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Cheltenham Festival 2023 LIVE: Results and reaction as Constitution Hill and Honeysuckle shine on day one

Cheltenham Festival LIVE!

The ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ arrived as the biggest meeting of the jumps season kicked off at Prestbury Park. More than 250,000 people are expected to descend on the racecourse across four days, and those in attendance on Tuesday saw Constitution Hill, a possible greatest horse of all time, storm home in the Champion Hurdle to deliver on those huge expectations.

Further highlights on the opening day included Honeysuckle, who won the Champion Hurdle last year, this time taking the Mares' Hurdle in an emotional final race. The first of 28 races across the week was the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, in which favourite Facile Vega came second to Marine Nationale, while Corach Rambler once again took the Ultima to set up a Grand National bid.

There were question marks over the conditions in Gloucestershire after days of wind, rain and even snow in the build-up, but the weather delivered along with the action on a memorable opening day of the Festival. Recap all the action from Prestbury Park with our dedicated blog below!

Cheltenham Festival 2023 latest

  • Constitution Hill storms home in Champion Hurdle

  • Honeysuckle bows out in style

  • Corach Rambler wins Ultima again

  • El Fabiolo takes the Arkle

  • Marine Nationale wins Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

  • Full list of Day One results

Thanks for following!

18:01 , Matt Verri

It’s been a brilliant first day of the Cheltenham Festival, with Constitution Hill and Honeysuckle the stand-out winners.

Here’s a full reminder of the results - we’ll be back tomorrow to do it all over again!

Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle: Marine Nationale 9-2

Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’: El Fabiolo 11/10

Ultima Handicap Chase: Corach Rambler 6/1

Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy: Constitution Hill 4/11

Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle: Honeysuckle 9/4

Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle: Jazzy Matty 18/1

National Hunt Chase (Novices’ Chase, amateur jockeys): Gaillard Du Mesnil 10/11

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(PA)

Mullins reacts...

17:47 , Matt Verri

“A very fortunate winner,” says Willie Mullins. “But sometimes you need them.

“I will look at both races, the Irish National and the Grand National may come too soon.”

Crowd loved that one!

17:43 , Matt Verri

17:43 , Matt Verri

So Mullins team finish the day in style. Not entirely sure how Gaillard Du Mesnil won that, but win he did!

1 Gaillard Du Mesnil 10-11 Fav

2 Chemical Energy 8-1

3 Mister Coffey 11-1

Gaillard Du Mesnil wins the National Hunt Chase!

17:39 , Matt Verri

The favourite does win!

Didn’t look on the cards at all, but Mahler Mission fell and Gaillard De Mesnil came on really strong.

Only four finish.

17:38 , Matt Verri

Surely they’re not going to catch Mahler Mission. Best part of eight lengths clear now!

Two to jump - the field have a lot of ground to make up.

Mahler Mission down! It’s Chemical Energy in front now!

17:36 , Matt Verri

Malinello down.

Pace starting to quicken up, the favourite is moving up through the field.

Mahler Mission has moved to the front, about three lengths clear with four to jump.

17:35 , Matt Verri

Mister Coffey has dropped back slightly. Gaillard De Mesnil remains at the rear of the field, no desire from Mullins to push yet.

Bellatrixsa leading the way, Gaillard De Mesnil moves up past Chemical Energy.

17:33 , Matt Verri

Two circuits to go, Fakiera and Bellatrixsa leading the way.

Gaillard De Mesnil sat at the back of the field, though they’re all pretty bunched.

They’re off!

17:30 , Matt Verri

Away in the National Hunt Chase!

17:29 , Matt Verri

They’re up at the start. The Mullins-Mullins duo well-backed to finish the opening day at Cheltenham on a high.

It’s been a good day for the favourites overall - will tha continue here? Time to find out.

Double up for O’Sullivan!

17:23 , Matt Verri

Latest odds for the final race

17:17 , Matt Verri

Six down, one to go. The final race of the opening day of the Festival, and it’s been a pretty special one!

It’s the Grade 2 National Hunt Challenge Cup to finish things off - here’s some odds for you.

