In association with RacingFX, BetBright are delighted to bring you Paul Townend’s Cheltenham Blog, every day of the Festival. Paul has ridden six Festival winners so far in his career and will be aiming for more Cheltenham glory this week.
Here he is with his thoughts ahead of Day One…
Riding four winners at Gowran has given me an extra boost which is always nice heading into Cheltenham. I can’t wait to get down to the start for the first and get the ball rolling for the week.
Supreme Novices Hurdle – Sharjah 20/1
I ride Sharjah in the opener who was obviously disappointing the last day at Leopardstown.
It’s hard to judge him going in to the Supreme, because you’re comparing his good performance at Gowran with a race that fell apart a bit for him at Leopardstown where he fell at the last and then disappointed in his following race, so it’s difficult to go into this one full of confidence.
If he puts his best foot forward, then he has a chance of picking up a place, but it looks like it’s going to be very hard to beat Getabird at the top of the market.
Melon Champion Hurdle – 16/1
When you look at the form of all the horses in this year’s Champion Hurdle, it obviously looks like Buveur D’air’s to lose.
I’m on Melon and if you could draw a line through his performance the last day in the Irish Champion Hurdle where he never really rode the gallop, then other than the favourite, most of the horses in this race go in with similar form.
My horse is young and has room for improvement and I’d be hoping that Melon can show that in the Champion Hurdle.
Faugheen was very good on his Punchestown return but hasn’t fired since. He’ll be wearing cheek pieces at Cheltenham which makes sense, because the way he has been running the last two days, it seems as though he needs to be lit up again and hopefully they can do the trick – there’s no better place to find out anyway!
You have to be impressed by Apple’s Jade who is unbeaten all season and goes into the Mares’ race as a worthy favourite.
She won’t have it all her own way though; I think Warren Greatrex’s Mare, La Bague Au Roi, will make it a good honest race and I would be hoping that Benie Des Dieux can give her something to think about – we haven’t got to the bottom of her yet so hopefully we’ll see her go close.
In all honesty though, Apple’s Jade is a very, very good horse and the others are up against it.
The Arkle will be a great race and I’m very sweet on Footpad who is a lovely horse.
Petit Mouchoir is also entitled to improve on the back of the run at Leopardstown but he’ll have to improve a lot to challenge Footpad. I’m sure he’ll get closer at Cheltenham but I would be very disappointed if our lad got beaten.
Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase
I wouldn’t put anyone off having a fiver each-way on LiveLoveLaugh in the last at a big price. He jumps super, he’d be suited to a handicap, he didn’t get home with me over 3m the last day and if he can get into a good rhythm then he’s a nice each-way price at 20/1.
It’s also interesting that Barry Geraghty has opted for Demi Sang, rather than Any Second Now, who was obviously very popular for this race.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.