There was some great racing on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival with Honeysuckle proving to be the star of the show in winning her second Champion Hurdle.
The feature race on Thursday is the Stayers Hurdle where I am sticking to my old mate Thyme Hill. Over the years he has been third in the Bumper and an unlucky fourth in the 2020 Alfred Bartlett Hurdle so his Festival form is solid.
He missed this race last year after picking up a slight injury but returned to win the equivalent race at Aintree.
Allaho will be long odds on for a repeat success in the Ryanair Chase but I prefer the Dan Skelton trained Shan Blue. This horse would be a short price for any of the handicaps at the Festival and it is a bold move by Skelton to throw him in against Allaho.
He would have won the Charlie Hall at Wetherby by a mile had he not fallen and has been saved with this race in mind.
I am siding with Bob Olinger in the clash with his Irish compatriot Galopin Des Champs in the Novice Chase that opens the card.
Alaphilippe could go well at a big price in the Pertemps Hurdle and fellow English raider The Glancing Queen can continue Alan King’s good week following his success with Edwardstone.
Grangee and Frontal Assault can win the last two races for the Irish.
Friday is Gold Cup day and it looks a fascinating renewal. Irish horses came first, second and third last year and all three run again. But I am hoping that Protektorat can win for the Skelton brothers.
He was very impressive when winning at Aintree, and should have won the Paddy Power on this course. He comes here a fresh horse and will hopefully lift the crown for England. Galvin is his biggest danger and the one for the forecast.
Skelton’s Langer Dan was second in the Martin Pipe Hurdle last year and can hopefully go one better this time.
I fear the other five races on Friday could fall to Irish-trained horses.
Vauban has been likened to ‘Pegasus’ and should win the opening Triumph Hurdle. His stable mate, Billaway, was just pipped in the Hunters Chase last year and can gain compensation this year.
I like the look of the Gordon Elliott-trained Ginto in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle and the same stable’s Top Bandit is well fancied for the County Hurdle.
It could be a great day for Elliott as Mount Ida is my selection in the Mare’s Chase.
Garlick’s Goodies: TUESDAY – 13:30 Bob Olinger; 14:10 Alaphilippe; 14:50 Shan Blue (ew); 15:30 Thyme Hill; 16:10 The Glancing Queen; 16:50 Grangee; 17:30 Frontal Assault.
WEDNESDAY –13:30 Vauban; 14:10 Top Bandit; 14:50 Ginto; 15:30 Protektorat; 16:10 Billaway; 16:50 Mount Ida; 17:30 Langer Dan.