Cheltenham Festival 2024 LIVE results: Horse racing updates, reaction as Mullins and Townend dominate day one

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - LIVE!

Willie Mullins sits on 97 Cheltenham winners after a strong opening day, as State Man eased to victory in the Champion Hurdle. Constitution Hill’s absence left State Man as the big favourite for the feature race, and punters were not disappointed after a patient and drama-free ride from Paul Townend.

Rachael Blackmore took victory on Slade Steel, briefly keeping Mullins at bay as ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ got underway at Prestbury Park. It has been a familiar start to the Festival though, with the usual suspects in fine form. Mullins and Townend teamed up for three winners and the Irish trainer’s century could well be brought up on Wednesday, after Lossiemouth edged him one closer with a routine win in the Mares’ Hurdle.

Embassy Gardens could not finish the day in style for the yard, as favourite Corbetts Cross bolted up in the National Hunt Chase to bring the opening day to a close. There was sad news earlier in the day, as Highland Hunter was fatally injured in the Ultimata, leaving trainer Fergal O’Brien “absolutely devastated”.

Cheltenham Festival 2024 latest

  • Full list of day one winners

  • State Man delivers in Champion Hurdle

  • Lossiemouth too good in Mares' Hurdle

  • Chianti Classico takes the Ultima

  • Gaelic Warrior cruises to Arkle victory

  • Rachael Blackmore wins opener on Slade Steel

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18:11 , Matt Verri

That brings an end to our coverage of the first day of the Festival.

Three wins for Paul Mullins and Paul Townend, and plenty more to come you’d imagine.

We’ll be back tomorrow morning for day two - see you then!

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

Full list of winners on day one

17:53 , Matt Verri

Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle - Slade Steel

My Pension Expert Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase - Gaelic Warrior 

Ultima Handicap Chase - Chianti Classico 

Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy - State Man 

Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle - Lossiemouth 

Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle - Lark In The Mornin 

Maureen Mullins National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys' Novices' Chase - Corbetts Cross

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

17:51 , Matt Verri

Trainer Emmet Mullins, nephew of Willie, says: "Very happy. He's a class animal and it was great to see him show his true colours.

"We've just got everything together at the right time."

National Hunt Chase result

17:42 , Matt Verri

1 Corbetts Cross 15-8

2 Embassy Gardens 7-4

3 Mr Vango 14-1

Corbetts Cross wins the National Hunt Chase!

17:40 , Matt Verri

Absolutely bolts up.

A couple of lengths clear at the final fence and storms up the hill to a huge win.

17:38 , Matt Verri

Apple Away closes alongside Mr Vango. Four to jump.

Kilbeg King in third - Henry’s Friend pulled up.

17:35 , Matt Verri

All continue to jump well.

Mr Vango still at the front, couple of lengths clear. Embassy Gardens and Salvador Ziggy at the rear, ten lengths or so off the leader.

17:33 , Matt Verri

Mr Vango has the lead in the early stages.

Henry’s Friend and Apple Away just behind. Embassy Gardens at the back of the pack.

Two circuits to go.

They're off!

17:31 , Matt Verri

Final race of the day - the Maureen Mullins National Hunt Chase is underway!

It's very, very muddy!

17:25 , Matt Verri

This, via the BBC, gives you a fairly decent idea about the conditions.

An announcement at the course has said: "Due to the recent weather, our car park conditions are challenging, If you get stuck, please put your hazards on and the team will assist you as soon as possible."

5:30pm - National Hunt Chase

17:18 , Matt Verri

Tip - Corbetts Cross

This seven-year-old gelding was second on December 29 at Leopardstown, in the Grade 1 Novice Chase, losing to Grangeclare West. Corbetts Cross is not the cleanest of jumpers and that proved his undoing last time out at Fairyhouse on February 7 when there was a collision with Run Wild Fred and both fell.

Provided there is no serious incident, a repeat of his Leopardstown form should be good enough for him to beat stable companion Embassy Gardens.

Kilbeg King is also worth an E/W punt with those bookies paying to three places.

Latest odds: Mullins to finish in style?

17:13 , Matt Verri

Final race of the day - Mullins eyeing a fourth winner.

He has the favourite in the National Hunt Chase. Latest odds:

Embassy Gardens - 2/1

Corbetts Cross - 9/4

Salvador Ziggy - 11/2

Apple Away - 13/2

Kilbeg King - 12/1

Mr Vango - 12/1

Henry’s Friend - 18/1

Odds via InstantCasinos.

