Mullins duo of Miss Manzor and Karia Des Blaises, who filled first and second positions at Fairyhouse on their most recent start. Of the two, Karla Des Blaises may be more open to improvement on only her fifth career start and is an attractive price to hit the frame.

  • Top Tip - Lark In The Mornin @ 5/1 with BetUK
  • Next Best - Karia Des Blaies @ 20/1 with BetGoodwin

Tuesday 5:30 – National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Chase

Corbetts Cross rates a major threat for the shrewd Emmet Mullins but is passed over in favour of the Willie Mullins-trained Embassy Gardens. Arriving seeking a hattrick, this eight-year-old looks just the sort of out-and-out galloper who should be well suited by this stamina-sapping affair.

Corbetts Cross likely won’t be far away but he doesn’t offer much in the way of each way value. Take a chance instead on Salvador Ziggy from the Gordon Elliott operation. A solid second in the Kerry National, he has been deliberately kept fresh for a shot at this and can hit the frame.

  • Top Tip - Embassy Gardens @ 2/1 with BetGoodwin
  • Next Best - Salvador Ziggy @ 5/1 with BetUK

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