Cheltenham Festival 2023 Day 1 Tips: Marie's Rock the one to beat in the Mares' Hurdle
We've asked racing correspondent Izzy Phillips to supply her four best selections for each day of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, let's make a start with her selections for day one.
2:10 Sporting Life Arkle
Jonbon is a short price but I cannot see past him. Last season he was very much the poor relation to stable companion Constitution Hill. Now it’s time for him to step into the limelight. His three runs this year have been in small fields and this looks to be another. I always think that the jumps at Sandown are very unforgiving with the 3 railway fences but he seemed to love it. I was so impressed with how he controlled the race at Sandown; when he was asked for an effort he stretched away easily. It was a more tactical affair in the Kingmaker at Warwick where Calico served it up to him. In my opinion, there were no real concerns and it was good to get him in the fighting mood. Calico has gone on to prove it was no fluke winning his next race at Doncaster in similarly fighting fashion.
2:50 Ultima Handicap Chase
Selection: The Big Breakaway E/W
As the ground gets softer I become more excited about the prospects of The Big Breakaway. He was unlucky to get collared by Fontaine Collonges when still battling all the way to the line at Haydock in November. He seemed like the step up to 3m 6f in the Welsh National at Chepstow would be no concern. He showed how much of a stayer he was in that race when catching the eye, staying on in what looked like heavy ground. Both his races this season have been on soft ground so the conditions look as though they could be in his favour. I think he could have an excellent chance in this. I’m sure connections will also want to see a decent show ready for him to take his chance in the Grand National next month.
3:30 Champion Hurdle
Selection: I Like to Move It E/W (or Constitution Hill/I Like To Move It Forecast)
It’s no secret that the racing world is looking forward to what should be a dominant performance from Constitution Hill. He has been so impressive in his races this year and his odds suggest he’s already crossed the line in front. For that reason I've looked for a value bet in I Like To Move It. I think he has been overpriced considering he won his last race at Wincanton by an impressive 17 lengths. He was unlucky in looking for a prep run and ended up running over a less than ideal distance (2m 5f) at Cheltenham in January. He has course and distance form having won at Cheltenham at the November meeting and every time he’s been over 2m he’s shown he is a true speed horse. I think he could run better for the places than his odds suggest.
4:10 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle
Selection: Marie’s Rock
In my fandom of Honeysuckle I'd love to see her bring the house down and win this and I have had a sentimental bet on her. However, this season I have been quite taken by the runs of Marie’s Rock. She was my ante-post fancy prior to Honeysuckle switching course to the race so I feel like I need to stick to my original selection. She’s shown no chink in her armour having won her last 4 starts. I’m pleased that sense has prevailed and she’s entered in this and not the Stayer’s, I personally believe she’s better over this distance. She’s beaten some high class opponents, who have franked the form and seems to have progressed even further since her win in this race last year.