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Cheltenham 2024 Day One LIVE: Latest tips and racecards… as Lizzie Kelly strikes again with her tip Chianti Classico holding on in the Ultima Handicap Chase – news today

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Follow Mail Sport’s live blog of Cheltenham Day One as we keep you updated with all the latest tips, results and racecards as a thrilling week of jump racing lies ahead. We kick off with Champion Day, with the centrepiece race, the Champion Hurdle, at 3.30pm. 

Runners and riders for the 4.10pm Mares Hurdle

  1. Ashroe Diamond – P. W Mullins
  2. Echoes In Rain – Brian Hayes
  3. Gala Marceau – Danny Mullins
  4. Hispanic Moon – Darragh O’Keefe
  5. Lantry Lady – Jack Kennedy
  6. Lossiemouth – Paul Townend
  7. Love Envoi – Jonathan Burke
  8. Marie’s Rock – Nico de Boinville
  9. Telmesomethinggirl – Rachael Blackmore
  10. Theatre Glory – James Bowen
  11. You Wear It Well – Gavin Sheehan

A really sad note from Fergal O’Brien’s yard

The trainer thanks race fans for their messages of condolence after today’s tragic news.

What a performance the front-runner put in. You can relive it via Mail Sport’s report below…

Speaking of the Prestbury Cup…

Last year saw the Irish trainers rout their Great British counterparts 18 wins to 10, and this year… we could see more of the same.

As things stand after four races, it’s Ireland 3-1 Great Britain.

Horse trainer Willie Mullins on day one of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

Much of the post-Oscars chat has been Oppenheimer-related…

What with extremely Irish Cillian Murphy’s Best Actor race essentially a coronation at Sunday’s ceremony likely serving to foreshadow Irish trainers’ Prestbury Cup success this week.

But Cheltenham Racecourse is here to remind us of the flipside of the Barben-heimer coin.

Time for State Man to shine. And, quite possibly, for this meme format to say goodbye.

Champion Hurdle – RESULTS

  1. State Man
  2. Irish Point
  3. Luccia

Winner 96 at the Festival for Willie Mullins

And the parade ring explodes as Townend and State Man make their way off the course.

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 12, 2024  Paul Townend riding State Man on their way to winning the 15:30 Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

WATCH: State Man’s statement win

Paul Townend speaks to ITV Racing

He’s an old favourite of mine. He deserves a good win here.

Definitely (means a lot to win this race). It was the one that was missing here, and in my younger years it was a race that meant a lot to me.

To have my name on the list is very special.

Last year’s leading jockey wins his second race of this Cheltenham Tuesday.

A gorgeous win for State Man

He travelled well, and never looked anything other than composed and dominance.

Constitution Hill may have left him second last year, but he wins today!

CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 12: Paul Townend riding State Man (yellow/black) clear the last to win The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy during day one of the Cheltenham Festival 2024 at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 12, 2024 in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Breaking: STATE MAN CLAIMS THE CHAMPION HURDLE

It’s go-time now as the champion-in-waiting powers ahead after being shaken on the final hurdle, but he pulls ahead by a length, then another, and he roundly beats Irish point!

State Man biding his time after the third-last

As they begin to take the descent, State Man does it messily over the third-last, but does well to continue looking powerful.

He’s up to third now as they round the corner and head for home. He’s off now and moving round the outside…

CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 12: Paul Townend riding State Man (yellow/black) clear the last to win The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy during day one of the Cheltenham Festival 2024 at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 12, 2024 in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Zarak The Brave bringing up the rear

… as they head down the slope – that’s Mullins’ second horse in the race.

Over the next hurdle, Nemean Lion and Not So Sleepy continue to lead the pack, followed by Irish Point, Luccia on the outside, and State Man in fifth.

Iberico Lord drops back now, however.

Not So Sleepy keeps the pace

Over on the outside is Luccia and Nemean Lion as they pop over the first hurdle. Nemean Lion has it by a nose, with Not So Sleepy on the outside, just ahead of State Man, still holding the inside line.

