Cheltenham Festival tips: Templegate NAP can get punters off to a flyer thanks to Willie Mullins
TEMPLEGATE tackles day one of Cheltenham Festival confident of bashing the bookies – and finding YOU some winners.
Below you will find our man’s tips, and a complete race-by-race guide to all the action.
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IL ETAIT TEMPS (1.30 Cheltenham, nap)
Willie Mullins’ apparent second-fiddle in the race can prove his Dublin Racing Festival victory was no fluke.
He saw off a dismal Facile Vega in style that day and travelled really, really well throughout. He’ll get another strong pace to aim at and some cut in the ground will be perfect.
EL FABIOLO (2.10 Cheltenham, nb)
Irish hope has been imperious since going over fences with a 19-length success on debut at Fairyhouse before oozing class in taking the Irish version of this race.
He is simply superb, a gritty finisher and has the strongest novice chase form on offer this season. He can edge a blockbuster against Jonbon.
PERSEUS WAY (4.50 Cheltenham, treble)
Was a big improver when going close in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton last time out. He overcame being hampered in running to lead over the last where a better jump may have sealed the deal.
He ran well here when second in the Triumph Hurdle trial before Christmas and his handicap mark looks fair.
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Templegate’s race-by-race guide to day one of Cheltenham
IL ETAIT TEMPS can prove his Dublin Racing Festival victory was no fluke by taking the Supreme.
He took a massive step forward in winning the Grade 1 Brave Inca for Willie Mullins ahead of previously unbeaten stablemate Facile Vega.
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He jumped well and travelled sweetly through the race and quickened nicely from before the last. He’ll get another strong pace to aim at here and some cut in the ground is ideal.
He looks overpriced and it would be a major surprise if he didn’t go very close again.
Facile Vega nearly pulled Paul Townend’s arms out in that race and couldn’t sustain the gallop.
You can be sure Mullins will have done a lot of work at home to help him settle and he’ll need to.
There’s no doubt his form is high-class and he showed a liking for Cheltenham when winning the Champion Bumper.
Marine Nationale battled to maintain his unbeaten record when taking the Grade 1 Royal Bond by a neck at Fairyhouse.
He needed every yard there in the mud so will like the hill and more rain would help.
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High Definition has Flat class and won well on debut before making jumping errors in the Brave Inca. If he can brush up his hurdling he’s a player.
Diverge looks solid each-way especially if you can get extra places. He slaughtered a moderate field at Punchestown and has a lot more to offer after just two hurdles runs.
Tahmuras is the best of the British challenge and was impressive when winning the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.
He won’t lack for stamina and was still green last time so there’s more to come. He takes on much stiffer opposition today though.
Inthepocket took a Grade 2 at Naas before a good second behind Il Etait Temps at Leopardstown.
A bit further would be ideal but it would be no shock to see him finish well and he could snatch one of those extra places many bookies are offering.
EL FABIOLO can edge what should be an epic Arkle battle with Jonbon.
The Irish hope has been imperious since going over fences with a 19-length success on debut at Fairyhouse before oozing class in taking the Irish version of this race.
That was easily the strongest novice chase form this season and he was on the bridle for most of the way before skipping clear of good rivals to land a ten-length victory.
He did make one error at Leopardstown but it didn’t knock him out of his stride. He will improve for the run, handles fast and slow ground and is all class.
Jonbon narrowly beat him over hurdles at Aintree last season and is a worthy foe. He is unbeaten over fences, including a Grade 1 success at Sandown in December.
He was briefly on the back foot in a match at Warwick last time but soon picked up his rival – who has won since – for an ultimately comfortable success.
Nicky Henderson says he was undercooked that day and he’ll be spot on for this. It should be a cracker.
Dysart Dynamo is more than likely to go off too quickly and as he did ahead of El Fabiolo last time and run out of puff.
Saint Roi looks the one for third place despite the softest unseated rider you will ever see early in the Irish Arkle last time.
Before that he was impressive when winning a Leopardstown Grade 1 at Christmas where he jumped pretty well. He should have no issues staying and has more to offer.
There’s a big gulf in class to the rest of the field. Straw Fan Jack won here last April and that can give him the edge in a battle for fifth place.
REMASTERED can keep up David Pipe’s excellent record in this red-hot handicap. He has won it three times with another six runners hitting the frame.
This year’s hope has a massive heart and has run crackers this season when second in the Coral Gold Cup (Hennessy) before following up with a smooth success at Kempton.
He had a quiet spin over hurdles to warm up for this and has lots of staying power for what’s certain to be an end-to-end gallop.
Last year’s winner Corach Rambler has every chance from just 6lb higher. He finished strongly into fourth in that Coral Gold Cup and will love the hill as he did 12 months ago.
Fastorslow was second in the Coral Cup over hurdles at last year’s Festival and makes his handicap chase debut here after two runs at Grade 1 level.
He has more to offer over fences and, if he stays, he’ll be a big threat.
That comment applies to Nassalam too after he was a good third in the Premier Handicap here on New Year’s Day.
That was over 2m4f but he shapes as though he’ll get this longer trip. He is handicapped to go close.
Cloudy Glen was second in the Kim Muir two years ago and looks a big price to hit the places.
He came right back to form when third at Haydock last time and will have no stamina issues.
Into Overdrive comes here in fine form and jumped beautifully when winning the tough Rowland Meyrick Chase from the front at Wetherby.
He’s not run since that Boxing Day contest so is fresh and won’t be far away.
