Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Runners & Riders – The Cheltenham Festival 2023, Day 1

‘The Steeple Times’ examines the tipsters’ selections and offers options for the first day of the Cheltenham Festival 2023 including a 66/1 outsider

Today marks the beginning of what the Irish laud as “the greatest show on the turf” that is the Cheltenham Festival and with it comes a week when the weather is expected to be dominated by “sunny intervals” and ground that is “on the softer side of good.” Around 220,000 pints of Guinness will be downed also and the famous ‘Cheltenham ROAR’ will reverberate across Gloucestershire and beyond.


On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Ian Renton of the Jockey Club was interviewed about the prospects for the week. Renton shared that the value of the four-day event to the local economy has been analysed as being at around £274 million ($333 million, €311 million or درهم1.2 billion) and that white fences instead of yellow will be used for the first time. This, he argued, would “improve jumping” and equally, he added, the racecourse’s decision to reduce visitor numbers from 280,000 to 250,000 per day would “improve each day for each and every punter.”


Today, on the first day of the festival, the big event is the Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy at 3.30pm. It will likely be dominated by Constitution Hill – an “F1 engine horse with Volvo reliability” ridden by Nico de Boinville and trained by Nicky Henderson – and given the current odds of 1/3, this is a two-place race perhaps best just watched though we’ve used a ‘free bet’ on the Twiston-Davies double I Like To Move It at 22/1 as an each way in the two place 2m 87y contest.


Whilst The Steeple Times did not provide published tips for the 2022 festival, we did find a few winners in 2021. Today, we return and instead suggest EACH WAY BETS in some of the more open of the seven races with our selections being:


1.30pm Cheltenham – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) – 2m 87y, 8 hurdles (14 runners, Ladbrokes paying 4 places)

Whilst the widely backed favourite is the “high-class” Paul Townend – W. P. Mullins combo Facile Vega at 2/1, those wishing to take a small punt should look at the respected Harry Cobden – Paul Nicholls combo Tahmuras at 11/1 (backed by West Country, Daily Mail ‘Peter Scudamore’).

Racing Post remarks: “Won the Grade 1 Tolworth and the stiff finish up the hill should be right up his street.”


At The Races observes: “UK hopes appear to rest with the Paul Nicholls-trained Tahmuras, who ticks a key box for stats fans, as he arrives on the back of a ready win in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle last time out.”


Also in the same race, for those wishing to take more of a punt, we are liking The Sun’s ‘Fiver Flutter’ option, the J. J. Slevin – Joseph Patrick O’Brien combo High Definition at 18/1 (Daily Express, Daily Mail ‘Marcus Townend’).

The Sun shares: “Was an impressive winner on hurdles debut at Leopardstown and can bounce back from unseating there last time out.”


Racing Post less enthusiastic: “Classy on the Flat; plenty of potential in this code but there’s a worry about his jumping.”


Our final option is the Davy Russell – Gordon Elliott ‘Irish raider’ outsider combo Doctor Bravo at an even punchier 25/1.

Racing Post remarks: “Behind 2 class acts in the Red Mills; this very lightly raced 6yo could have more to offer.”


2.10pm Cheltenham – Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) – 1m 7f 199y, 13 fences (9 runners, 3 places)

Most tipsters are going with the Paul Townend – W. P. Mullins combo El Fabiolo at 5/4, but given there was only a neck between him and Jonbon in the Top Novices’ Hurdle last season, we’re giving the latter the vote at 33/20 (LAMBOURN, The Times, TOPSPEED, Daily Express, The Star, Daily Record, Sporting Life, Daily Mail ‘Gimcrack,’ ‘Lizzie Kelly’ and ‘Mick Fitzgerald’, At The Races ‘Watch Out For’).

Racing Post remarks: “Jonbon is respected but EL FABIOLO’s convincing Leopardstown success is very strong form and he’s taken to extend his winning run… Jonbon is, however, a high-class hurdler, unbeaten in three novice chases; jumps well; unlikely to be far away.”


Daily Mail muses: “JONBON beat El Fabiolo over hurdles at Aintree last spring and has done little wrong over fences, even if he was more workmanlike than brilliant at Warwick last time.”


At The Races adds: “Jonbon arrives with an unbeaten record over fences and bids to give his trainer a record eighth victory in the contest. His sole defeat over obstacles came at the hands of stable companion, and an unstoppable force, in Constitution Hill in the Supreme 12 months ago before showing a different side to him when showing real battling qualities against EL FABIOLO at Aintree. A smooth winner on both his chasing debut at Warwick and the Henry VIII at Sandown, the seven-year-old was given a fright by an inferior rival in the Kingmaker and although expected to be a lot sharper on this occasion, the rival he defeated at Aintree is taken to reverse the form.


