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Ruby Walsh's tips for the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival - all eyes on Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle, ridden by Rachael Blackmore, on the way to glory at Cheltenham in March 2020. Photo: Jonathan Grossick/Racing Post

Honeysuckle, ridden by Rachael Blackmore, on the way to glory at Cheltenham in March 2020. Photo: Jonathan Grossick/Racing Post

Sunday World

The Cheltenham Festival is finally upon us and legendary jockey Ruby Walsh has picked out his best bets in his role as a Paddy Power ambassador.

SUPREME NOVICES HURDLE (13:30) – JONBON

Dysart Dynamo and Kilcruit are both in great form and they’ve got real chances. There’s a lot of talk about Constitution Hill too. However, I’m with Jonbon. I’m not a huge believer in pedigree as the sole way to identify the winner, but dry ground and being by the sire Walk In The Park sways me in his favour.

Top jockey Ruby Walsh

Top jockey Ruby Walsh

ARKLE CHASE (14:10) – SAINT SAM (EACH WAY)

Edwardstone has the strongest form and hasn’t done anything wrong, he’ll be hard to beat. However, his price isn’t great. Riviere Detel has always had experience, which gave her an advantage over the likes of Blue Lord, Haut En Couleurs and Saint Sam. I’m going to take on the top three in the betting and side with Saint Sam. I’ve been torn between him and Haut En Couleurs but I just like the way Saint Sam jumps. Two mistakes cost him at Leopardstown. He’s brave, low and accurate. I’m willing to chance him each way.

ULTIMA HANDICAP CHASE (14:50) – BEN DUNDEE (EACH WAY)

I tipped up Ben Dundee as my antepost pick and I’m sticking with him. Danny Mullins is on board for Andrew Lynch. He was second in the Paddy Power at Leopardstown over Christmas to School Boy Hours. Enjoy D’allen was third, Braeside was fourth and Death Duty was fifth. They’ve franked that form so Ben Dundee is my each-way play.

CHAMPION HURDLE (15:30) – HONEYSUCKLE

Honeysuckle is an incredible mare but the only danger to her is Appreciate It. He was a brilliant novice last year, he’s in good form and he travelled over nicely. Even though I’m in the Willie Mullins camp, if you offered me a ride tomorrow, I’m on Honeysuckle.

MARES HURDLE (16:10) – STORMY IRELAND (EACH WAY)

This is a competitive race but we don’t have any standout runners. Telmesomethinggirl was a good novice last season and won the Mares’ here but I’m not convinced about last season’s Mares’ Novices’ Hurdlers. I like Stormy Ireland. Her form has been solid all year and she has a great chance. The ground will suit her too. Stormy Ireland will want a good gallop and she’s a great each-way price.

BOODLES JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE (16:50) – BELL EX ONE, EBASARI AND BRITZKA (EACH WAY)

Gaelic Warrior is a lovely horse and a strong stayer. We’re hoping the race will suit him but he takes up too much of the market. He’s created great each-way value for other horses. An interesting one is Bell Ex One for Paul Nicholls. He beat Sea Sessions at Punchestown in October and he could be interesting. However, there’s massive value in the Gordon Elliott horses. Ebasari and Britzka are the main ones. With Paddy Power paying six places instead of four, it makes sense to back Bell Ex One, Ebasari and Britzka in each-way punts.

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE (17:30) – VANILLIER

We’ve got two Welsh runners against five Irish runners in this one. In the past, you needed plenty of runs to win this but does the small field change that? Stattler is a good horse and a solid jumper but I’m not sure about him over 3m6f. If you look at Novice Hurdle form, Vanillier routed Stattler last year at Cheltenham. He was then just behind him at Punchestown, which is a speed track. Vanillier is better on the stamina tracks and it could be his turn here.

Paddy Power are hosting the first Cheltenham Fanzone at The Camden in Dublin on Thursday and Friday (March 17th and 18th) - get your tickets HERE


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