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Cheltenham Festival Day 1 tips – Constitution Hill ready to shine

John Brennan’s tips for the opening day of the Festival.

Constitution Hill -Nico De Boinville Wins The Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1) Cheltenham 15.3.2022 ©Mark © Mark Cranham

John BrennanSunday World

The first day of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival is all about the short-priced favourites.

Do Facile Vega, El Fabiolo, Constitution Hill and Galliard du Mesnil all win, and get punters off to a great start beneath Cleeve Hill.

Or do the hot-pots boil over, and leave a right mess behind them in lost ante-post doubles, trebles and yankees for doomed punters?

Constitution Hill looks bomb-proof in the Champion Hurdle (3.30). You can’t argue against him, the horse has won all of his five races – and by a staggering aggregate margin of 77 lengths.

The only grenade I can throw against him is that Bula, more than 50 years ago, was the last horse to have won a Supreme Novices Hurdle and then a Champion Hurdle the following season. Just watch this race and let us see if we really have a true champion on our hands.

I’ll be taking on El Fabiolo with Dysart Dynamo in the Arkle Trophy (2.10). A confirmed front-runner, Dysart Dynamo, a 9/2 chance, has the services of the best front-running jockey around in Danny Mullins, on his back. I believe Dysart Dynamo can turn around the Leopardstown form on the much-sharper Old course at Cheltenham.

Ace trainer Willie Mullins is convinced Facile Vega will win the opening Supreme Novices Hurdle (1.30), despite getting the tactics all wrong in his prep race at Leopardstown last month.

But there is also a big word from the Mullins yard for Diverge in the first race, who has to be a fantastic each-way wager at 14/1.

Diverge will be ridden by the trainer’s son Patrick Mullins, who is using up one of the precious 30 rides he is allowed each season against the professional jockeys. That alone tells you Diverge will be right in the mix.

I am with Galliard du Mesnil in the last (5.30). This race is just made for the horse, who finished third in last season’s Irish Grand National. He’ll gallop all over his rivals and although just priced at Evens, he’s a fine bet if you are playing with the bookies’ money by then.

The fourth race of the day, the Mares Hurdle (4.10) features Honeysuckle, running her last ever race before heading to the breeding shed. If she wins, punters will take the roof off the stand in honour of a great mare who would be winning at Cheltenham for the fourth successive year.

But I fear that sentiment will not carry the day. Marie’s Rock, the winner of this contest a year ago, will be too good for the Irish champion.

Connections of Marie’s Rock (3/1) have dithered for the last fortnight about going in this race or the Stayers Hurdle on Thursday.

The rain that has fallen on the racecourse in the last few days seems to have pushed her trainer Nicky Henderson into running Marie’s Rock on the first day.

In the day’s two handicaps, you could do worse than a cheeky tenner each way on Fergal O’Brien’s Karl Phillippe (40/1) in the 2.50, the three-mile chase. Look for bookies who are giving extra each-way places in this race.

And in the 4.50 , the four-year-old handicap hurdle, Sundial at 12/1, represents the winning connections in this race a year ago.

Good luck to everyone!

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