Also in the same race, Mark Walsh – W. P. Mullins combo Saint Roi at 8/1 (The Sun ‘Fiver Flutter’, Daily Telegraph).

The Sun ‘Fiver Flutter’ shares: “Ignore his last run as he looked top-class when winning a Grade 1 at Leopardstown on Boxing Day. He can cash in should either El Fabiolo or Jonbon come up short.”


Daily Mail adds: “Saint Roi crashed out of the Irish Arkle but could pick up some pieces late on.”


At The Races observes: “Saint Roi, who unseated behind the selection at the Dublin Racing Festival, will potentially be ridden to pick up the pieces and isn’t one to discount lightly, especially with his past form at this meeting being a County Hurdle winner and having placed in last year’s Champion Hurdle.”


Racing Post less than enthusiastic: “Winner at Leopardstown before unseating rider there last time; recent record is just 1-11.”


Turning to a total wildcard, we’re looking at a small bet on the Sean O’Keeffe – W. P. Mullions combo Ha D’Or at 66/1 down from 80/1 earlier.

Racing Post concludes: “Already better over fences than hurdles but plenty to find on form with the market leaders… Free-going type (always wears a hood) who flattered to deceive several times over hurdles (one win from seven attempts); he’s the sort to make a better chaser and his second of four in a Grade 3 at Navan (2m, good to yielding) ten days ago was creditable, but as things stand he has plenty to find on form with the market leaders.”


SUMMARY – Our choices and options for ‘doing a double’

1.30pm – Selection: Tahmuras; Outsider: High Definition.


2.10pm – Selection: Jonbon; Outsider: Saint Roi; Wildcard: Ha D’Or.



Selection: Each way double on Constitution Hill (3.30pm) and Monberg Genius (2.50pm).


Wildcard: Each way double on Jonbon (2.10pm) and Tahmuras (1.30pm) at 35.4/1.


Happy racing and don’t forget to join in and ‘ROAR’ – even if watching at home on ITV Racing.


Editor’s Note – Unlike as is the case in many publications, this article was NOT sponsored or supported by a third-party.


To join our racing followers – who receive a FREE tipping service occasionally by email – please send your relevant details to [email protected].


Pictured Top – Constitution Hill and Nico de Boinville pictured winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2022.


Fitzdares Guinness Club Black Velvet most expensive pint
Online bookmaker Fitzdares will be offering what they claim to be “the world’s most expensive pint of Guinness” at the festival this week, the ‘Club Black Velvet.’ It consists of what they claim to be a “perfect blend of English sparkling wine and Irish stout” and is priced at a staggering £20 per pint. Of it, the bookmaker’s chief executive officer William Woodhams remarked: “Every year there is more and more controversy around the cost of Guinness at the Cheltenham Festival and frankly we were bored of it. So, to gently rib the complainers and celebrate recent political manoeuvres we have created the world’s most expensive – and finest – pint of the black stuff with a mix of premium English sparkling wine and Guinness brewed in Dublin. Isn’t it the perfect way to celebrate free trade between our two great nations and the Windsor protocol? The Irish visitors to Cheltenham can afford it with their strong currency. Yours for £20.”
Will Jonbon be able to triumph over El Fabiolo in the Arkle Chase? Sports Lens observes: “One of the standout horses in the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase is the Nicky Henderson trained Jonbon. The 7-year-old gelding currently sits as the joint favourite at odds of around 13/8 with the best horse racing betting sites. Jonbon has won all but one of his races and boasts a four race winning streak coming into the Arkle Chase here. Last time out, Jonbon won impressively by five-and-a-half lengths in Warwick in a ‘keep busy’ race to prepare for the Cheltenham Festival. Jockey Aidan Coleman will likely be in the saddle on Jonbon – a horse and jockey duo that are well acquainted with each other. Therefore due to his performances last year, he is rightfully the joint betting favourite here. The two joint favourites, Jonbon and El Fabiolo, have faced each other before at Aintree last year in the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle. On that day, Jonbon won by a neck in an incredibly tight race. Horse racing fans are excited to again see that duel this year at Cheltenham in the Arkle. The French horse has raced at the Cheltenham Festival once before, coming second last year behind Constitution Hill in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He certainly looks a strong horse and looks like one of the ones to beat here in the Arkle Chase, alongside El Fabiolo.”
Matthew Steeples
Matthew Steeples
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Matthew Steeples is a writer and marketing consultant. He conceived The Steeple Times as a media arena to fill the void between the Mail Online, The Huffington Post and such organs as the New York Social Diary in 2012.


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