Cheltenham Festival: Tony Keenan’s Day One tips
Petit Mouchoir can pip Footpad in the Arkle while Shantou Flyer is an each-way shout
Petit Mouchoir: shaped well at Leopardstown last time out and and looks the pick of the Irish contenders in the Arkle (2.10). Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Cheltenham 2:10 - Petit Mouchoir
The going, softer than it has been at the Festival for over 20 years, has dominated the interminable Cheltenham build-up but it shouldn’t distract from the object of the game: finding the best horse. More often than not, the best horse has been trained in Ireland recently where soft ground dominates and Petit Mouchoir might be the pick of the Irish runners in the Arkle. Superior to Footpad over hurdles, he shaped well at Leopardstown last time, overcoming two early jumping errors and should improve fitness-wise as it was his first outing since October.
Cheltenham 2:50 - Shantou Flyer (each-way)
Proponents of a five-day Festival will find little support for their expansion hopes in races like this, undersubscribed at 18 runners when a maximum field of 24 is permitted. You can, it seems, get too much of a good thing. This is weak relative to previous runnings, and with some fancied runners unsuited by soft ground, Shantou Flyer could cause an upset. Proven in the mud, his six course runs have yielded two wins and three places and his usual hold-up style should suit in a race where there is lots of predicted pace.
Cheltenham 4:10 - Jer’s Girl (without the favourite)
Taking on Apple’s Jade looks a fool’s errand; a 75-day break since her last run could be a negative but she has enough in hand to get away with lacking a little sharpness. The ‘without the favourite’ market is different with Benie Des Dieux facing the difficult task of reverting from chasing to a Grade One hurdle and La Bague Au Roi seemingly better over further. Jer’s Girl was behind the latter last time but wasn’t helped by a mistake at the last, will prefer this shorter trip and is a bigger price.
Tony Keenan writes a weekly Irish racing tipping column for Betfair as well as data-driven racing analysis on Geegeez.co.uk.