Happygolucky has run just three times since finishing second in this two years ago. He showed some promise here on New Year’s Day and the first-time cheekpieces could help him figure for Kim Bailey.
CONSTITUTION HILL can cement his place as one of jump racing’s true greats by winning the Champion Hurdle.
By any measure, he is head and shoulders above these rivals and his win in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle will live long in the memory.
It’s not a given that a novice will hold his form across the seasons but Nicky Henderson’s superstar has more than done that.
He won Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle at an absolute canter before repeating the feat in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
He jumps brilliantly and has an engine that would see him win top races on the Flat.
So much so that Hendo doesn’t have a workhorse that can get anywhere near him and has to run relays at home.
It will be a big shock and a real downer if he doesn’t win this easily.
State Man is up the standard of a ‘normal’ Champion Hurdler and has been beating good horses in Ireland, including dual Champ Honeysuckle last time.
He travels well and is a good jumper with more to come. The danger is he’ll burn himself out trying to serve it up to Constitution Hill who will surely be too strong.
If that happens, the likeable I Like To Move It could run on for second.
He tanked along when winning the Greatwood Hurdle here in November before not staying 2m4f on New Year’s Day.
He left that behind with a blistering Grade 2 victory at Wincanton and will have no problem getting up the hill. In a normal year he’d be a real contender.
Vauban won the Triumph Hurdle 12 months ago before scoring at Punchestown. He’s had to chase home State Man twice this season and is likely to repeat that form here.
The others need a miracle with Zanahiyr struggling at this level and Not So Sleepy beaten 55 lengths in the Long Walk on Boxing Day.
EPATANTE loves Cheltenham and can land this red-hot Mares’ Hurdle.
The 2020 Champion Hurdler has looked as good as ever this season with two seconds to Constitution Hill before a bloodless victory at Doncaster last time.
She has Grade 1 winning form over this trip and won’t mind if the ground is a little on the testing side. She can be guaranteed to run her race.
Her trainer Nicky Henderson has thrown a spanner in the works by running defending champion Marie’s Rock in this rather than the Stayers’.
She went on to score at Punchestown before an impressive Relkeel victory here on New Year’s Day. Her stamina isn’t in doubt and she can figure again.
Let’s not forget dual Champion Hurdler Honeysuckle who also won this three years ago.
Her form has dipped a little this season but she’s been running well in top races in Ireland behind the likes of State Man.
Her Festival record speaks for itself and she’ll go very close on what is a drop in class for Henry De Bromhead’s star.
Echoes In Rain would love more of the wet stuff as soft ground is ideal.
She bounced back from a poor Fairyhouse run to win easily at Naas. This is tougher but she could come with a late run to nick a place.
Paul Townend has chosen to ride another Willie Mullins runner in Brandy Love.
She was very good when winning a Fairyhouse Grade 1 in April and looked in need of the run on her only other outing since then last month.
She does jump right, which is a concern at left-handed Cheltenham, but should run well.
Love Envoi won the novice version of this last season and has been impressive at Sandown on her past two runs. She takes on stiffer opposition here but is in good nick.
PERSEUS WAY was a big improver when going close in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton last time out.
He overcame being hampered on running to lead over the last where a better jump may have sealed the deal.
He ran well here when second in the Triumph Hurdle trial before Christmas and his handicap mark looks fair. He has all the tools to go close.
Irish yards have won the past five runnings and Tekao looks like their main hope for Willie Mullins.
He has run just three times over timber and held his own in the Grade 1 Spring Hurdle at Leopardstown last month. He’s sure to come on for that run.
Bad is a totally unknown quantity for Ben Pauling and Rachael Blackmore. He won easily in France last time and is running off what could be a very lenient handicap mark.
Byker has been well supported for shrewd Irish trainer Charles Byrnes.
He wasn’t asked too many questions when third at Naas latest on the back of a big-field win there in January. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him improve plenty here.
Similar comments apply to Jazzy Matty who has shown bits and pieces of form on four runs for Gordon Elliott.
Afadil won a Listed race for Paul Nicholls at Musselburgh last month so is clearly no mug.
At a big price, Mr Freedom clocked a personal best when going close at Doncaster last time and is no forlorn extra-place hope.
Samuel Spade had 16 lengths in hand when winning at Huntingdon last time so could figure if taking to this very different test.
GAILLARD DU MESNIL is a genuine Grade 1 horse who showed his staying power for this sort of test when running a good third in last year’s Irish Grand National.
This is his third visit to the Festival after going close in the Ballymore Hurdle and Brown Advisory, two much classier contests than this.
It took him a while to land his first chase win but it was an impressive top-level success at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting before another excellent effort when third at the Dublin Racing Festival.
He’s well clear on official ratings and can make that class tell.
Mahler Mission can chase him home after a good Grade 2 second at Navan last month. He saw out the three miles well there and has the scope for this stiffer test.
Mister Coffey travels well in his races but often gets outbattled when push comes to shove.
He has the excellent Derek O’Connor in the saddle and was a good second in the Kim Muir at last year’s Festival.
Maybe the marathon trip will bring out the best in him.
Chemical Energy is ridden by Jamie Codd who will hope he jumps better than at Naas last time.
He earlier took a three-runner novice contest here in style and shapes as though this trip will be fine.
Minella Crooner looks to be crying out for this sort of test after running on when second over three miles at Fairyhouse.
He likes to go from the front and could make this a test.
Tenzing was behind Mahler Mission last time but has just three chase runs under his belt so there should be more to come.
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