Gaillard Du Mesnil 10/11

Mahler Mission 7/1

Minella Crooner 15/2

Mister Coffey 10/1

Tenzing 11/1

Chemical Energy 12/1

Coolvalla 28/1

Fakiera 66/1

Malinello 100/1

Bellatrixsa 100/1

Preview: Wellchild National Hunt Challenge Cup

17:14 , Matt Verri

Willie Mullins has his shortest-priced runner of the day in the Wellchild National Hunt Challenge Cup (5.30) in Gaillard Du Mesnil.

However, each-way preference is for Mahler Mission, with trainer John McConnell having an outstanding season.

A very proud man!

17:09 , Matt Verri

17:05 , Matt Verri

Sundial fourth, for those with extra places. Favourite Tekao was never really in it.

Jazzy Matty went off at 18/1, so that’s comfortably the biggest price of the winners today. Four of the five earlier had been joint favourites or at the top of the market themselves.

17:02 , Matt Verri

A second winner of the day for Michael O’Sullivan. He said he could retire happy after that first win earlier, just as well he didn’t make that decision immediately. Gordon Elliott on the board too now.

Byker second, Risk Belle in third.

Jazzy Matty wins the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle!

16:58 , Matt Verri

Three charged for home together, but it’s Jazzy Matty who just pips Byker and Risk Belle.

16:56 , Matt Verri

Three to jump, Bad leading just ahead of Byker. Still there for anyone though...

16:55 , Matt Verri

Best of luck picking a winner in this. Nothing separating them.

Byker and Bad both going well near the front. Perseus Way just about leading them.

16:53 , Matt Verri

Take three... is good!

They’re away in the Boodles!

16:52 , Matt Verri

Or not... we’re going to need a second attempt at that. They’re called back.

Going to be a short run to the first for the 21 runners in the field.

Right, take two. And it’s unsuccessful again. Back they go once more.

They’re off!

16:50 , Matt Verri

Away in the Boodles!

16:48 , Matt Verri

Right, we do actually have to move on.

They’re on their way up to the start line for the penultimate race of the day...

Very, very open!

Incredible scenes...

16:45 , Matt Verri

Blackmore to double up?

16:38 , Matt Verri

The Fred Winter (4.50) looks tough, with Tekao perhaps a vulnerable favourite.

Bad, well-backed in recent days and ridden by Rachael Blackmore, is a shot in the dark on British debut.

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Latest odds for the Boodles (4:50pm)

16:33 , Matt Verri

That’s the ITV coverage done, but still two races to come today. Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle up next.

Tekao 5/2

Bad 5/1

Byker 6/1

Perseus Way 9/1

Sir Alen 9/1

Risk Belle 12/1

Punta Del Este 14/1

Jazzy Matty 16/1

Sundial 16/1

Metamorpheus 18/1

Samuel Spade 18/1

Ludus 20/1

25/1 bar. Odds via Betfair.

What a duo!

16:27 , Matt Verri

The fairytale ending!

16:22 , Matt Verri

1 - Honeysuckle 9/4

2 - Love Envoi 11/1

3 - Queens Brook 16/1

Blackmore’s reaction...

16:19 , Matt Verri

Rachael Blackmore looks incredibly emotional after that, pays tribute to Jack de Bromhead too.

“We all wish a very special kid could be here today, but he’s watching down on us.

“She was unbelievable, the way Henry has produced her every day is phenomenal. I’m so grateful.”

Honeysuckle wins the Mares’ Hurdle!

16:16 , Matt Verri

She’s done it again!

Four from four at Cheltenham, what a way to bow out! Honeysuckle and Love Envoi took the last together, with the crowd favourite good enough to get up.

16:14 , Matt Verri

Love Envoi continues to lead the way. Honeysuckle second, Marie’s Rock just behind on the inside.

They’ve bunched right up as the pace quickens, all of them still in it. Three to go.

16:12 , Matt Verri

Honeysuckle near enough at the front, no real pace in the race early on. Love Envoi reluctantly takes the lead.