The Champion Hurdle is a-go!

State Man is on the inside alongside the rail, next to Colonel Mustard, as the horses are called forward and we’re racing.

Mail Sport’s report for that Ultima Handicap Chase is in, for a spot of reading while we wait for the horses to reach the start.

Just the EIGHT Grade Ones for State Man

Prowling round the parade ring, he looks in sensational form ahead of his big moment.

Will anyone be able to touch him? Iberico Lord will hope to threaten, but Marcus Townend tips him as an each-way prospect, rather than ripe to snatch victory from the runaway favourite.

Ahead of the race, Mullins shares his thoughts on the would-be-champion:

He’s well. I think he’ll handle the ground. It’s all positive, I’ve no negative. Now we need luck.

Runners and riders in the Champion Hurdle

  1. Colonel Mustard – J. J Slevin
  2. Iberico Lord – Nico de Boinville
  3. Irish Point – Jack Kennedy
  4. Nemean Lion – Richard Patrick
  5. Not So Sleepy – Sean Bowen
  6. State Man – Paul Townend
  7. Zarak The Brave – Daryl Jacob
  8. Luccia – James Bowen

We’ve got just under quarter-of-an-hour until the Champion Hurdle, and you can catch up with Marcus Townend’s full review below.

Distressing news on Highland Hunter

Sadly, the Fergal O’Brien-trained horse sadly lost his life after sustaining a fatal injury during the Handicap Chase.

Sincere condolences to his connections.

Tragically, his death comes a week after he lead the procession at former jockey Keagan Kirkby’s funeral.

Next up, it’s the big one… the Champion Hurdle

That’s right, it’s our showpiece race in just over 20 minutes.

And why not refresh your memory as to how ace former jockey Lizzie Kelly has tipped it?

Her nod Chianti Classico took the last race making it an impressive three-fer (ish).

Kim Bailey speaks to ITV Racing

Bailey is also the trainer of Trelawne, who seems to have recovered after that initial fall. He admitted it was a difficult race for the two fortunes of his runners.

But on Chianti Classico, he said it was:

Huge. Huge for the yard. They believed in the horse.

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 12, 2024  David Bass celebrates on Chianti Classico after winning the 14:50 Ultima Handicap Chase Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

WATCH: Chianti Classico’s barnstorming win

A vintage performance? (Oh God).

Ultima Handicap Chase – RESULTS

  1. Chianti Classico
  2. Twig
  3. Meetingofthewaters
  4. Famous Bridge

David Bass speaks to ITV Racing

What a lovely horse. He just travelled everywhere.

I was thinking there’s a big race in Liverpool I’d love to run him in.

The ground is bad, but he’s done it well in the end.

He’s got a touch of class. it’s brilliant for the owners, it’s brilliant for the yard.

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 12, 2024  David Bass celebrates on Chianti Classico after winning the 14:50 Ultima Handicap Chase Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Highland Hunter struggled at the last

As the pack pushed together after that final uphill, Highland Hunter fell – we will keep you updated as we learn more.

Chianti Classico wins the Ultima Handicap Chase!

Meetingofthewaters moves up with Twig and Chianti Classico, but the final fence nearly proves a problem!

But he refinds his footing – and travels impressively on the straight to keep Twig at bay!

Jockey David Bass recovers after a mistake on landing over the final fence on Chianti Classico on the way to winning the Ultima Handicap Chase on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse, in Cheltenham, western England on March 12, 2024. (Photo by Ben Stansall / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 12, 2024  David Bass riding Chianti Classico on their way to winning the 14:50 Ultima Handicap Chase Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

Chianti Classico steams ahead

Victorrino and Gevrey are the next to be pulled up, as Chianti Classico continues to look particularly impressive, with Twig on the outside as they all gather for the final uphill climb.

He’s unleashed as he crosses the third-final fence!

