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Matt Chapman: Honeysuckle is pin-up girl of Cheltenham Festival but Willie Mullins can get him beat with this bruiser

, Matt Chapman: Honeysuckle is pin-up girl of Cheltenham Festival but Willie Mullins can get him beat with this bruiser

WHOOP, whoop!  Cheltenham 2022 is here, finally.

And many will expect a sweet start to the four-day extravaganza with Honeysuckle long odds-on to make it fifteen consecutive successes in the feature Grade 1 Unibet Champion Hurdle. 

Matt Chapman reckons Honeysuckle might be vulnerable in the Champion Hurdle

The Henry de Bromhead-trained defending title holder faces eight Rivals in the extended two-mile event, and many won’t even consider defeat for the darling of Irish racing, who will make huge headlines should she win under Rachael Blackmore.

That said, I wasn’t impressed with Honeysuckle last time and I’m not sure she’s beaten much despite an amazing winning spree.

She’s the pinup girl but APPRECIATE IT might just be the bruiser. I can’t argue his form is better than Honeysuckle because it’s not; it’s more a gut feeling with Appreciate It that he might just be super special.

He looked a monster when second in the bumper and even more so when landing a fairly weak Supreme. He will have to be to land this on seasonal debut. Fingers crossed he runs well.

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Tommy’s Oscar could easily slip into the frame as he will be ridden from off the pace for a place. 

Cheltenham 2022 kicks off with the Grade 1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over an extended 2m. What a cracking opener.

Like many I was blown away by CONSTITUTION HILL on his debut at Sandown and he did nothing to suggest that opinion was not correct on his second start.

That was in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at the same track in January when he thrashed Jetoile by 12l. Nico de Boinville was gooey after that success and Nicky Henderson seems to think he’s exceptional.

The Grade 1 Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase is over 2m.

Edwardstone has done nothing wrong and can easily score for Alan King and rising star Tom Cannon.

I’m going to have a few quid on WAR LORD eachway for Colin Tizzard and Brendan Powell.

He was thrashed by Edwardstone in the Henry VII at Sandown but kept on well that day and might be ridden to get a place. 

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In the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f I’ll have DEATH DUTY, who was once a once near 160-rated hurdler who can go here off 144 after banging back to form last time at Punchestown for Gordon Elliott.

The once 13-8 favourite for the Albert Bartlett has been mostly disappointing recently, but he was a fine fifth in the Paddy Power Chase at Punchestown in December and that last success was decent. Stays strongly and a great racing weight on 10st 6lb.

After the Champion Hurdle it’s the Grade 1 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle over 2m4f.

No outstanding performer here. I will have a few quid eachway on HEAVEN HELP US for Paul Hennessy and Danny Mullins. My hope has been held recently by Honeysuckle and Royal Kahala but neither of those are in this and she has at least place claims with a mark of 147.

Heaven Help Us won the Coral Cup last season

The penultimate race on Day 1 is the Grade 3 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle over an extended 2m.

Hopefully the good thing of the day in GAELIC WARRIOR for Rich Ricci, Willie Mullins and Paul Townend. We are all slightly guessing, but the well bred Niarchos family import ran three times in France against decent opposition and ended up with a rating of 139.

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For some reason the British handicappers allow him to run off 129 here and he could just be thrown in. Against that is that he’s never won a race or been in anything as competitive as this one. If he copes he could come there on the snaff. If not it’s wide open.

Finally on Day 1 the Ukraine Appeal National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Chase over 3m6f.

I want to take on Run Wild Fred as I’m not sure he enjoys winning. I’ll chance ONTHEROPES each way here. He was fourth in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, and while he never looked like winning has since finished a decent fifth in the Thyestes at Gowran Park. Seems devoid of pace so should go well!

If you are not at Cheltenham sit back and enjoy on ITV. The waiting is over. Yeeehaaa!

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