Marie’s Rock on the inside almost collides with a gate, rapidly ran out of room. Just about avoided it.

Still very, very slow. Honeysuckle in second behind Love Envoi with six to jump.

They’re off!

16:10 , Matt Verri

Away in the Mares’ Hurdle!

16:06 , Matt Verri

Honeysuckle owner Kenny Alexander already sounds emotional ahead of the race - he’ll be hoping there are some happy tears to come very shortly!

He believes her form is good enough to win this race, even with those couple of defeats. Time to find out!

16:02 , Matt Verri

Honeysuckle has 16 wins from 18 races, those two defeats coming this season. Twice a winner of the Champion Hurdle.

This is her farewell, and what a way to go out it would be. Can the Honeysuckle-Rachael Blackmore duo deliver one more time?

Three from three at Cheltenham and the favourite here. Marie’s Rock looks the biggest threat.

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Preview: Mares’ Hurdle 4:50pm

15:57 , Matt Verri

Two previous Champion Hurdle winners, Honeysuckle and Epatante, clash in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (4.50).

This has so much going for its narrative, Honeysuckle bidding to win again after two heavy defeats, but Brandy Love may have too much toe for Mullins now she finally goes left-handed.

Time for Honeysuckle...

15:51 , Matt Verri

Sadly we can’t spend the whole afternoon watching replays of that race. More fun to be had.

It’s the Mares’ Hurdle next up, with Honeysuckle looking to bow out in style. Some latest odds for you:

Honeysuckle 9/4

Marie’s Rock 5/2

Epatante 13/2

Brandy Love 15/2

Love Envoi 8/1

Queens Brook 17/2

Echoes In Rain 9/1

Shewearsitwell 25/1

Theatre Glory 28/1

Odds via OLBG.

Reaction from trainer Nicky Henderson

15:44 , Matt Verri

“It’s just an extraoridanry horse, you can’t believe he’s doing that at this stage of his life.

“You always worry that something has gone wrong and he hasn’t run since Christmas, there’s pressure on.”

Special horse!

15:40 , Matt Verri

Nine lengths the official winning distance. Cruised home too, could have been anything.

State Man comes home second, Zanahiyr third.

Nico de Boinville a very happy jockey!

15:38 , Matt Verri

“What a horse. Just absolutely delighted. He had loads left, given me a terrific spin round.

“On a personal level, it’s been a dream of mine to get the big three [Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase]. Delighted I have achieved it.

“It’s just a matter of when you push the button, I didn’t want to get going too soon.”

Constitution Hill wins the Champion Hurdle!

15:35 , Matt Verri

WOW.

Only danger was the last hurdle, Constitution Hill has stormed to the Champion Hurdle. Absolutely stunning.

15:34 , Matt Verri

Constitution Hill cruising around in second, just behind I Like To Move It. State Man on the outside, following Constitution Hill.

Three to jump, the favourite still travelling really well.

15:32 , Matt Verri

I Like To Move It straight to the front, ahead of Not So Sleepy. Constitution Hill sitting behind in third.

State Man second to last for now, as Constitution Hill moves up a bit alongside I Like to Move It. That got the crowd going.

They’re off!

15:31 , Matt Verri

Away in the Champion Hurdle!

15:28 , Matt Verri

“I just think Constitution Hill is so straightforward - there doesn’t appear to be an angle.”

Ruby Walsh is giving Paul Townend on State Man no real hope, believes Constitution Hill is just too good. Far from the only one with that opinion.

They’re up at the start line. Constitution Hill as calm as anything.

A slightly nervous trainer!

15:24 , Matt Verri

15:21 , Matt Verri

Constitution Hill a 4/11 favourite. All the attention is on him pre-race.

There’s going to be something resembling silence falling over Cheltenham if he doesn’t win this, and an absolutely mighty roar if he does deliver what is expected.

Not long to wait!

Trainer Lucinda Russell’s reacts to Corach Rambler’s win...

15:18 , Matt Verri

“That was amazing. What a horse he is. He is absolutely brilliant. I was so nervous beforehand because the horse means so much but Derek is so cool.