Busselton is pulled up

So we’re two runners down now, as Highland Hunter continues to lead the back.

Weveallbeencaught makes a mistake at the back with five fences to go, with Chianti Classico doing well in third, ahead of Eklat De Rire.

Eight fences to go now

Highland Hunter continues to lead alongside Eklat De Rire, with Chianti Classico on the outside well-placed for accelaration.

At the back of the pack it’s Victorrino and Chambard looking to make ground, but Stumptown and Monbeg Genius are struggling and falling away.

Highland Hunter and Monbeg Genius wrong-foot with 16 fences to go

Eklat De Rire leads the pack, with Twig, and Highland Hunter as they complete the first loop of the track.

Trelawne has been moved off the last fence, and is moving much better. Hopefully all’s well there.

They’re off!

No false start here, and Marcus Townend’s tip Chianti Classico is one of the leaders of the pack over the first fence.

But well-backed Trelawne is down! Jockey Cobden is up, but the horse has taken a real tumble.

We’re just about ready to go in the first Handicap of the Festival

It’s taken a little while for the packed field to reach the start.

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 12, 2024  Racegoers are seen during the 14:50 Ultima Handicap Chase Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Mail Sport’s report for that Arkle Chase is in now – relive that sumptuous ‘dream ride’ for Gaelic Warrior below.

Runners and riders for the Ultima Handicap Chase

  1. Eldorado Allen – Freddie Gingell
  2. Run Wild Fred – Danny Gilligan
  3. Highland Hunter – Paddy Brennan
  4. Stumptown – Keith Donoghue
  5. Monbeg Genius – Jonjo O’Neil Jr
  6. The Goffer – Jack Kennedy
  7. Meetingofthewaters – Mark Walsh
  8. Chambard – Lucy Turner
  9. Minella Crooner – Jordan Gainford
  10. Kitty’s Light – Jack Tudor
  11. Gevrey – Sam Ewing
  12. Eklat De Rire – Racheal Blackmore
  13. Victtorino – Charlie Deutsch
  14. Busselton – J. J Slevin
  15. Trelawne – Harry Cobden
  16. Twig – Beau Morgan
  17. Chianti Classico – David Bass
  18. Found On – NON-RUNNER
  19. Lord Du Mesnil – Gavin Sheehan
  20. Excello – Nico de Boinville
  21. Famous Bridge – Sean Quinlan
  22. Weveallbeencaught – Sam Twiston-Davies
  23. Risk and Roll – NON-RUNNER

Willie Mullins speaks to Racing TV

He ran a cracker. I’m delighted, because in the parade ring, I thought he was going to be really upset.

Paul couldn’t get over (how easy he was to ride). He was a dream ride.

He settled lovely in between the horses.

GOING UPDATE

The going – which was SOFT, HEAVY IN PLACES, has now been updated to: HEAVY, SOFT IN PLACES post-Arkle.

Another hit for Lizzie Kelly

The Mail Sport tipster had her eye on Il Etait Temps, who duly finished third.

Refresh your memory on who she tipped for the Ultima Handicap Chase at 2.50pm, below.

Blackmore shares her thoughts on Quilixios

He was poor today, he didn’t show up.

I’m a huge fan of the terse, post-race interviews-in-brief we’re treated on ITV Racing.

Blackmore had anticipated a false state for the Arkle, but instead, everyone got away smoothly – and she was wrong-footed.

Jockey Rachael Blackmore on day one of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA Wire.RESTRICTIONS: Editorial Use only, commercial use is subject to prior permission from The Jockey Club/Cheltenham Racecourse.

Both Master Chewy and Authorised Speed back on their feet

WATCH: Gaelic Warrior cruises to claim the Arkle

Lucky number 95 – how soon will we see the Cheltenham 100 for Mullins?