State Man party begins...

17:08 , Matt Verri

Sure to be plenty of celebrations tonight after State Man’s victory in the Champion Hurdle.

Good decision!

17:02 , Matt Verri

“To have a winner here this week is very special,” trainer Joseph O’Brien says.

"We had a conversation last night whether to run or not, luckily we decided to."

Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle result

16:57 , Matt Verri

1 Lark In The Mornin 9-1

2 Eagles Reign 80-1

3 Ndaawi 12-1

4 Harsh 40-1

Lark In The Mornin wins the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle!

16:55 , Matt Verri

Strong run up the hill and it’s a 9-1 win for Lark In The Mornin.

16:54 , Matt Verri

Liari pulled up, as they turn for home.

Plenty with chances... Lark In The Mornin travelling well.

16:53 , Matt Verri

Ose Partir down, Karia Des Blaises too. Mordor a third faller in that incident.

16:52 , Matt Verri

We’ve got 21 runners and there’s about 15 lengths splitting them all.

Latin Verse just about clear at the front, Milan Tino a couple of lengths off the leaders.

They're off!

16:50 , Matt Verri

Away in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle!

4:50pm - Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

16:44 , Matt Verri

Tip - Miss Manzor

This race is an open affair with many different horses being liked for various different reasons. However, the Mullins' second-string Miss Manzor is looking like good value.

Maiden hurdle winner at Dieppe in France on May 4 before being changed to being trained by Mullins in the off-season. Only managed seventh at Leopardstown on Boxing Day but secured a win at Fairyhouse on January 13 on soft ground last time out.

Expect her to improve from that performance and be in the fray on her first outing in England.

Latest odds: Plenty with chances

16:35 , Matt Verri

Attention now shifts to the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

Looks to be a wide open race - here are the latest odds for you:

Milan Tino 10/3

Liari 9/2

Lark In The Mornin 13/2

Batman Girac, Ndaawi 10/1

Karia Des Blaises 11/1

Latin Verse 11/1

Nara 11/1

Bright Legend 12/1

Ose Partir 14/1

Palamon 14/1

16/1 Bar

Odds via DAZN Bet.

Not done yet!

16:32 , Matt Verri

That’s the end of the ITV coverage, but we will still be covering the final two races of the day in full.

Don’t go anywhere...

Townend hat-trick!

16:22 , Matt Verri

Didn’t win the opening race of the day, but it’s been some day for Townend and Mullins since then.

Mares' Hurdle result

16:18 , Matt Verri

1 - Lossiemouth 8/13

2 - Telmesomethinggirl 22/1

3 - Hispanic Moon 40/1

Lossiemouth wins the Mares' Hurdle!

16:16 , Matt Verri

Telmesomethinggirl still at the front with one to jump, but Lossiemouth is cruising just behind.

Here comes the move from Townsend, to the front and nobody gets close up the hill!

The Mullins-Townend partnership are at it again.

16:13 , Matt Verri

Ashroe Diamond leading them round, ahead of Telmesomethinggirl.

Lossiemouth three from the back, with five hurdles to jump.

They're off!

16:10 , Matt Verri

Away in the Mares’ Hurdle.

16:09 , Matt Verri

Horses up at the start for the Mares’ Hurdle.

Four races down, three to go. Lossiemouth now into 8-13, very much the one to beat.

4:10pm - David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle

16:03 , Matt Verri

Tips - Lossiemouth win, You Wear It Well place

Lossiemouth was the best juvenile last season, beating stablemate Gala Marceau in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham over similar ground.

Her return to action this season was a warm-up Grade 2 race here on January 27 in which she won by nine-and-a-half lengths, pulling away on the bridle.

The attention therefore turns to what else in this field could get a valuable place or complete a nice forecast and last year's Mares' Novices' hurdle winner You Wear It Well fits that bill.

Has disappointed so far this season with a bad mistake ruining her race last time out at Haydock on February 17. The conditions here will suit her better and should help her rediscover her form from last year.

Latest odds: More of the same?

15:58 , Matt Verri

Another race, another favourite for Paul Townend and Willie Mullins.

Latest odds for the Mares' Hurdle, coming up in just under 15 minutes:

Lossiemouth 8/11

Ashroe Diamond 8/1

Love Envoi 9/1

Gala Marceau 10/1

Telmesomethinggirl 14/1

Maries Rock 14/1

16/1 Bar

Cheltenham odds via BoyleSports.

