Day One Cheltenham Festival 2023 Preview

Cheltenham L'Homme

James Mackie | @JMackieRacing

Cheltenham - March 14 2023
Cheltenham 13:30
Michael O'Sullivan

Marine Nationale

J: Michael O'Sullivan
T: Barry Connell
Age: 6
Weight: 11-7
OR: 150
Days: 100

The first race of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival is the Grade One Supreme Novices' Hurdle and we are putting up two horses that should run well.

The first is the Barry Connell trained and owned Marine Nationale, who won't like all this rain that is expected to fall but has been kept fresh for this race and looks to be a horse with big improvement.

The six year old has been seen four times in his career, making his debut at Punchestown in May this year when winning a 2m bumper in good fashion ahead of Demandrivingdouvan and Halibut who both went on to frank the form.

Given another run in a bumper at Killarney in August he was another nice winner this time by a further 11 lengths and now it was time to go over hurdles.

Given his hurdles debut back at Punchestown he beat a decent field of 12 with ease and was then saved for his run at Fairyhouse in the Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.

With four horses swinging the corner for home on the bridle, jumping the last it was Marine Nationale and Irish Point left battling it out and just in front of the posts, the Barry Connell gelding got up to land his first Grade One Success.

The ground was attritional that day and although he won he will be much better on anything dryer than ground.

The form of Marine Nationale's runs look fairly strong with Champ Kiely and Ashroe Diamond since winning good events and we think he can run well.

Cheltenham - March 14 2023
Cheltenham 13:30
Harry Cobden


J: Harry Cobden
T: Paul Nicholls
Age: 6
Weight: 11-7
OR: 142
Days: 66

At a bigger price and a horse to throw into the mix if the ground does turn up softer than expected is the Paul Nicholls trained Tahmuras.

The Nicholls yard could not be in much better form going into the festival running consistently at around a 30% strike rate for the season and 37% for the last two weeks.

Tahmuras has been a very progressive horse this term Making his hurdles debut at Chepstow in November when bolting up on good to soft ground, showing an electric turn of foot after the last.

Sent to Haydock on softer conditions next time out in a Listed Novices' Hurdle he again improved to put away a fair field by close to six lengths.

Getting his ideal soft ground again when last seen stepping into the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle he went on to land a hat-trick of wins over hurdles, not jumping the last two flights well but having a serious engine to stay on for victory.

The more rain the better for this horse and at 11/1 with some firms offering four places, he is a big each way player.

Cheltenham - March 14 2023
Cheltenham 14:10
Aidan Coleman


J: Aidan Coleman
T: Nicky Henderson
Age: 7
Weight: 11-7
OR: 159
Days: 31

Next up is the Grade One Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase and we have nine runners going to post but it looks to be a two horse race between the two at the top of the market.

Although El Fabiolo has the best form heading into the race we are siding with the Nicky Henderson trained Jonbon who looks a much improved animal since going over fences this term.

A £570,000 purchase and full brother to the top class hurdler/chaser Douvan, Jonbon was an easy 15 length winner of his Irish PTP and subsequently went on to cosily land his sole bumper start on his first run for Nicky Henderson.

He then marked his debut over obstacles at Newbury, on the back of a 244 day break, with a cracking performance, winning by an eased down six length margin in November this year.

He stepped up in grade next time at Ascot in the Grade Two Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle and again was an easy winner and then sent to Haydock on his prep run before the Cheltenham festival he was a determined winner of the Grade Two Supreme Trial.

His only defeat under rules came at the Cheltenham festival when second behind the superstar Constitution Hill, but he showed just how good he was on his final start of last term when landing the first Grade One of his career at Aintree in the Top Novices' Hurdle beating El Fabiolo.

Bought to be a chaser, Henderson gave him his debut over fences at Warwick on his seasonal debut this term and he looked an improved animal once more when bolting up at Warwick seeing off Grade One winner Monmiral and smart hurdler West Cork to win by seven lengths eased down.

Stepped up to Grade One company on his second chase start in December he again bolted up and landed the Henry VIII Novices' Chase from Boothill, who has since won and placed in decent Grade Twos.

Jonbon was last seen in his prep run for this event at Warwick when beating Calico in the Grade Two Novices' Kingmaker Chase.

He got a little scare that day when Calico went for home early but his jumping, speed and staying ability came to the fore and he was a comfy winner in the end.

Jonbon will have to put up a performance of a lifetime to land this but it is what his whole career has been about to date and we think his jumping compared to El Fabiolo might just be the difference.