Arkle Chase – RESULTS

  1. Gaelic Warrior
  2. Found A Fifty
  3. Il Etait Temps
Paul Townend aboard Gaelic Warrior after winning the My Pension Expert Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase on day one of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: Adam Davy/PA Wire.RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

Paul Townend talks to ITV Racing

It’s as good a ride as i’ve got off him in a race!

Stamina came into play today.

On making things look easy:

Just pointed him the right way.

It’s a pressure week, there’s no ducking that, but the monkey’s off the back now and hopefully we can go on now.

Gaelic Warrior takes the Arkle!

He was happy to follow in Matata’s stead, but on the straight was untouchable as he cruised past the post the give Willie Mullins his first winner of the day.

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 12, 2024  Paul Townend riding Gaelic Warrior and Jack Kennedy riding Found A Fifty in action during the 14:10 My Pension Expert Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Master Chewy falls!

Blackmore’s out of contention for her second, but Master Chewy has moved into fourth behind the three leaders as they approach the penultimate fence.

But he comes down, and he’s out of the race!

A wobble for Il Etait Temps

Work to do for Il Etait Temps who makes a mistake at the ditch with three fences to go, dropping back to seventh. Matata still leads Gaelic Warrior.

Gaelic Warrior looking well

Gaelic Warrior looks smoother over the fifth as they prepare for the water jump. He’s still a length behind Matata, and tracked on the outside by Found A Fifty.

Matata leads over the fourth jump

Quilixios has led early but drops back now, with the leader followed by favourite Gaelic Warrior.

The Arkle is underway!

Authorised Speed is the first faller of the day, with the horse up okay, and rider Noonan getting to his feet.

Gaelic Warrior’s a little het up ahead of the Arkle

As the horses head to the start of the race, the favourite has come out of the paddock looking a little fresh, compared to the calm-and-composed Quilixios.

Blackmore’s injured jockeys fund rises to £195,000

Betfair launched a one-of-a-kind charity initiative, the ‘Rachael Blackmore – Serial Winners Fund’, to benefit both the ‘Injured Jockey Fund’ and the ‘Irish Injured Jockeys’ on Betfair Chase Day last November, and the Supreme Hurdle win has swelled the existing total to £195,000.

Slade Steel ridden by Rachael Blackmore after winning the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle on day one of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

Hear the roar!

The next-best thing to being there…

Runners and riders for the Arkle Chase

  1. Gaelic Warrior – Paul Townend
  2. Hunters Yarn – Daryl Jacob
  3. Il Etait Temps – Danny Mullins
  4. Found A Fifty – Jack Kennedy
  5. JPR One – Brendan Powell
  6. Master Chewy – Tom Bellamy
  7. Matata – Sam Twiston-Davies
  8. Authorised Speed – David Noonan
  9. My Mate Mozzie – Keith Donoghue
  10. Quilixios – Racheal Blackmore

After success in the Festival’s opener, why not take a look at Blackmore’s Quilixios in the Arkle?

You can find all of the jockey’s thoughts on her three remaining rides this Cheltenham Tuesday below.

Updated ground report from Nico de Boinville

After his Jeriko Du Reponet got lost in the pack, he noted:

Ground’s really hard work.

Or perhaps you’d rather take Ruby Walsh’s advice for Tuesday’s races

His pick for the 2.10pm, courtesy of Paddy Power, is Master Chewy (each-way).

  • 14:10 – Master Chewy (each-way) – 18/1
  • 14:50 – Trelawne – 11/2
  • 15:30 – State Man – 4/9
  • 16:10 – Lossiemouth – 4/5
  • 16:50 – Ose Partir – 14/1
  • 17:30 – Corbetts Cross – 2/1

Lizzie Kelly tipped Slade Steel to take the Supreme Hurdle…

… and Rachael Blackmore come through for our Mail Sport tipster.

