Cheltenham Festival day one tips: Shishkin, Esprit Du Large, Epatante, Espoir De Guye, Ravenhill, Springfield Fox

Here are our best bets for an excellent opening card at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. Best of luck with everything you back throughout the week.

2m½f  (2m87y) (Old) Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)  (Class 1) (4yo+)

We only put up two ante-post selections for this year’s Cheltenham and both run in the opener. Unfortunately, Chantry House was advised for the wrong race but SHISHKIN is now 11/4 after going up at 16/1. There are shades of Altior about Shishkin as he’s built like a chaser, jumps well and finishes his races incredibly strongly, and I do think he’s the most likely winner of the Supreme. Obviously I think Chantry House has a fantastic chance as well, given I thought he could beat Envoi Allen in the Ballymore, but we’re not going in again. Joel

1pt win Shishkin @16/1, 13:30 Cheltenham, Tuesday (advised ante-post)

2m  (1m7f199y) (Old) Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)  (Class 1) (5yo+)

There’s no obvious star but this is a really good betting heat, and a solid case could be made for most. The market favours the Irish form but I’m not so sure, and you’re getting a lot of very backable prices on the British-trained runners. I can’t help but be drawn to the 111111 form figures of the mare Maire Banrigh, but she has crept in in price and might not like the softer ground, so that’s cooled my interest. It’s close between her and ESPRIT DU LARGE, who really impressed when winning in Grade 1 company at Sandown. The the son of up-and-coming sire No Risk At All is proven on slower ground and is as good a jumper as anything in this field, so I’d make him a very live chance. We know he stays well and his ability to attack his fences and travel at pace will really suit an end-to-end gallop, which we are likely to get from the Irish horses. Joel

1pt win Esprit Du Large @12/1, 14:10 Cheltenham, Tuesday

2m½f  (2m87y) (Old) Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1)  (Class 1) (4yo+)

It’s easy to say this season’s Champion Hurdle is wide open, but if it were a handicap the favourite EPATANTE would be 3lb well-in with Sharjah, who doesn’t get his ground, and 6lb or more with the rest of the field, courtesy of her mares’ allowance. She jumps like a Champion Hurdler, changes gear like a Champion Hurdler, and looked every inch a Champion Hurdler when travelling all over her rivals before quickening away to land the Christmas Hurdle. There is concern in her price because she ran no sort of race last year in the Mares’ Novices Hurdle, but she had plenty of excuses at the time and has looked the real deal ever since. We know softer ground isn’t an issue, and any stamina doubts I had were put aside as her win at Christmas was on desperate ground and rode like a staying contest. My only real concern is her two wins this season were at flat tracks, but she looks the best horse in this race and it’s not enough to put me off. Joel

2pts win Epatante @7/2, 15:30 Cheltenham, Tuesday

2m 4f (2m4f44y) Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed Race) (Class 1) (5yo+)

The market is wide-open for the Northern Trust Novice Chase Handicap for horses rated below 145. There are plenty with chances, but we are drawn to the Venetia Williams entry, ESPOIR DE GUYE, who has looked a really exciting chaser in prospect with his two victories in three starts this season. Both of those victories have been very comfortable and raced on soft or heavy going over this trip. His one defeat to Simply The Betts, rates very solid form indeed. The rain is coming, and the more the merrier for this lad who get into this off a mark of 144. Espoir De Guye was pulled out of a race earlier in the year, where he would have been sent off favourite, and a good run would have seen him entered in the Marsh Novices. He’s not in the Grade 1, he’s in a handicap and of significant interest despite a 14lbs rise. Paul

1pt each-way Espoir De Guye @17/2, 16:50 Cheltenham, Tuesday (1-5 places, 1/5 odds)

3m 6f (3m5f201y) National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) (Class 1) (5yo+)

It’s a weak looking renewal of the National Hunt Chase, which has been reduced by 2f in distance. It will still be an attritonal test and Carefully Selected is an obvious favourite. But his jumping isn’t the slickest and he’s worth taking on. SPRINGFIELD FOX has been hugely impressive for Tom George, I expect him to set a ferocious gallop which may catch one or two of them out. Springfield Fox can extend his winning record over larger obstacles to six in a row having won three point-to-points in succession alongside his first two starts over fences. The soft ground will be in his favour and he looks a big improver. It’s also worth a bet on JJ Codd’s mount, RAVENHILL, who could be an Irish National horse for the future. He races from off the pace, which can often be an advantage in this stamina-sapping affair. Ravenhill fell when going well in the Troytown Handicap last time out which was prior to him going close to claiming the Kerry National in September, finishing a close second to Poker Party having placed in 5th in the Galway Plate last July. He remains unexposed over marathon distances and should be bang there if getting the trip. Paul

1pt win Ravenhill @6/1, 1pt win Springfield Fox @7/1, 17:30 Cheltenham, Tuesday

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