Trainer Nicky Henderson landed a remarkable seventh Unibet Champion Hurdle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival as his defending champion Buveur D’Air – tipped by Betting.net – gained the day in a ding-dong battle to the line with the heavily backed Melon.
Barry Geraghty (pictured above) had to get very serious with the 4/6 favourite who was headed at the final flight by Melon (7/1), but fought back in tenacious fashion to win by a neck, with three lengths back to 25/1 shot Mick Jazz in third.
“What a great race!” said Henderson. “They’ve gone a gallop there that you wouldn’t believe in that ground, and then they’ve quickened again coming up that hill. They’re two very brave horses. [Buveur D’Air] was brave to come back. It’s wonderful. He had a battle on his hands today.”
Betting.net also tipped Arkle Chase winner Footpad at 11/8 earlier this week and he duly romped home under Ruby Walsh having been heavily supported on the day down to 5/6f. He scored by 14 lengths from Brain Power (14/1), despite making a serious mistake at the sixth fence that would have stopped lesser horses.
“I had a heart attack halfway through the race,” joked winning training Willie Mullins, when asked about the blunder. “We had him down as a two-and-a-half-mile horse earlier in the season, but after he did what he did earlier this season we decided to go back for the Arkle. He has plenty of stamina and I think he could be a future Gold Cup horse.”
Brian Hughes produced a power-packed finish to score on the Mick Channon-trained Mister Whittaker (13/2) – recommended by Betting.net at a massive 16/1 each-way earlier in the week – getting up in the last stride to beat Rather Be (12/1) in the concluding Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.
The day began with another close finish to the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Tom George’s Summerville (9/1) coming from behind to narrowly edge out Kalashnikov (5/1) – tipped each-way by Betting.net – in the dying strides.
Followers of our tipping blog again made it pay when 14/1 shot Shantou Flyer (recommended earlier in the week each-way at 25/1), very nearly sprang a shock win in the Ultima Handicap Chase, recovering from an error at the last to only fail by a fast-diminishing neck to catch the 5/1 favourite Coo Star Sivola, who gave lady rider Lizzie Kelly a famous first win at the Cheltenham Festival.
And there was more profit for us as 8/1 shot Sizing Tennessee (recommended each-way at 10/1) finished a brave third behind 9/2 chance Rathvinden in the four-mile National Hunt Chase. The winner was a third on the day for trainer Willie Mullins who sent out Benie Des Deux (9/2) to win the Grade 1 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle forty minutes earlier, completing a double for jockey Ruby Walsh.
The quest for more Cheltenham Festival profit continues in Wednesday’s Tipping Blog.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.