“He has got a brilliant mind - the horse has got a quite interesting mind. I am so proud and pleased.”

Preview: Unibet Champion Hurdle 3:30pm

15:15 , Matt Verri

The Unibet Champion Hurdle (3.30) looks to have a genuine superstar for the first time perhaps since Hurricane Fly won 10 years ago, but the expectation is that Constitution Hill will be even better.

It seems incredible now that he was sent off 9-4 in the opening race on this card 12 months ago, when he produced one of the greatest novice displays ever seen at a racetrack.

Henderson’s son of Blue Bresil is set to go off the shortest-priced favourite in the history of a race first run in 1927. If he were somehow scratched, State Man would be a similarly short price to win the race. Indeed, the straight forecast of Constitution Hill beating the Mullins runner is odds-on.

Time for the big one!

15:09 , Matt Verri

Attention now turns to the feature race of the day, it’s the Champion Hurdle! Constitution Hill the star of the show - anything other than a dominant showing would be a huge shock.

Constitution Hill 4/11

State Man 10/3

Vauban 14/1

I Like To Move It 22/1

Zanahiyr 35/1

Not So Sleepy 150/1

Jason The Militant 200/1

Odds via Betfair.

More from the winning jockey...

15:04 , Matt Verri

15:01 , Matt Verri

1 - Corach Rambler 6/1

2 - Fastorslow 7/1

3 - Monbeg Genius 6/1

4 - The Goffer 7/1

15:00 , Matt Verri

New favourite for the Grand National?

Corach Rambler travelled so well throughout, patient ride by Derek Fox and it worked to perfection.

“He’s just a tremendous horse,” Fox says.

Corach Rambler wins the Ultima!

14:58 , Matt Verri

Back-to-back!

Sensational race. So strong on the run to the finish, just edges out Fastorslow. Monbeg Genius in third.

Full places to follow...

14:56 , Matt Verri

Poor jump from The Wolf, he’s fallen off along with another five or six at the back of the field.

At the front, it’s still anyone’s race. Harper’s Brook at the front, Fantastikas just behind. Monbeg Genius travelling well, Nassalam and Corach Rambler with ground to make up.

14:54 , Matt Verri

Still it’s Harper’s Brook and Fantastikas at the front of the field. All very tightly packed though, with still more than half of this race to go.

Monbeg Genius starting to move up, Corach Rambler still in the middle of the pack.

14:53 , Matt Verri

Top Ville Ben and Fantastikas leading them round, with Corach Rambler comfortably in midfield.

They’re all still running with 13 to go, Harper’s Brook has now moved to the front.

They’re off!

14:50 , Matt Verri

Underway in the Ultima!

14:48 , Matt Verri

Here we go... Corach Rambler looking to win it again before attention turns to the Grand National.

The Irish have an awful record in this race - will the British get off the mark for the Festival here? Time to find out!

Russell: Corach Rambler has every chance

14:44 , Matt Verri

This really is a wide open race. Corach Rambler the favourite, and trainer Lucinda Russell is in optimistic mood.

“He seems in really good form, we’re just hoping that he runs really well,” Russell says. “He’s got every chance of winning again.

“He’s matured, he seems a lot stronger this time. Coming up that hill, he’s got the strength now.”

Relief for Townend...

14:36 , Matt Verri

Preview: Ultima Handicap Chase 2:50pm

14:34 , Matt Verri

Bookmakers will be fighting for your custom with extra each-way places in the Ultima Handicap Chase (2.50), and with good cause, as it is devilishly difficult on paper, but Fastorslow is a sporting nap on day one.

The record of Irish trainers in this race is dire, but trainer Martin Brassil has laid out last year’s narrow Coral Cup second for this race and it seems no surprise that the tongue tie goes back on.

Last year’s winner, Corach Rambler, is 6lb higher in his repeat bid, but still seems likely to go off favourite.

