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

The wait is over! The Cheltenham Festival gets underway on Tuesday with the Champion Hurdle being the feature showpiece of the opening day of the meeting as some of the best horses in racing head to Cleeve Hill for the best four days of racing of the year.

We don’t see the big race as much of a betting proposition though but thankfully the support card throws up much better potential. We’ll go through the non-handicap races with betting picks in them in this preview.

1.30 Cheltenham: Supreme Novice Hurdle


The opener is a competitive but substandard Supreme where there’s none of the 12 strong field that has Grade 1 winning form.  Willie Mullins is responsible for half the runners including the favourite Tullyhill who has won his last 2 easily but I’m slightly put off by his novicey jumping.  Mystical Power could conceivably wrestle favouritism away from his stablemate & with a 3 from 3 record, is probably the most solid of the 2.  Firefox is the big Gordon Elliot hope whilst Jeriko Du Reponet is the one hoping to extend Nicky Henderson’s good record in the race but Slade Steel, from the De Bromhead yard, looks a massive threat & will stay all the way to the line after previously winning over two & a half miles on heavy ground.  His only reverse came last time out when losing out to the best novice hurdler around & favourite for the Gallaghers, Ballyburn.


The one that comes into the race with the most intriguing profile is another of Mullins’ in MISTERGIF.  He failed to get his head in front in 2 starts in France but was very impressive indeed on his only start in Ireland, albeit in a maiden hurdle.  He made the running, dictated the tempo and ran away for an impressive 18 length win, with a further 19 lengths to the 3rd horse home in a 14 runner race.  What was particularly eyecatching was his hurdling.  He looked very quick & efficient over his hurdles and that has to be a plus here in a race that will be run at a fast pace.  The RPR he achieved is as good as any of his rivals if comparing to their first start of their respective seasons &, with improvement likely, he comes into this as something of a dark horse & looks the value in an open renewal.


Back MISTERGIF (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 11.00 Paddy Power BOG (⅕ odds 1-4)


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3.30 Cheltenham: Champion Hurdle

Surely the most disappointing Champion Hurdle in recent memory.  With Constitution Hill out, this should be a penalty kick for State Man with Irish Point his only realistic challenger albeit he’d prefer further having also been entered for the Stayers.  Iberico Lord is progressing out of handicap company & the rest have nothing obvious to recommend them.  It says it all when the 3rd top rated, a stone behind State Man, is the now 11 year old Not So Sleepy who has run in this for the past 4 years, has never finished closer than 5th & is now on the downgrade.   A poor, poor renewal & a no bet race.


4.10 Cheltenham: Mares Hurdle


Many won’t hear of defeat for last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Lossiemouth & to be fair, it’s understandable given she was very prominent in the Champion Hurdle betting until recently & is 6 from 7 over hurdles.  She’s certainly the most likely winner but odds-on isn’t a price I want to be taking on any horse at a major festival.  Ashroe Diamond is the only other horse in single figures &, with Grade 1 winning form & a win in a Doncaster Grade 2 last time out, she has claims.  However, I’m just not certain Cheltenham is going to suit.


It’s hard to knock the claims of last year’s 2nd, LOVE ENVOI, & I fancy her to run a big race again 12 months on.  A record of 7 wins & 4 seconds from 12 hurdle starts is as consistent as they come & her Cheltenham form is pretty compelling too.  A winner of the Mares Novice Hurdle in 2022 preceded her 2nd to former Champion Hurdler Honeysuckle last year, clear of a couple of today’s rivals that day.  Lightly raced this year, she was 2nd to Not So Sleepy in her reappearance run over 2 miles at Sandown & was then brushed aside by Lossiemouth in the International Hurdle on Trials Day.  However, this step up in trip is likely to suit the selection better & I don’t see there being 9 lengths between them at the line.  If there are doubts over the favourites ability to stay the trip, this consistent likeable mare is the one most likely to take advantage.


Back LOVE ENVOI (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 17.00 Paddy Power BOG (⅕ odds 1-3)