Seems like it might be time to take a closer look at her pick for the next race, the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase, at 2.10pm…

Supreme Hurdle – RESULTS

  1. Slade Steel
  2. Mystical Power
  3. Firefox
Slade Steel ridden by Rachael Blackmore acknowledges the crowd after winning the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle on day one of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire.RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

Racheal Blackmore speaks to ITV Racing

She’s captured a compelling first win, and rained early on Willie Mullins’ parade with her acceleration past Mystic Power.

I was always travelling, I didn’t really want to be in front jumping the last, but he took me there, and travelled so well after the last.

It’s unbelievable, I obviously love this place, andf it’s unbelievable to be coming here and riding these horses.

Slade Steel takes the first race!

But as Mystical Power leads at the last, it’s Slade Steel who turns on the after-burners on the straight to win the Supreme!

Things are wide open

Slade Steel pulls away over the final hurdle, but from the left its Mystical Hurdle coming up on the outside who looks to test him…

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 12, 2024  Rachael Blackmore riding Slade Steel and Mark Walsh riding Mystical Power in action during the 13:30 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

Racing towards the third last

Very little change in the pack as Jeriko de Reponet looks to recapture his position as they climb uphill with three hurdles to go.

Tullyhill still sets the pace alongside Tellherthename, tracked by Slade Steel.

Measured jumping so far

Safely over the second, Tellherthename draws ahead of Tullyhill, but over the third on the inside, there’s a teasing mistake from Jeriko de Reponet, who slips back.

Runners and riders during the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle on day one of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA Wire.RESTRICTIONS: Editorial Use only, commercial use is subject to prior permission from The Jockey Club/Cheltenham Racecourse.

Tullyhill leads after of the first hurdle

Tellherthename and Slade Steel keep pace in second, with Supersundae lingering at the back. An early mistake over the first jump from Favour and Fortune.

We’re off!

Our runners set off to the sound of a magnificent much-hyped Cheltenham Roar from the concourse, after a first false start which saw Kings Hill and Asian Master a little to fast off the mark.

The horses are heading to post ahead of 1.30pm’s Supreme Hurdle

The softer ground means we won’t be getting a flyer, with an estimated race time of around about four minutes.

Keep your eyes peeled for an outlier…

Namely Tom Costello, aboard Asian Master for Willie Mullins in the first race this afternoon.

He stands at an almost preposterous-sounding 6ft 4, towering over most of the weight room.

Runners and riders for the Supreme Hurdle

  1. Asian Master – T. Costello
  2. Favour and Fortune – Tom Cannon
  3. Firefox – Jack Kennedy
  4. Gold Dancer – NON-RUNNER
  5. Jeriko Du Reponet – Nico de Boinville
  6. Kings Hill – Jack G Gilligan
  7. Mistergif – Daryl Jacob
  8. Mystical Power – Mark Walsh
  9. Slade Steel – Racheal Blackmore
  10. Supersundae – P W Mullins
  11. Tellherthename – Kielan Woods
  12. Tullyhill – Paul Townend

Not long to go now, so settle down, and make sure if you’re thinking of having a flutter, you consult Marcus Townend’s race-by-race tips.

First of all, he fancies Jeriko du Reponet… but there could be fierce resistance from Paddy Power favourite – and Willie Mullins-trained – Tullyhill.

The punters have poured in

… and the racecourse is filling up ahead of the afternoon’s first race.

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 12, 2024  General view as racegoers place bets ahead of today's races Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra
Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 12, 2024  General view of the racegoers ahead of today's races Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Breaking: NON-RUNNERS

We have one in the first race at 1.30pm – Gold Dancer – and two in the 2.50pm, Found On, and Risk and Roll

Ruby Walsh talks Champion Hurdle favourite State Man on ITV

He’s asked to give his thoughts on State Man’s potential flaws…

None. There’s no chinks in his armour.

He doesn’t pull, he doesn’t hang. He knows how to jump. He is just bomb-proof.

Just so simple, State Man.

I think he’s a really good horse, and today he’s going to win the Champion Hurdle.

