Tips for every race on day one of the Festival

Fry can deny Mullins in the Supreme

Metier – 13:20 Cheltenham

Appreciate It and Metier both put their unbeaten records over hurdles on the line here, and while Willie Mullins’s charge has looked impressive in landing all three of his races this term, it is Harry Fry’s Metier who gets the vote to land a first blow for the home-trained contingent. Metier took his tally to three from three over hurdles with a smart performance in the Tolworth at Sandown in January, landing a first Grade 1 with plenty in hand, and he could be worth siding with at the current prices.

Shishkin to justify favouritism

Shishkin – 13:55 Cheltenham

Timeform’s highest-rated novice is one of the star attractions on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, with the Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin expected to maintain his unbeaten record over fences in the Arkle Chase. Shishkin has conquered all before him on his three starts over fences this term and remains with the potential for better still. He is impossible to oppose in this race.

Get Happy

Happygolucky – 14:30 Cheltenham

Happygolucky proved his wellbeing in a big-field contest when fourth in the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at last year’s Festival, so he should not be fazed by the number of rivals he faces in this contest, and he has made up into a smart performer over fences this season, winning two of his three starts, including a novice chase here in December. He remains with the potential for further improvement, and considering novices have a good record in this race, he looks the one to side with.

Sweet on Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle – 15:05 Cheltenham

Winner of the Mares’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival, Honeysuckle has taken her form up another notch this season, making a winning return in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse, before taking her unbeaten record to 10 from 10 in the Irish Champion Hurdle last month, winning with plenty to spare. She is in receipt of a sex allowance, which puts her 3 lb clear at the head of Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings, and this exceptional mare will surely take plenty of beating.

Concertista to continue strong Cheltenham run

Concertista – 15:40 Cheltenham

Concertista has a cracking record at the Cheltenham Festival, finishing second in the Dawn Run on what was her first start over hurdles in 2019, before going one better in the same race last year, showing much improved form to run right away with the race. She has continued her progression this term, landing a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse on her return before producing a career best to easily land a Grade 3 at Leopardstown in December, and she looks the clear one to beat in this race.

Nicholls’ contender can land honours

Houx Gris – 16:15 Cheltenham

Purchased for €200,000 following a victory in his native France in October, Houx Gris shaped better than the bare result on his first outing for Paul Nicholls at Chepstow in January, finishing third in the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle. He was still right in the mix when making a mess of the second last on that occasion, and he is a very interesting contender in a race that the Nicholls yard has traditionally fared well in.

Mullins to land the last

Next Destination – 16:50 Cheltenham

Beaten on just one of his five starts over hurdles for Willie Mullins, and that came in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the 2018 Festival, Next Destination has made a cracking start to life over fences since joining Paul Nicholls’s yard, impressing with Grade 2 successes at Newbury and Warwick. There should be better still to come from this impressive jumper, and with the step up in trip also likely to play to his strengths, he gets the vote in this card closer.

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