Latest odds for the Ultima Handicap Chase

14:26 , Matt Verri

We’ve got the Ultima next up on the card, in just over 20 minutes’ time. Here’s a look at the latest odds for those at the top of the market.

Corach Rambler 13/2

Monbeg Genius 7/1

Fastorslow 8/1

Nassalam 17/2

Into Overdrive 10/1

Oscar Elite 10/1

The Goffer 11/1

Fantastikas 12/1

Happygolucky 14/1

The Big Breakaway 14/1

16-1 bar. Odds via Betway.

Good news!

14:22 , Matt Verri

Dysart Dynamo is up and looks to be ok, which is brilliant news. Was a bit of concern after that nasty fall at the last, a very tired fall.

But it all looks to be positive on that front.

Mullins has his first of the Festival

14:18 , Matt Verri

Townend up and running!

14:17 , Matt Verri

“Huge engine. Improving the whole time. Clumsy I supposed, but he knows where his feet are at the back of the fence.

“He came alive at the right time.”

El Fabiolo wins the Arkle!

14:15 , Matt Verri

Wins it by four lengths at least, stormed away from Jonbon after taking the last.

Dysart Dynamo fell at the last, Saint Roi coming home in third.

14:14 , Matt Verri

They turn for home, bunching up. Dysart Dynamo still at the front, but Jonbon and El Fabiolo are right there now.

They jump the penultimate fence together!

14:13 , Matt Verri

Not a great jump from Jonbon, got pretty close to the fence. No problems though. Dysart Dynamo is really stretching this, with Hollow Game now completely off the back of the field.

It’s Jonbon in second, El Fabiolo in third. Fair distance to the rest. Dysart Dynamo five lengths clear with three to jump.

14:12 , Matt Verri

Dysart Dynamo straight to the front, Jonbon following behind just ahead of El Fabiolo. Field fairly stretched already.

Hollow Games already starting to drop off the back, with eight to jump.

They’re off!

14:10 , Matt Verri

Underway in the Arkle!

14:08 , Matt Verri

Down at the start, Jonbon looking very warm is the report.

El Fabiolo favourite for the Arkle, shortened to 6/5 now. Jonbon out to 15/8.

14:05 , Matt Verri

The first eight home in the Supreme were Irish, ominious start to the Prestbury Cup. Will be over by early Thursday afternoon if that continues!

Five minutes or so until the second race of the afternoon gets underway. A shootout between El Fabiolo and Jonbon if the market is to be believed.

14:02 , Matt Verri

“Just making sure he keeps relaxed,” Nicky Henderson says of Jonbon’s chances.

“It’s tough for him in here - he’ll be wanting to get on with it. He’s got a lot better at it, he’s learning.”

The trainer has been keeping a very close eye on Jonbon, clearly a few concerns there.

First Cheltenham winner for Sullivan!

13:56 , Matt Verri

Preview: Sporting Life Arkle

13:53 , Matt Verri

The make-up of the Sporting Life Arkle (2.10) is enticing for punters. Nine run, but most are 33-1 or bigger, so the other four have to be afforded close scrutiny.

Jonbon is a beautiful specimen and has done little wrong over fences for trainer Nicky Henderson. Owner JP McManus also relies on Saint Roi, who could have run elsewhere — perhaps a tip in itself.

The key is the near certainty of a strong pace. Dysart Dynamo and El Fabiolo, both stablemates of the selection, like to go forward, as does Effernock Fizz. This should play to the strengths of the hold-up Saint Roi, who was impressive on his last completed start.

Latest odds for the Arkle Chase 2:10pm

13:49 , Matt Verri

On we go!

Second race of the day coming up in about 20 minutes, with El Fabiolo and Jonbon the two at the top of the market.

El Fabiolo 5/4

Jonbon 7/4

Dysart Dynamo 5/1

Saint Roi 15/2

Hollow Games 33/1

Ha D’Or 66/1

Straw Fan Jack 66/1

Effernock Fizz 125/1

Ballybreeze 150/1

Odds via MyBettingSites.

Barry Connell a very happy trainer!

