THE Day 1 highlight sees Annie Power go for Champion Hurdle glory. Who can stop her? Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) gives us his best bet.
15:30 Cheltenham | Channel 4
The main event of Day 1 is something of an anti-climax with reigning champion Faugheen missing and last year’s runner up Arctic Fire also missing. It’s not a vintage renewal, however it is a very good race and a fascinating betting heat.
Annie Power is currently favourite for this and despite looking unbeatable versus mares I’m not convinced she should be favourite here. I may look foolish come 15:35 but I think she is opposable.
Her two career defeats have came here. Once when falling with the race at her mercy in the Mares Hurdle and the other when out stayed by More Of That in the World Hurdle. The majority of her wins have come against far inferior opposition and it’s difficult to weigh up exactly how brilliant she is.
She is undoubtedly very good, but she takes on colts here running over their optimum conditions, if it wasn’t for Faugheen’s absence she would be running over further. I don’t doubt she is good, I just don’t want to take 5/2 about her.
I tipped The New One ante-post in betting without Faugheen and a small each way bet in the race itself and he comes here with a big chance. Fifth in the race last season (none of the four who beat him line up) and he has claims to win this.
His preparation has been much better than last year, and despite the fact he looks like he’s lost some of his old zest he has big claims in this field, however at the prices I’m avoiding him here.
My Tent Or Yours comes here off the back of a near two year absence but on his best form would be the horse to beat. His trainer Nicky Henderson is a master at preparing a horse after a long absence and it’s quite possible he will run a huge race here.
However he would need to be back to his very best to win this and there is no guarantee he will be. Without a prep race it’s impossible to know how he will run, but the fact he has drifted in the past few days is enough to make me oppose him.
Identify Thief has made rapid progress this year and he deserves his place in the field. He won the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle beating Top Notch before finishing behind Nichols Canyon at Leopardstown. He should improve for the better ground however I still feel he falls short at this level and isn’t sure to reverse the form with Nichols Canyon.
When I previewed this race before I was against Nichols Canyon. I couldn’t see how he would reverse from with Faugheen, and with his best form coming when able to dominate I expected him to struggle. However with Faugheen absent it changes the whole complexion of the race and I have renewed optimism for him.
Before that race against Faugheen he was as short as 3/1 to win this race, and after going toe to toe with the champ in the Irish Champion Hurdle his race fell apart after a bad mistake two out.
I expect him to get an easier time up front in this, and if he is allowed to dominate he could be very hard to peg back. I refuse to believe last time out was a true reflection of his talent and I expect a much better showing here from him and I’m backing him to win this.
15:30 Cheltenham – Nichols Canyon to win (6/1 Ladbrokes)
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