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The small grey with the heart of a lion, Il Etait Temps, carries South African hopes at the Cheltenham Festival on the opening day (Tuesday) (Picture supplied)
Il Etait Temps is owned by Owen Heffer and family of Hollywoodbets in partnership with fellow South Africans the Wayne Kieswetter family, who race under the name of their Ridgemont Stud in South Africa and under their Ireland-based Barnane Stud in Ireland and in the UK.
The Willie Mullins-trained French-bred grey will be attempting to win the  My Pension Expert Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) for South Africa at the Cheltenham Festival’s opening day on Tuesday at 16H10 SA time and if he does it might well be a history-making feat.
Barnane Stud also has two other runners on the day trained by Mullins.
See the comments for the South African-connected runners below:
Neil Morrice provided the below guide for Day 1 of the Festival
Cheltenham Festival 2024 – Day 1
Trainer: Willie Mullins – Jockey: Mark Walsh
Mullins saddles six of his best in the best novice hurdle of the season, in which the decision to target the race with MYSTICAL POWER can be fully vindicated. The unbeaten winner of a bumper and two novice hurdles was hugely impressive when taking out a Grade 2 at Punchestown in January and has thrived in the ensuing couple of months.
He’s preferred to stablemate TULLYHILL, who restored his position as a leading contender for this with an authoritative Punchestown triumph last month. JERIKO DU REPONET needs respecting even though not everyone was wowed by his workmanlike success over Lump Sum at Doncaster. At least Nicky Henderson’s charge remained unbeaten, and the form was boosted when the second took out a Grade 2 at Kempton.
Also carded to go well is Henry de Bromhead’s SLADE STEEL, who if successful would give a pointer to Ballyburn in Wednesday’s Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle.
Prediction: 1st MYSTICAL POWER, 2nd Jeriko Du Reponet, 3rd Tullyhill
No8 MATATA (Each Way)
Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies – Jockey: Sam Twiston-Davies
Irish-trained horses fill the first five places in the market, with GAELIC WARRIOR looking to bounce back from a heavy defeat at Leopardstown. The six-year-olds tendency to jump right remains a concern, and both FOUND A FIFTY and IL ETAIT TEMPS can beat him. Found A Fifty jumps well but was gunned down by the Hollywoodbets-owned Il Etait Temps in the Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival. It should again be close between the pair.
Locally trained MATATA and his stablemate MASTER CHEWY are realistic challengers at big double-figure prices but need the cards to fall in their favour. Their unrehearsed bumping match at Lingfield’s first fence cost both horses dearly, but they could easily bounce back.
MATATA in particular could prove dangerous if he’s allowed to dictate, as was the case when he finished second to JPR ONE in spite of that early contretemps at Lingfield. Master Chewy will benefit from a strong pace, and with a new pilot could stay on into the money.
Prediction: 1st MATATA, 2nd Found A Fifty, 3rd Il Etait Temps, 4th Master Chewy
Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies – Jockey: Sam Twiston-Davies
Without question the toughest of the handicap chases this week and a nightmare of a puzzle to unravel, but one that could have gone under the assessor’s radar in the Ultima is WEVEALLBEENCAUGHT. The seven-year-old has been campaigned like a good horse, and interestingly makes just a fourth appearance over fences in this stamina test. Each of his chase starts have happened here, and he was supported in each, and though well beaten when last seen in a novices’ handicap chase in December he’s been deliberately held back to come back fresh and at the right end of the weights for this first run in a full handicap.
CHIANTI CLASSICO and TRELAWNE give Kim Bailey a twin assault on the contest and both are respected. The former has a similar profile to Weveallbeencaught in that this is only his fourth run over fences, with two successes and a second on his CV. Trelawne is also a raw novice, with a single win and three places in four outings this season. He’s a good jumper who will also enjoy the cut in the ground and can earn.
ELDORADO ALLEN carries a welter burden but with only three outings under his belt this season is a fresh horse. Since being outclassed by Galopin Des Champs in the Gold Cup he’s run well for minor money in some decent handicaps, and now returns from a breathing operation.
MEETINGOFTHEWATERS carries the weight of ante-post favouritism for Willie Mullins, who though legendary through his Graded chase and hurdle race winners at the Festival has a relatively poor record with his runners in handicap chases.
