Local betting expert Joe Whitaker on the pick of Tuesday's Cheltenham Festival

Festival week is once again upon us, as the climax of the National Hunt season comes to a head, where the creme de la crème of British and Irish racing meets in this normally sleepy corner of Gloucestershire.

By Joe Whitaker
Monday, 14th March 2022, 3:21 pm

The Irish have dominated the festival over the last few years and this year should be more of the same, though there are some green shoots of optimism for the home team, with the pendulum slowly starting to swing back to them.

The week starts with what has been one of the standout races over recent years, the SkyBet Supreme Novices Hurdle (13:30). This year it looks wide open and looks a nice book to get the bookies off to a good start.

The Irish money has started to come for one of their own already with Willie Mullins’ nice looking prospect DYSART DYNAMO getting backed into favourite over the weekend. He is clearly very good and well thought of at home, which says a lot, though perhaps no longer any value at around 9/4.

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The pre-parade ring at Cheltenham Racecourse, ahead of the Cheltenham Festival

Nicky Henderson has the next two in the market, with two unbeaten prospects in CONSTITUTION HILL and JONBON at prices of around 5/2 and 4/1. At the prices I would side with JONBON to get home first. He looks like one who will appreciate a decent pace, and possibly see the trip out the best, with the value being with him on the day as punters get stuck into the previous two mentioned.

The second race is the Sporting Life Arkle (14:10) and a horse I have been looking forward to backing this week, SAINT SAM, has a good chance at around 8/1. He was a runner up in the Fred Winter here last year and having only switched to fences in January, he looks like an improver who could go in under the radar, against some better-known rivals at shorter prices.

The Ultima Handicap Chase (14:50) is very much one the races designed to give the bookies a breather with the bets spread around the book, and no obvious favourite. Most firms will be paying out on extra places for the each way market in this race and its best to shop around for the value. Gordon Elliott’s DEATH DUTY won at Punchestown last month where he relished the bottomless conditions.

It won’t be so heavy underfoot round here this week though he is talented and if he gets a clear spin round, he could be a decent each way bet at around 9/1 with Jack Kennedy doing the steering.

The main race of the day, the Champion Hurdle (15:30) looks to be one of the most straightforward of the week with star mare HONEYSUCKLE widely expected to win easily at a short price of around 4/7. With the favourite being odds on and only ten runners however it is very much an each way market, with second favourite APPRECIATE IT being a complete unknown at 4/1.

The day finishes with the National Hunt Chase, over the gruelling 3 miles 5 furlongs trip and a small competitive field should ensure a good contest. If you get round in one piece you have a chance here and I feel the Rebecca Curtis trained PATS FANCY could give the home team a winner at around 7/1.