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Appreciate It was never in doubt - Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

There was never a moment doubt for favourite backers in the opening race of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival as Appreciate It stormed to victory in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend, returning as a well-backed 5/6 favourite.

Last year’s Bumper second tracked the leader, For Pleasure, before being sent on at the top of the hill by Paul Townend and won by a huge 25 lengths. Ballyadam, a 6/1 shot travelled well into the race but made a crucial mistake two outm but ran on again to finish second, with Willie Mullins’ other runner, Blue Lord, a faller at the last when seemingly booked for second place.

Blue Lord falling did mean a place for the English runners with Aex Hales’ runner, For Pleasure. He was sent off at a huge price of40/1 and made the running and held on for third. Appreciate It’s main market rival Metier failed to fire for Harry Fry and Sean Bowen, finishing last of those who finished and 10/1 shot Soaring Glory could never get in it either.

Other long shots included Irascible at 25/1 and Grumpy Charley at 28/1 who both failed to land blows as it was the punters celebrating after race one.

Shishkin keeps the favourites hot - Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase

Shishkin ensured a dream start for punters as he eased to victory in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, giving Nicky Henderson a seventh success in the race. Allmankind as expected took the lead for Harry Skelton but was joined early on by the keen Captain Guineas and the two strangled each other lead, setting it up nicely for the 4/9 favourite.

Last year's Supreme winner had his task made easier with the injury of main market rival, Energumene and was given a confident ride by Nico De Boinville, who sent him to the front before turning in and stayed on strongly up the hill. The fenentic early gallop meant a surprise second, with the outsider of the field, Eldorado Allen, running on at 33/1, which was not the result those playing the without markets would have hoped for. Allmankind, the second favourite, paid for his early exertions and faded into fourth, behind Captain Guineas.

The one that could not land a blow at all was Willie Mullins’ runner, Franco De Port. The 8/1 shot was ridden at the rear by Paul Townend and but could never get into the race and finished a tailed off last. The 4/9 victory for Shishkin meant the opening two favourites were in and a good start for punters.

If you lose, try, try and try again - Ultima Handicap Chase

After the opening two races of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival were very much a result for the punters, Vintage Clouds made just about all to take the Ultima Handicap Chase at 28/1. Vintage Clouds was given a peach of a ride from Ryan Mania to steal the race and saw off favourite Happglucky to save the bookmakers from 3 successive winning favourites.

It was the fifth time lucky for Vintage Clouds in the race, having ran in it in the last four years and not finishing better than third, however, the addition of cheekpieces lit up the old boy and he was not for passing. The places were filled up by many of the market principles, with 11/2 shot Aye Right travelling into the race well too, finishing third, ahead of 14/1 shot Cepage and the 17/2 shot One for the Team who went off 17/2.

The poor Irish record in the race continued, as the well-backed Milan Native could never get into things at 13/2 whilst the well punted Alnadam, 11/2, also failed to land into the places. Many each way punters may have got something back from the Ultima but it was a race for the bookies and Sue Smith, as Vintage Clouds finally got his day in the sun.

The first favourite to fall - Mares Hurdle

The first short-priced favourite of the week was beaten in the Mares Hurdle as 10/11 favourite, Concertista, went down narrowly to Black Tears, an 11/1 chance for Denise Foster. After the early successes in the day and with a lot more to come during the week, the short, priced favourites had been delivering for punters, however, in this case, Concertista was unable to hold off Black Tears up the Cheltenham Hill.

Concertista’s main market rival was the Dan Skelton trained Roksana, who was a 3/1 chance and took up the running at the top of the hill but was unable to see off the two Irish mares and faded away into third. The betting was spread out for this race however those looking to steal each way money with the likes of Minella Meody and Dame De Compagnie, both of whom returned at 12/1 never really got involved but Paul Webbers Indefatigable outran her odds of 33/1 in fourth.

The winner, Black Tears, was steady in the market however for many punters this did concern the top two in the market and lots would have been waiting on the favourite for a first day accumulator, but it was not to be. Punters will be hoping Concertista was the first and last odds-on favourite turned over.

An almighty upset - Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

The biggest price of winner of the day and most likely what will be the biggest price winner of the weeks, the Boodles Handicap saw a huge shock as Jeff Kidder an 80/1 winner for Noel Meade, ridden by Sean Flanagan.

For many, as reflected by the betting, he would not have been considered at all, having finished seventh of seven last month behind a few of his rivals at the Dublin Racing Festival, however, he was able to take advantage of the extra weight he received and grabbed the victory.

He saw off the well-backed favourite Saint Sam in second for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend, who no doubt would have been a bad result for the bookmakers but was the third favourite in the day who could only manage second. Townend looked to give the favourite a lot to do and could not get by Jeff Kidder.

Another of the well-backed horses was Houx Gris for Paul Nicholls who could only manage fourth and Elham Valley stormed home to finish third at 66/1. The 80/1 victory was one of the highest winning SP prices at the Cheltenham festival in the last few years and the bookmakers will be hoping for a few more this week whilst punters will be very much the opposite.

Britain make it interesting in the Prestbury Cup - National Hunt Chase

The day was rounded off by the marathon of the National Hunt Chase, just under four miles and was won by Galvin, at 7/2.

Galvin was one of the market principles and had been ante post favourite for the race pretty much through the season and joined trainer Ian Ferguson from Gordon Elliott. Given a lovely ride from Jack Kennedy, Galvin glanced through the field and stayed on strongly to win. He saw off Next Destination for Paul Nicholls who was a 3/1 shot and was unable to repel the challenge.

A late market move saw Escaria Ten go off the 11/4 favourite and for all that he travelled strongly throughout; he was unable to get to his two market principles. It was a bad result for the bookmarkers with the top three positions were filled by the main horses in the betting whilst 11/2 shot Remastered did not fire and faded into fifth.

It was a third winner of the day for Britain, who trail 4-3 in the Prestbury Cup and saw Jack Kennedy head the jockey leaderboard with one win. Whilst Galvin was no SP favourite, he was well fancied and ended a good day for punters, who has already cheered three favourites home and there could be many more to come throughout the week.

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