Prediction: 1st WEVEALLBEENCAUGHT, 2nd Chianti Classico, 3rd Trelawne, 4th Eldorado Allen, 5th Meetingofthewaters
Trainer: Willie Mullins – Jockey: Paul Townend
Since the untimely exit of Constitution Hill from a race he would have dominated, the focus of attention in betting circles has been on STATE MAN. Suddenly, from being the horse that would have got closest to the reigning champion’s shadow State Man’s is the shadow that seven remaining rivals have to follow. The gelding’s only defeat in the last two years happened in this race last year, and after an unblemished run of three straight wins this season the chestnut should now be crowned king.
Gordon Elliott’s decision to re-route Grade 1 winner IRISH POINT here adds a bit of spice to the equation, even though this horse’s best form is over a longer trip.
Nicky Henderson still wants his slice of the pie and has added IBERICO LORD to the field, though I fancy the other Seven Barrows candidate LUCCIA has a better chance of getting into the money, and for Kerry Lee’s NEMEAN LION to step up to the plate for a minor cheque. This pair are closely matched on the book, and wherever one finishes the other should be in its slipstream.
Prediction: 1st STATE MAN, 2nd Luccia, 3rd Nemean Lion
Trainer: Willie Mullins – Jockey: Paul Townend
Few hurdlers have impressed to the extent of LOSSIEMOUTH when she scored on her seasonal return in the Unibet Hurdle here at the end of January. The grey simply powered up the final hill in a manner that suggests she will have no problems with today’s longer trip. Last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner is very exciting, and in my humble opinion would have caused problems for her stablemate State Man had she been allowed to run in the Champion Hurdle.
The Irish are seven-handed in the near two-and-a-half-mile contest and could sweep the board, though LOVE ENVOI is one that can get into the shake-up for the home side, granted she is fresh off a very light campaign.
The Mullins-trained ASHROE DIAMOND also figures to take away a cheque, as she scored with real authority in a Doncaster Grade2 and looks like she’s been trained specifically for this race.
Prediction: 1st LOSSIEMOUTH, 2nd Love Envoi, 3rd Ashroe Diamond
No7 MILAN TINO (Each Way)
Trainer: Noel George/Amanda Zetterholm – Jockey: Jonjo O’Neill Jr
Although he is yet to win over hurdles, MILAN TINO appeals as one that could have gone under the assessor’s radar, giving France what might prove its best chance of a winner at the meeting. The selection chased home some smart operators on his first two starts at Auteuil, was not far behind Burdett Road in a Grade 2 at the Paddy Power meeting here, and again ran well for a minor cheque in Sir Gino’s race in January. In the colours of legendary gambler JP McManus I expect this horse to prove popular in the overnight market.
With similar credentials from France is the Paul Nicholls-trained LIARI. He’s unbeaten in three since joining the Ditcheat team, and can earn. LARK IN THE MORNING has good Flat form and was running on at the end of his latest outing at Punchestown, though he’s probably shorter than he should be granted Joseph O’Brien’s good record with juvenile hurdlers in England.
At a big price PALAMON is one to note, and worth a market check on the back of three strictly educational runs so far.
Prediction: 1st MILAN TINO, 2nd Liari, 3rd Lark In The Morning, 4th Palamon
Trainer: Willie Mullins – Jockey: Mr Patrick Mullins
Owing to changes in race conditions, this long-distance race bears no comparison to its former self. Designed as an opportunity for Corinthians to enjoy a day in the sun, it’s now confined to amateurs that would not look out of turn riding in any chase at the Festival. Furthermore the quality of the candidates has greatly improved, mirrored by a field of only seven of whom three hail from Ireland.
From a sentimental viewpoint, it would be wholly appropriate for MR VANGO to trouble the judge running here only a few days after the passing of his trainer Mark Bradstock. The eight-year-old jumped brilliantly in the Devon National to come home a fence clear on only a second outing over fences. He will enjoy the soft ground and could earn at a price.
CORBETT‘S CROSS arguably has the best form and may shade favouritism over compatriot EMBASSY GARDENS, but I loved the way the latter delivered in his two chases at Punchestown and Naas, and make him the best bet of the day.
Prediction: 1st EMBASSY GARDENS (Nap), 2nd Mr Vango, 3rd Corbett’s Cross
Place Accumulator Perm (Races 1-7)
8, 12 x 8, 2, 7 x 22, 17, 15, 1 x 6 x 6, 7 x 7, 1, 10, 18 x 2
Jackpot Perm (Races 4-7)
6, 8, 4 x 6, 7, 1 x 7, 1, 10, 18, 15 x 2, 5, 1