13:46 , Matt Verri

“I knew coming into the race we had the best horse and the best jockey,” Connell says. “Everything worked out.

“[Sullivan] is unreal. He’s a future star.”

Paul Townend not particularly keen to stop for a chat - “he ran well” is the only comment he has about Facile Vega.

13:43 , Matt Verri

Facile Vega ran a decent enough race you’d have to say. Looked to have things fairly under control with two to jump, and even heading to the last.

Didn’t jump it well though and couldn’t recover - not the start Mullins was looking for.

Brilliant ride!

13:38 , Matt Verri

Jockey Michael O’Sullivan‘s reaction...

13:37 , Matt Verri

“The horse is just incredible. I turned in there and I wasn’t sure what I was holding onto, but he won easy.

“This is what I was dreaming of since I was riding ponies. All my family have been so supportive of me - to get a day like this, I could retire in the morning.”

Marine Nationale wins the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle!

13:35 , Matt Verri

Facile Vega move to the front at the penultimate hurdle, moved clear at the bend.

But Marine Nationale stuck with him, still trailing at the final hurdle but moved alongside as Facile Vega jumped it poorly.

Too strong on the way home. Facile Vega second, Diverge in third.

13:34 , Matt Verri

Il Etait Temps has fallen back a bit after a poor jump, hurried up to get alongside Facile Vega again.

Two to jump, Townend still waiting to make his move. Anyone’s race!

13:32 , Matt Verri

Facile Vega sat back in the middle of the pace for now, High Definition setting the early pace.

Il Etait Temps and Marine Nationale alongside Facile Vega too, as we get a third roar of the race already. Crowd very keen.

Five to jump - the favourites are all still cruising along in the midfield.

They’re off!

13:30 , Matt Verri

There’s the Cheltenham roar - they’re away in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle!

Here we go...

13:25 , Matt Verri

Horses are on their way up to the start. Not a huge amount of talk about Inthepocket, ridden by Rachael Blackmore. On the focus seems to be on the Mullins contingent.

For now, at least, Facile Vega looks relatively calm.

Quick montage to get you in the mood!

13:23 , Matt Verri

Mullins: Facile Vega should have better result

13:20 , Matt Verri

Willie Mullins believes Facile Vega will put that Leopardstown disaster behind him and return to form here, with the help of a shift in tactics.

“Facile Vega comes here in tremendous form, doing everything right at home,” he told Sporting Life.

“It’s a little disappointing we got the tactics wrong at Leopardstown, but we can’t change that now. While once again High Definition will probably be ridden prominently in this race, Paul [Townend] doesn’t have to take him on so early and I’d imagine we will change our tactics and hopefully get a better result.

“He jumps very well and is a course winner so I’m hopeful.”

Latest odds for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

13:13 , Matt Verri

Facile Vega 15/8

II Etait Temps 15/4

Marine Nationale 9/2

Inthepocket 17/2

Tahmuras 11/1

High Definition 20/1

Diverge 22/1

Doctor Bravo 22/1

Dark Raven 25/1

Via Betfair.

McCoy: I will keep criticising BHA

13:08 , Matt Verri

AP McCoy has promised on air with ITV Racing to repeatedly push his disdain for the whip rule overhaul throughout the course of the Festival.

He puts the rule, and the suspensions it had resulted in, in stark contrast to Rachael Blackmore taking the headlines in recent years.

“You always want reasons for your sport to be on the front pages for the right reasons,” he said. “My worry for the sport is that I’m already talking about this. I’m joining the group that I hate, that knock horse racing, but, unfortunately, that’s been brought about by the governing body.

“It’s the biggest embarrassment there’s been for a long time. I feel sorry for the jockeys. The BHA are meant to be doing what’s right for the sport, meant to be a leader. But every time I see an interview by someone from the organisation, it’s embarrassing.

“What is the BHA? A governing body that can bring in and implement a rule on a jockey, but can’t do anything to make the sport better. The BHA will get it publicly every second I’m on TV!”

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(Getty Images)

Here we go...

13:00 , Matt Verri

TV coverage is underway, which means we’re only 30 minutes from the first race of the Festival.

