ED CHAMBERLIN: It’s the greatest show on turf and Constitution Hill leads the charge on a firecracker first day at the Cheltenham Festival, while the stage is set for Honeysuckle to deliver a glorious farewell
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- CHAMPION HURDLE LOWDOWN: Horse-by-horse guide and view of the experts
- Click here for the latest Cheltenham Festival news, schedule and race results
Ears pinned back, mane standing on end, this majestic wonder horse prepares to take flight. The mighty Constitution Hill will lead the charge on a firecracker first day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Fasten your seatbelts for four days of the most thrilling sport as the best jumps horses from the United Kingdom and Ireland do battle around this spectacular racecourse.
This is the week which sells our sport like no other, as the greatest show on turf renews old rivalries, conjures up new heroes and racing is fired back into the public consciousness.
Cheltenham means so much to so many of us and today promises to be the best of the season so far — by a distance. More than 65,000 people will pack into the course and millions more will watch on TV, because you have everything you want for a day of top-quality sport, starting with the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, as the fancied Facile Vega tries to get the Irish off to a flyer.
Next is an epic match-up in the Sporting Life Arkle Chase of El Fabiolo and Jonbon, followed by a wide-open Ultima Handicap Chase for punters to get their teeth into.
Constitution Hill (above) has a chance to put his name up in lights as a true superstar
CHAMPION HURDLE ODDS
Constitution Hill – 1/3
State Man – 10/3
Vauban – 16/1
I Like To Move It – 25/1
Not So Sleepy 100/1
Jason The Militant 200/1
All odds courtesy of Paddy Power, the full list for this race can be found HERE
All that whets the appetite for the big race of the day and possibly the horse of a lifetime, as the magnificent Constitution Hill goes in the Champion Hurdle.
An effortless 22-length win in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle got racing fans giddy and now Constitution Hill has a chance to put his name up in lights as a true superstar.
One thing we know in racing is that nothing sells our sport better to the public than great horses. On ITV, I have lucky enough to introduce viewers to mighty competitors such as Enable, Tiger Roll and Stradivarius — and Constitution Hill could eclipse them all. I hope he does something remarkable at 3.30pm.
Not that the action is finished there. We have the best running of the Mares’ Hurdle in memory, as Cheltenham gets the chance to say thank you and goodbye to dual Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle.
Win or lose — and Honeysuckle has some tough opponents today, none more so than 2020 Champion Hurdler Epatante — the reception she and jockey Rachael Blackmore will receive is sure to be spine-tingling.
ITV’s coverage of the racing week of the year kicks off at 1pm with the all-female violin quartet Escala playing a dramatic soundtrack at the top of Cleeve Hill, looking down on the racecourse.
Then look out for a special feature with the legendary Michael Dickinson, who reminisces about the day 40 years ago that he trained the first five horses home in the Gold Cup.
Helping me out all week will be the peerless Ruby Walsh, leading jockey at the Festival an incredible 11 times. Ruby will be in the Analysis Hub — which brings back memories for me of working with Gary Neville on Monday Night Football — with Gold Cup-winning jockeys Sir Anthony McCoy and Mick Fitzgerald.
Our aim, as ever, is to make you, the viewer, feel part of the Cheltenham Festival. And if day one is mouthwatering, just wait for Friday and by far the best Gold Cup since horseracing returned to ITV.
It is deep in quality and has stories galore, including another potential superstar in Willie Mullins-trained Galopin Des Champs, who could blow the race apart.
In opposition is the horse which did just that last year, A Plus Tard, another Blackmore history-maker.
Then there is the fairytale horse, Hewick, who cost £800 and is now mixing with the equine elite after big victories on both sides of the Atlantic.
It is a Gold Cup which has the lot — and I think the Mullins-trained Stattler, ridden by the trainer’s son Patrick, is the each-way bet of the race.
Wednesday’s highlight is the Queen Mother Champion Chase and I am siding with Alan King-trained Edwardstone.
The stage is set for dual Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle to deliver a glorious farewell
The Mullins team seem very keen on the chances of Impaire Et Passe in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, which opens the action.
On Thursday, plenty will be cheering on Paisley Park as he tries to regain his Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle crown, although the old boy might be up against it.
We will also see if the rejuvenated Shishkin can strut his stuff in the Ryanair Chase and earn another mighty reception in one of the greatest amphitheatres in sport.
So sit back, relax and enjoy. This is going to be spectacular.
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