Dave Nevison's top tips for day one of the Cheltenham Festival

By Dave Nevison
Mon 11 Mar 2019

Cheltenham gets off to an absolutely unbelievable start on Tuesday with massive fields of all the best horses.

It is going to make it very difficult to keep a grip on emotions and there are going to be so many going off at seductive prices.

The one certainty is whatever wins any race it is highly likely I could turn to the bloke stood next to me and tell him I really fancied the winner!

It is that competitive. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so they say, but my view is that if you get a bet to click on one of these four days then it could be built for you so I will be having a go to land one for certain.

2.50 Cheltenham: Minella Rocco at 8-1 each-way with SkyBet, who offer six places

Minella Rocco finishes second in the 2017 Gold Cup

I am making myself ill even as I write this horse’s name for the column as I have sworn never to back it again after going off a cliff too often with him.

My inner lemming just cannot resist one last go.

Minella Rocco has won the four-miler and finished second in the 2017 Gold Cup in his two Festival runs and on those efforts he should not even be seen in this handicap, but there have been let downs along the way and plenty of them.

However, his runs since a wind op suggest this (and/or maybe the Grand National) has been the plan for a yard who have won this race three times since 2009.

A non-event on his first run back was followed by a very eye-catching run over hurdles at Exeter. He is a stone lower than his last run in a handicap and that is irresistible.

3.30 Cheltenham: Apple’s Jade at a general 9-4

 Apple's Jade is now the finished article (Focusonracing)
Apple's Jade is now the finished article (Focusonracing)

I cannot see her getting beaten in the Champion Hurdle.

The performance I saw at Leopardstown last month, when she beat possibly the most reliable yardstick of all in Supasundae convinced me that nothing could give her a 7lb mares’ allowance and beat her.

I think she is much improved again this season and although detractors will quibble about her Festival record I just feel she is now the complete article.

She and Laurina have been kept apart up to now and it will be a great clash. I have respect for the latter but believe she could be next season’s horse.

Buveur D’Air has won two renewals, but he had little to spare last year and has not impressed fully this term.

4.50 Cheltenham: A Plus Tard at 7-1 and Huntsman Son at 25-1 both each-way with SkyBet, who offer six places

Huntsman Son is a big price at 25-1 after his Newbury success

I am massively looking forward to seeing Rachael Blackmore riding at the Festival and A Plus Tard, a very talented five-year-old, gives her a great chance of a winner.

I think she got tactics wrong last time and ended up in front too early but in a field such as this it should be easy to settle slightly off the pace.

He won a 16-runner handicap hurdle on soft ground at Auteuil so I am not concerned about his relative youth. In fact, I view it as positive.

Huntsman’s Son impressed me with his jumping last week and has a chance from a yard not massively associated with Festival runners.

That Newbury win was deserved and I felt that he was not given credit for what were three good runs over fences and he could be a big price here.

5.30 Cheltenham: Ballyward at a general 3-1

We will never know, but I am firmly of the opinion that Ballyward would have held Discorama last time had the latter stood up at the last.

Even though Discorama looks a stayer I am also convinced that Ballyward will be further in front of him at the end of this four miles, such was the impression he left in last year’s Albert Bartlett.

He is the afternoon’s next best for me.

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