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.