2019 Cheltenham Festival: Day One Summary and Three-day Preview
Boasting the second largest prize fund in horse racing, behind only the Grand National, the Cheltenham Festival got underway Tuesday 12th March, and is set to host another exciting thee days of racing between some of the best jockeys in the sport.
Cheltenham Day One: Tuesday March 12th:
Known as the Champion Day, this years festival got off to an enthralling start at seven races went ahead on terrain softened by weather which threatens the second day of the event.
Starting with the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle race at 13:30, the best young hurdlers in the sport clashed to open the week’s acton.
Klassical Dream took the first victory of the day, fittingly rode by the festival’s most successful jockey with 58 wins, Ruby Walsh.
In the 14:10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase, Duc des Genievres was crowned the two-mile novice chaser, providing consecutive wins for trainer, Willie Mullins. Winning jockey, Paul Townend praised his boss, Mullins, after the victory.
‘I don’t have the vocabulary to describe him. It’s a privilege to work for him.’
The Ultima Handicap Chase followed the first two races in failing to successfully start at the first attempt. However, after the 20-hurdle race did get underway, Beware the Bear held on for the victory ahead of Vintage Cloud. A stumble at the third from last by Up for Review provided an easier ending for trainer, Nicky Henderson’s 61st winner at Cheltenham.
The headline race of day one was up next, the Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy. Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D’air was looking for a third consecutive win in the race and went in third favourite.
It was not to be however, as Buveur D’air fell with five to go, thus ending the dream of joining Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq, the immortals with a hat-trick of wins.
In he end, fifth favourite, Espoir D’Allen, rode by Mark Walsh for trainer Gavin Cromwell for JP McManus. It’s JP McManus’s eighth Champion Hurdle.
Apple’s Jade’s poor jumping, hitting the top of too many flights, hurt her chances while Laurina ran well for two-thirds of the race but faded when it was there for the taking.
The 16:10 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle added some drama to the days racing, as Benie Des Dieux fell at the last while leading confortably. Roksana capitalised to claim the victory.
The National Hunt Chase Challengers Cup provided a means to bring down the excitement after the Mares’ Hurdle drama, with A Plus Tard gliding to the win by more than 20 lengths.
All 18 runners got off cleanly but less than a third of those finished in the 17:30 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase to end the opening days action.
Le Breuill and Jamie Codd took it by half a length in a crazy final race which saw just four of the field make it to the line.