Cheltenham Day 1 Results
As usual, it felt like a long wait for Cheltenham for National Hunt fans. A year in the making, the 2021 Festival was finally upon us and the excitement was palpable.
Huge money was once again changing hands. Much was expected on day one of Shishkin, while Honeysuckle was putting a career unbeaten record on the line.
All the racing lived up to expectations. Seven fantastic races formed a breathless first day of the Festival and we have details here of every single result.
Cheltenham Day One – Tuesday 16th March
Seven races make up day one of the Festival. The track was good to soft, soft in places and was considered fair for all. Four horses were pulled out of their races, but only one on account of the ground. Learn more about the Cheltenham runners here.
The day kicked off in traditional fashion with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over two miles. As an odds-on favourite, we were expecting a lot from Appreciate It.
1:20 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Result
It was a smaller field than normal for the traditional curtain-raiser, the Supreme Novices’ going off in unusual circumstances. While we were without the usual “Cheltenham roar”, we did see a top-notch performance.
Willie Mullins’ Appreciate It simply romped home up the hill, winning the opener by some 24 lengths. Ballyadam ran as well as could be expected in second, but the big let-down was Metier.
In a sign of what was to come for the home team, Metier drifted badly in the market. He took a keen hold in the race, struggled after two out and ultimately limped home some 35 lengths behind the winner.
In fact, Metier’s performance was considered by the stewards. When asked, his trainer Harry Fry could offer no explanation for how badly he ran.
1:55 – Arkle Challenge Trophy Result
|5th||Franco De Port||8/1|
A rare moment of genuine quality from the British-trained runners was provided by superstar Shishkin in the Arkle. Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old simply dominated affairs here under Nico de Boinville.
Having jumped well all the way round, Shishkin took the lead three from home before pulling clear after the last to win by a very easy 12 lengths. His win earned him some rather skinny quotes for next year’s Champion Chase.
In behind Eldorado Allen ran a cracker for Colin Tizzard at 33/1, though Dan Skelton’s Allmankind was a little disappointing.
2:30 – Ultima Handicap Chase Result
|5th||One For The Team||17/2|
Incredibly, this was Vintage Clouds’ fifth attempt at this race! At 28/1 it seems most punters had given up the ghost too. Despite jumping right occasionally, however, Sue Smith’s star 11-year-old finally got the win he deserved.
Much like the Arkle, this result gave the British trainers a false sense of security as far as the rest of the meeting was to go. Kim Bailey, Harriet Graham and Venetia Williams were all top four here but that’s about as good as it got.
3:05 – Champion Hurdle Result
|5th||Not So Sleepy||125/1|
|9th||James Du Berlais||14/1|
There were plenty of stories here. Excellent mare Honeysuckle was coming into the race unbeaten, while another top mare Epatante was looking to defend her crown.
The unluckiest horse of last season, Goshen, was right back to his best and was looking to prove he was a champion, while Sharjah was once again overpriced having run second in this race last year.
In the end, it was all about the females. Not only did wondermare Honeysuckle become a champion, but so did Rachael Blackmore. Brilliantly ridden by Blackmore, Honeysuckle eased herself into the race before pulling clear.
She was ever so impressive going up the hill, scoring in the end by some 6½ lengths. Sharjah once again filled the second spot but this was all about the girls.
3:40 – Mares’ Hurdle Result
|5th||My Sister Sarah||40/1|
|8th||Great White Shark||20/1|
|9th||Dame De Compagnie||12/1|
Much was made of the Gordon Elliott saga before the Festival, and this was a winner he would have had. Denise Foster took the reigns at the yard and won her first Cheltenham Festival race here courtesy of Black Tears.
There was a brilliant finish to this event. Heading up the hill, Black Tears was still down on favourite Concertista but just managed to get her head down in front of the line. The well-fancied Roksana led at the home turn and battled on for third place ahead of Cheltenham-lover Indefatigable.
4:15 – Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Result
|Pulled-Up||Soldier On Parade||200/1|
We had a bigger field for the Boodles, as it is known, with not even their trainers knowing how good these four-year-olds are. A tight handicap, the race proved to be a difficult one for punters to solve.
Saint Sam ran well in second to almost reward favourite-backers, while the well-touted Houx Gris was a solid fourth. At 80/1 however, hardly anybody saw the winner coming!
Sean Flanagan’s face was a picture as he landed his Cheltenham Festival winner for trainer Noel Meade. Having been outpaced two from home, this was a battling performance to get back up and score by two lengths.
4:50 – National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase Result
|6th||The Mighty Don||40/1|
|8th||Eden Du Houx||200/1|
Another winner for what would have been Gordon Elliott, this time Ian Ferguson can take the credit. Galvin, perhaps a long-term Grand National fancy, kept on really well here to see out the 3¾-mile trip best of all under Jack Kennedy, who rode a double on the day.
The market got this just about right with the top three filling the places. Favourite Escaria Ten, also a former Elliott horse, may have got closer but for hitting the 7th and in the end, was beaten just three lengths.
|Nico de Boinville||1|
Jack Kennedy was expected to have a good festival considering his association with Gordon Elliott. Despite Elliott’s ban, his horses were still on top form and Kennedy finished day one at the top of the table thanks to wins on Black Tears and Galvin.
|Henry De Bromhead||1|
There were no doubles for any trainer on day one as the spoils were shared. Two former Gordon Elliott horses hit the spot, however, while big-hitters Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson and Henry De Bromhead got off the mark. De Bromhead’s win with Honeysuckle was to prove to be only the amuse-bouche for the trainer.
Summary of Cheltenham Day One
Day one featured numerous highlights. Given that it was in the championship race, the performance of the day was probably that of Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle. Rachael Blackmore and the mare were excellent, but there were a couple of taking displays from the novices.
Appreciate It’s performance in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle was outstanding. To pull so far clear of a Grade 1 field takes some doing. Enthusiasm is just tempered slightly by the lack of opposition, but Willie Mullins’ young star was brilliant all the same.
Shishkin looked the real deal in the Arkle too. A clean round of jumping, a mix of pace between fences and natural stamina to get home, he seems to have it all. He will be a very short price to win the Champion Chase next year you’d feel, many people’s instinct being that they’d seen a genuine two-mile superstar.
It wasn’t all about the Grade 1 races either of course. Sue Smith was brave enough to let Vintage Clouds have one more go at the Ultima at the age of 11, and it paid off! At 28/1 he wasn’t terribly well supported, but he was a popular winner all the same.
Having ridden two winners, jockey Jack Kennedy sat atop the leaderboard after day one. He must have thought he had a great chance of landing the jockeys’ championship, but nobody really foresaw what was to come over the next three days of action.