File photo dated 04-02-2024 of State Man ridden by jockey Paul Townend. State Man should make the most of the disappointing absence of title holder Constitution Hill and provide trainer Willie Mullins with a fifth victory in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Issue date: Monday March 11, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Tips Tuesday. Photo credit should read Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Just under half-an-hour to go…

… until the first race of the Festival, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

And what did the Hurdle course look like at 9am? Boggy!

Attention mudlarks!

It could be a day full of upsets after the weather’s surprise turn, and Marcus Townend and Lizzie Kelly have the latest tips from a soggy Cheltenham.

A developing one… Cheltenham Festival may be forced to POSTPONE a race due to heavy rain

As you may have gathered, things have been a little wet and wild in the Cotswolds, and although today’s races will be unaffected, tomorrow’s picture is a little murkier.

You can read Marcus Townend’s full report here.

Mail Sport’s MATT HUGHES has an intriguing special report ahead of the start of the Festival proper, with a look at the seamier side of Cheltenham – and its army of illegal bookmakers courting high-rollers in hospitality.

For more on the hundreds of millions pounds set to leave the sport via unlicensed bookmakers, you can read through Matt’s report below.

The realities of the day’s going report

Mud masks remain a highly prized facial treatment, so, swings and roundabouts.

In a move that would likely have Mullins’ rival trainers green with envy, the Irishman opened his doors to Mail Sport’s Dominic King ahead of the start of the Festival, and plying him with delectable-sounding smoked salmon on soda bread, opened up about the secrets to his success.

You can read more from Dominic’s visit below.

Our second sportsman-turned-racing aficionado sighting of the day: Graeme Souness

The former Scotland international and pundit – and Mail Sport columnist – has turned up at the course in a very natty checked jacket, in an appearance that may come as a surprise to his former Rangers striker Ally McCoist, who once shared that the his ex-boss used to fine him every time he went to the races as a player.

If he returned all the fines I had to pay for going to the track, I’d be retired by now!

McCoist told the Mirror in 2023…

If he returned all the fines I had to pay for going to the track, I’d be retired by now!

Former Scottish football player and manager Graeme Souness on day one of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire.RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

Speaking a glittering Cheltenham future into existence, Blackmore – who bagged leading jockey in the 2021 running of the Festival – shares her first trip to the course with Mail Sport’s DOMINIC KING.

You can read more from the former Gold Cup winner below.

Mullins’ runners take to the gallops

Getting a feel for the course early, the Irish trainers runners took to the gallops on a misty morning ahead of their day’s action.

A horse for whom Tuesday exercise will be his only run-out on the turf is Ballyburn, pulled from the first race of the day – the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – to feature in tomorrow’s Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle.

The six-year-old was considered a clear favourite for the former, which could give it an interesting wrinkle, but Mullins’ Tullyhill and Mystical Power are likely more than ready to take up the mantle as racewinner, and do battle against Henry De Bromhead’s Slade Steel, who’ll have Racheal Blackmore aboard.

Willie Mullins trained horses on the gallops ahead of day one of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA Wire.RESTRICTIONS: Editorial Use only, commercial use is subject to prior permission from The Jockey Club/Cheltenham Racecourse.
Ballyburn on the gallops ahead of day one of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA Wire.RESTRICTIONS: Editorial Use only, commercial use is subject to prior permission from The Jockey Club/Cheltenham Racecourse.

Also out this morning – eight-time Grade 1 winner State Man (below), looking in fine fettle ahead of the looming Champion Hurdle.

Paul Townend with State Man on the gallops ahead of day one of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA Wire.RESTRICTIONS: Editorial Use only, commercial use is subject to prior permission from The Jockey Club/Cheltenham Racecourse.

WATCH: Cheltenham Confidential – DAY ONE

Every day, Mail Sport’s Marcus Townend and former Cheltenham Gold Cup jockey Lizzie Kelly will be sharing their tips for the day’s action from the Festival itself.

Check out the unmissable first episode below!