Expect plenty of montages, some crowd shots, some more montages, lots of tips, and probably a few montages.

Preview: Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

12:50 , Matt Verri

The Festival gets underway with the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30), the picture for which got rather murky at the Dublin Racing Festival, where the previously unbeaten Facile Vega bombed out behind stablemate Il Etait Temps.

Willie Mullins’s criticism of Paul Townend’s ride was somewhat out of the blue, but it is no surprise that Townend stays loyal to the son of Quevega.

He cannot be a confident pick, yet if Facile Vega bounces back, he ought to have enough class. Marine Nationale remains unbeaten, but likely would have preferred better ground.

Plenty to look forward to!

12:42 , Matt Verri

A reminder of this afternoon’s card - it promises to be a memorable first day of the Festival.

1.30: Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

2.10: Arkle Chase

2.50: Ultima Handicap Chase

3.30: Champion Hurdle

4.10: Mares’ Hurdle

4.50: The Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Race

5.30: National Hunt Chase

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All good in the Henderson camp!

12:36 , Matt Verri

Blackmore hoping for perfect start

12:28 , Matt Verri

Rachael Blackmore rides Inthepocket in the first race this afternoon, currently a 7/1 shot, and she’s confident that the conditions will suit him.

“The rain and the changing ground means that Inthepocket now goes for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle,” she told Betfair.

“He is a very nice horse, he kept on well to win a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Naas just before Christmas, when he probably wasn’t helped by the omission of the last two flights of hurdles, and he ran a solid race in the Grade 1 Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last time to finish second behind Il Etait Temps.

“He is a horse who has a big future, and hopefully he can run well here and get the week off to a good start.”

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(Getty Images)

Mullins: It’s a relief if we get a winner

12:21 , Matt Verri

Ten winners again? Even more than that?

Willie Mullins has been relatively reserved leading up to the Festival, insisting he is not giving any thought to matching last year’s tally of winners when he reached doubled figures.

“Getting winners at Cheltenham is a relief,” he said. “We’re not going aiming to beat 10, we’re aiming to get on the board if we can and then hopefully a few of the right ones win.

“Someone said to me the other day we have 10 to 14 favourites and I always reckon only half the favourites win, so that’s not a bad number and if we can get somewhere near that it’ll be great.

“People expect us to have winners in Cheltenham, but we go there hoping rather than expecting and it’s a relief if we get a winner and hopefully one or two more.”

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(PA)

Familiar faces arriving...

12:14 , Matt Verri

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Emotional farewell for Honeysuckle?

12:07 , Matt Verri

It’s Honeysuckle’s final race this afternoon, and Rachael Blackmore is desperate to go out on a high.

“There is not much more that I can say about Honeysuckle that I haven’t said before,” Blackmore told Betfair.

“She is an unbelievable mare, she has been incredible for my career. All that she has achieved, and I have been lucky enough to get to ride her.

“As has been well publicised, this will be her last race, I won’t be looking back. We can look back when it’s over. She has given us all the big days that she could have given us so far, the crowds have been brilliant, and I would love her to have one more big day.”

McCoy: Whip rules embarrassing the sport

11:55 , Matt Verri

Retirement has not always come easily for AP McCoy. At his first few Cheltenham Festivals, he struggled with the idea of not being in the saddle for horses he once rode to famous victories.

As those horses have all made their way into their own retirement, life after racing has become easier to bear, to the extent that, were he still riding, he is not sure he would even take part at this week’s Festival.

McCoy is angry and embarrassed, his vitriol aimed at the British Horseracing Authority for its new whip rules, ones he worries will become the headline of this week’s racing.

“I feel so lucky that I’m not a jockey any more,” he said. “Maybe I live on a different planet now I’ve retired, I probably do, I’m just a chippy f***ing ex-jockey.

“I have to be careful sounding like someone all jockeys should listen to, but why would you turn up? If none of them go, it’s not great is it?”

Read our full exclusive interview with McCoy here

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Click here to read the full blog on The Evening Standard's website