Cheltenham - March 14 2023
Cheltenham 14:50
Derek Fox

Corach Rambler

J: Derek Fox
T: Lucinda Russell
Age: 9
Weight: 11-5
OR: 146
Days: 108

The first handicap event of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival is the Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f and with a big field going to post as usual we have two each way stabs.

The first is last years winner for Lucinda Russell in Corach Rambler, who is only 6lbs above his winning mark in this event last term.

Very good as a novice last year when winning three of his six events, including twice at Cheltenham, with his last win being in this event when Derek Fox somehow got him up from the back of the field.

More lightly campaigned this term with this and the Grand National in mind, Corach Rambler was fifth on seasonal debut at Carlisle in the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Chase over a trip that is just too short for him.

That run set him up perfectly for a crack at the Coral Gold Cup over 3m2f at Newbury and he ran a good race to finish a good fourth behind Le Milos.

He has been dropped 1lb for that run now on a mark of 146 and although last year he took a lot of work to get home, at the line he looked to do it easy and that suggests the 6lb rise should not stand in his way.

Cheltenham - March 14 2023
Cheltenham 14:50
David Bass


J: David Bass
T: Kim Bailey
Age: 9
Weight: 11-11
OR: 152
Days: 72

At a bigger price and another for the British battalion in the race who have a great record in recent renewals is the second in this event two years ago Happygolucky.

The Kim Bailey trained nine year old has been set up for this all season and although he is getting slightly older he is still fairly lightly raced for his age.

A winner at Cheltenham's December meeting in 2020 over 3m 1 1/2f before going into the Ultima in 2021, he then finished a good second to Vintage Clouds.

Upped 2lb for that run to a mark of 149 he managed to score decisively in a similar Grade Three Handicap Chase over 3m1f at Aintree's Grand National meeting.

Suffering a setback last term he missed the season and returned this season where he made his seasonal debut off 151 in the Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle and he ran a cracker to finish four lengths back in third behind L'Homme Presse.

Sent to Cheltenham after that in January he was dropped in trip and ran no race at and that to us looked to be a prep for later in the season.

Running here off a mark of 152, just 3lb higher than his winning mark at Aintree, having been lightly raced this term and having ran well in this race before, he is a big each way player at 14/1.

Cheltenham - March 14 2023
Cheltenham 15:30
Nico de Boinville

Constitution Hill

J: Nico de Boinville
T: Nicky Henderson
Age: 6
Weight: 11-10
OR: 173
Days: 78

The big race of the afternoon on Tuesday from Prestbury Park is the Grade One Champion Hurdle and there is no looking past Constitution Hill.

The gelding is a serious animal for Nicky Henderson and owner Michael Buckley, with the £120,000 purchase first taking the eye on debut at Sandown in December.

Heading to Sandown in a Novices' Hurdle, he cruised next to the favourite Might I for Harry Fry, who is a good horse in his own right, and having jumped the last impeccably he went on to take the event by 14 lengths.

Next time out he managed to land Grade One glory in the Tolworth Hurdle winning just as impressively as his previous, pulling away from a decent field to win by 12 lengths.

Sent straight to the Cheltenham festival off the back of that run he made it 3/3 under rules when taking the Grade One Supreme by 22 lengths from the superstar Jonbon.

Seen twice this season he has landed two more Grade Ones to his tally winning the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and Christmas Hurdle from Kempton by a combined 29 lengths.

Beating star mare Epatante both times having to never come off the bridle, this horse is still improving and is arguably one of the greatest hurdlers in national hunt racing.

Just sit back and enjoy.

Cheltenham - March 14 2023
Cheltenham 16:10
Nico de Boinville

Marie's Rock

J: Nico de Boinville
T: Nicky Henderson
Age: 8
Weight: 11-5
OR: 153
Days: 72

One of the races of the day from a competition perspective is the Grade One Mares Hurdle with this years renewal looking the strongest we have seen at the Cheltenham Festival.

We are picking out a win and each way selection and too start with we are siding with last years winner Marie's Rock for Nicky Henderson.

A horse that took her form to a different level last season when finishing the season with a hat-trick of wins, starting at Warwick in a Listed Mares Hurdle and then off the back of that she improved to win with this Grade One, being smuggled into the race and staying up the hill powerfully.

She rounded off last term with another Grade One victory when seeing off Epatante to land the Mares Chanpion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.

This season she has only been seen once prior to the festival but she couldn't of had a better prep run when winning the Grade Two Relkeel Hurdle over 2m 4 1/2f at Cheltenham taking on the boys and winning by six lengths.