It was up at the crack of dawn for Mail Sport snapper ANDY HOOPER to catch a Cheltenham hopeful exercised in picturesque style.

Have a flip through his photos of James Owen’s Grozni, and his Kempton-bound stablemate Too Friendly out not-so-bright and early on Holkham Beach.

Can Willie Mullins kick off this year’s Festival in style?

Last year’s leading trainer scored six winners across the Festival including capturing the Gold Cup with Galopin Des Champs, and he starts off this year’s tilt at the title with a titanic six favourites across his 20 runners on day one.

Most of the talk on Champion Day will settle on his State Man, for whom the Champion Hurdle is already being seen as a processional.

But could the trainer really match last year’s record on one spectacular starting day?

Willie Mullins on the gallops ahead of day one of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA Wire.RESTRICTIONS: Editorial Use only, commercial use is subject to prior permission from The Jockey Club/Cheltenham Racecourse.

I’ve seen more beautiful English days

The frankly miserable scene from Cheltenham, which will soon benefit from being gussied up by well-dressed punters.

Go on, have a look at what Mail Sport’s racing experts have to say about the action every day this week.

You’ll find views from Mail Sport journalists, top jockeys, and pundits, and they share their thoughts below.

The gates opened at 10.30am…

Here’s today’s raceday weather report

Clerk of the Course Pullin’s prediction seems set to hold up, as we should now dodge serious rain for the rest of the day. Not to tempt fate, or anything.

The answer is, of course, the towering Istabraq, 32 years young and still as camera-ready as the day of his final Champion Hurdle win in 2000.

Mail Sport’s DOMINIC KING was granted an audience with him, which you can read about below.

Answers in the comments, please

Retirement at Martinstown Stud seems to be treating him well.

Mail Sport’s MARCUS TOWNEND is on the ground at Cheltenham

And he gives us the morning’s report on the going on today’s track, the Old Course.

Cheltenham Racecourse Clerk of the Course Jon Pullin has said the worst of today’s rain should have passed by 11am. Today is the first day of The Cheltenham Festival 2024, Champion Day.

Speaking this morning after announcing that there will be an inspection of the Cross-Country Course tomorrow morning, he said: ‘We were initially forecast, going back two or three days, to be dry today. Then 48 hours ago that forecast updated to some light showers but only around a millimetre of rainfall. Then yesterday it was updated again to 2-4mm for this morning.

‘The forecast which we got last thing yesterday then increased further and gave us some cause for concern and by 6.30am this morning we had actually had 6mm, with a further 4-6mm forecast through the morning. A heavier band of rain is due to arrive around 11am but it should be all over by around lunchtime. We might get an odd shower later in the afternoon but that should not be anything too measurable – the worst of this rain should finish this morning.’

Pullin explained that while the Old and New courses have ‘taken the really rain well’, the Cross-Country Course is more of a challenge as it does not drain as well.

He said: ‘Both the Old and New Courses have taken the rain really well and have been updated to Soft, Heavy in places. We will walk the course at 10.30am and see if that description needs updating.’

Mail Sport’s Cheltenham experts will be giving us a daily debrief via their Cheltenham Breakfast reports, and with anticipation building ahead of the start of the raceweek, today’s installment is a doozy.

Have a peruse at your leisure, below.

Good morning!

Hello and welcome to Mail Sport’s live coverage of day one of this year’s Cheltenham Festival, with just under an hour and a half to go until the crowd unleashes the legendary Cheltenham Roar ahead of our first race.

Make sure to set your watches for 3.30pm: that’s when the day’s showpiece race, the Champion Hurdle, will take place.

But before we get what should be a spine-tingling week of racing going, we’ll bring you all the build-up, going reports, and latest odds ahead of 1.30pm’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Willie Mullins trained horses on the gallops ahead of day one of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA Wire.RESTRICTIONS: Editorial Use only, commercial use is subject to prior permission from The Jockey Club/Cheltenham Racecourse.



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