Cheltenham Festival 2024 – Day 1 Handicap Races Tips and Betting Preview

As ever on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival which takes place down in Gloucestershire on Tuesday, there are two extremely competitive handicaps on the card mixed in with the feature races on Tuesday.

Both races are very hard to sift through but we have gone through both of them and found out three picks across the two races who should hopefully enjoy the extremely soft conditions which are expected for the first day of the festival.

2.50 Cheltenham: Ultima Handicap Chase


Historically, the strongest race of the whole meeting for the British but I feel this might be the year for the Irish to get their nose in front.  The British challenge is led by the Kim Bailey pair of Trelawne & Chianti Classico whilst the Irish have last year’s 4th, The Goffer, and Mullins’ Meetingofthewaters in opposition.   All 4 should run big races but I’m not sure there’s any particular value in their prices so instead, I’m going with 2 bets at slightly bigger prices.


The first of those is STUMPTOWN for Gavin Cromwell who has been mopping up at Cheltenham this year.   He didn’t run much of a race in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury in December but came back here when winning a handicap chase at this track on New Years Day where he took up the running 2 out & galloped all the way to the line to come home 5 lengths in front.  That was with first time blinkers & they are retained today off a 5lbs higher mark.  He has festival form too after going down by just a neck in the Kim Muir 12 months ago albeit off a lower mark.  Course form counts for a lot here so a record of 2-1 is a positive for a yard that has a 37% strike rate at this track from 19 runners this season.

At a much tastier price, I find it hard to leave the inconsistent GEVREY out of the reckoning.  Admittedly, he’s been pulled up on 3 of his last 4 starts but on his 3 other runs over fences in the last 12 months, he’s finished 4th here in the Plate, 2nd in the Irish Grand National & won the Munster National.   It’s seen his mark rise but he’s just an 8 year old so still has improvement in him, and a repeat of any of those efforts would put him bang in the mix here.   Of particular note was his Irish National run where he only just lost out to a subsequent Grade 1 winning chaser.  He also ran ok in Kerry National until a bad blunder resulting in him pulling up whilst his other 2 disappointments may have been on account of the ground – he handles soft but isn’t as comfortable on heavy.  There’s every chance he won’t get round but if he does, I can see him being in contention so with 6 places on offer, he’s worthy of an interest.


Back STUMPTOWN (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 11.00 William Hill BOG (⅕ odds 1-6)

Back it here:

Back GEVREY (e/w) for a 0.75/10 stake at 29.00 Coral BOG (⅕ odds 1-6)


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4.50 Cheltenham: Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle


One of the hardest races to solve with most of these juveniles coming in very unexposed so there’s definitely an element of guesswork involved.  Lark In The Mornin is the favourite for Joseph O’Brien having looked capable of better last time out whilst Liari is hard to ignore off top weight for Paul Nicholls with a 3 from 3 record over the smaller obstacles.  For me, this is not a race to be taking a short price on though.


The Irish have won the last 6 runnings and a rated hurdle at Naas in February has seen 4 of the last 5 winners of the race so it’s worth starting there for the selection.  Eagle Fang, Bright Legend & Pacini were 1-2-3 in this year’s renewal but it’s the 4th horse home, JP McManus’ NARA that appeals most.   A French import & winner of her only start at Auteuil, she’s twice finished 4th since moving to Henry De Bromhead’s yard.  On the first of those races, she was incredibly novicey in her jumping whilst last time out, she sat off a steady gallop & was still travelling well but didn’t pick up as expected.  I’m certain this bigger field & faster pace will play to her strengths & it’s interesting that a change of headgear is in order too with a hood or tongue tie being worn on her last 2 starts but now it’s the first time the 2 come together.  She’s drifted to a generous looking price & she’s the value here.


Back NARA (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 15.00 Betfair Sportsbook BOG (⅕ odds 1-6)