She will come on for that run and having won soft in the past she will handle conditions if the heavens open.

Cheltenham - March 14 2023
Cheltenham 16:10
Paul Townend

Brandy Love

J: Paul Townend
T: W P Mullins
Age: 7
Weight: 11-5
OR: 149
Days: 20

From an each way perspective we are giving a chance to the Willie Mullins trained Brandy Love who is likely to improve massively for her recent prep run at Punchestown.

A mare with bundles of ability but very quirky, she was a decent bumper horse that made the step up to hurdles last term and was only seen three times, making a bright debut at Naas when bolting up over two miles.

Sent into the Grade Three Solerina Mares Novice Hudle at Fairyhouse next time out she jumped wildly out to her left with her needing to go left handed, and although rallying well she finished second to stablemate Allegorie De Vassy.

Having been a big player in the betting for the Mares' Novices' Hurdle last year she was pulled out late on but ended the season by beating the winner of that race Love Envoi in the Grade One Mares Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.

This season she has had a strange preparation being seen for the first time in February when third to Queens Brook in a the Grade Three Quevega Mares Hurdle.

She did not look fit at all for the race and still ran well just tiring late on, she will be primed for this event and has a big chance to upset the odds.

Cheltenham - March 14 2023
Cheltenham 16:50
Mark Walsh


J: Mark Walsh
T: W P Mullins
Age: 4
Weight: 11-5
OR: 135
Days: 38

The penultimate event on the first day of the festival is the Grade Three Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and again we have two players that should go close.

The first is the Willie Mullins trained Tekao who has been set up for this race all season and looks to be a graded horses in a handicap, hopefully making light work of his mark of 135.

Bought from France and given to Willie Mullins wearing those famous green and gold silks for JP McManus, he made his hurdles/Irish debut over 2m at Navan when third behind Comfort Zone who has since come out and won back to back Grade Twos at Chepstow in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle and Cheltenham in the Triumph Trial.

He was very keen that day and again next time out did not settle all that well but still went on to get off the mark at Leopardstown over Christmas, it showed to us just how much ability he had doing loads wrong but still winning.

Seen for a third time this season at the DRF when running a cracker to finish third in the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle behind stablemates Gala Marceau and Lossiemouth, Mark Walsh definitely thinking about his mark when close home never giving him a hard time behind the first two and he was only 12 1/2 lengths behind them.

Given 7lbs for that run and now on a mark of 128 in Ireland, the English handicapper gave him a further 7lb and although harsh we are hoping he has more to offer.

Cheltenham - March 14 2023
Cheltenham 16:50
Philip Byrnes


J: Philip Byrnes
T: C Byrnes
Age: 4
Weight: 10-12
OR: 128
Days: 31

Another horse in the field that is worth watching out for is the Charles Byrnes trained Byker who runs in the Boodles off a mark of 128 and he could be much better than that.

Rated 70 on the flat for Richard Hannon, he switched codes to national hunt racing this term for Charles Byrnes and looks a typical type for this trainer that has been set up for a handicap.

Finishing fifth of 13 on hurdles debut at Limerick when learning a lot for the experience, he then went to Naas and got off the mark in a 21 runner Maiden Hurdle.

Seen last time out over the same course and distance he finished a close third in the race that has yielded three of the last four winners of this race.

It looked to us that winning that race was not the be all and end all that day and off 128 he can go close.

Cheltenham - March 14 2023
Cheltenham 17:30
Mr P W Mullins

Gaillard Du Mesnil

J: Mr P W Mullins
T: W P Mullins
Age: 7
Weight: 11-7
OR: 155
Days: 37

The final event of day one of the Cheltenham festival is the National Hunt Chase and one of our best bets of the day is Gaillard Du Mesnil.

A Grade One winning novice hurdler/chaser, he has ran superbly in some big races placing in the Ladbrokes Novice Chase at the DRF behind Galopin Des Champs and then finished third again in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase behind L'Homme Presse last year.

He rounded our last term showing his true staying ability when carrying a big weight in the Irish Grand National and he ran well to finish third of the 27 runners.

This term he has been campaigned less with this race always in mind, starting at Fairyhouse in the Drinmore Novice Chase when chasing home Mighty Potter back in second and then at Leopardstown over Christmas he landed the first Grade One of his career over fences in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase.

Sent over 2m5f again at the DRF when last seen he finished a staying on third behind Mighty Potter again just lacking pace at the trip but now being sent up in trip, he will revel in the test.

The one to beat.