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

Townend surprises Mullins with State Man ride

15:52 , Matt Verri

"Paul rode him so well - I didn't dream he would be fifth or sixth jumping the fourth-last but he rode him with supreme confidence,” Mullins says.

“He probably thought the ground would take it out of the horses in front of him. When you're riding with confidence, you can do that."

15:50 , Matt Verri

Trainer Fergal O’Brien has confirmed the news that Highland Hunter has had to be put down after a fall in the Ultima this afternoon.

Devastating news for all those connected with the horse, and all those who follow the sport.

Mullins does it again

15:43 , Matt Verri

That’s a fifth Champion Hurdle victory for Willie Mullins, and his 96th at Cheltenham

He has little interest in talking about Constitution Hill’s absence...

Mullins says: "You've got to turn up to win a Champion Hurdle. We turned up."

Champion Hurdle result

15:36 , Matt Verri

1 - State Man 2/5

2 - Irish Point 9/2

3 - Luccia 33/1

State Man wins the Champion Hurdle!

15:35 , Matt Verri

Took the last with Irish Point and there was only going to be one winner from there!

15:34 , Matt Verri

Still Nemean Lion and Not So Sleepy at the front. Irish Point behind them.

State Man in fifth, but it’s all very bunched. Three to jump.

15:31 , Matt Verri

Nemean Lion just about at the front of the field, with State Man on his inside.

Not So Sleepy now pushing the pace a bit more.

They're off!

15:30 , Matt Verri

Up and running in the big race of the day.

15:28 , Matt Verri

Champion Hurdle just a couple of minutes away.

State Man so relaxed at the start line. Zarak The Brave with a few adjustments, but all good to go.

3:30pm - Champion Hurdle:

15:23 , Matt Verri

Tips: State Man win, Nemean Lion place

The racing community was rocked by Constitution Hill being ruled out of this race by trainer Henderson last week due to poor health. The rematch between him and State Man was one every one was looking forward to.

That leaves State Man as the clear pick for this race and attention turns to trying to pick out a value horse for a place or forecast and Nemean Lion definitely fits that bill.

Winner last time out on February 17 in a Grade 2 race at Wincanton in heavy conditions, he should be able to out-battle the rest of the field to get a valuable place.

15:18 , Matt Verri

Some hugely sad news to bring you - Highland Hunter was fatally injured in the Ultima.

Everyone’s thoughts are with Fergal O'Brien, Paddy Brennan and all the connections.

Latest odds: State Man to cruise to victory?

15:15 , Matt Verri

No Constitution Hill and so State Man is a big favourite for the Champion Hurdle.

Can anyone stop him?

Latest odds:

State Man - 2/5

Irish Point - 9/2

Iberico Lord - 12/1

Nemean Lion - 12/1

Zarak The Brave - 22/1

28/1 Bar

Odds via Betfair.

A potential National runner?

15:11 , Matt Verri

Chianti Classico certainly has plenty of options after that run.

15:04 , Matt Verri

Concern for Highland Hunter, who was at the front for much of the race.

Pulled up with a couple to jump, and then fell to the ground.

Fingers crossed for some good news there.

Ultima result

14:59 , Matt Verri

1 - Chianti Classico

2 - Twig

3 - Meetingofthewaters

4 - Famous Bridge

5 - The Goffer

Chianti Classico wins the Ultima!

14:57 , Matt Verri

Some run.

Nearly went down at the last, but keeps it together and stays strong up the hill.

The Goffer’s race was run with two to go.

14:56 , Matt Verri

Here comes The Goffer, up to the leading group.

Chianti Classico cruising round, as they make the turn. Two to jump.

The Goffer has been dropped, won’t be winning this.

14:56 , Matt Verri

Three to jump and it’s as you were at the front.

Meetingofthewater travelling well, moving toward the front three. Chianti Classico still right there.

The Goffer up to seventh.

14:55 , Matt Verri

Stumptown struggling at the back of the pack, pushing just to stay in touch with the field.

Still no sign of The Goffer making a move. Six or seven from the back.

14:53 , Matt Verri

Highland Hunter alongside Eklat De Rire.

The Goffer is a fair way back in the pack at this early stage, on the inside. Chianti Classico moving up to the front.

14:52 , Matt Verri

Trelawne is down early.

Monbeg Genius with a bad jump, just about stays up. Eklat De Rire setting the pace.

They're off in the Ultima!

14:50 , Matt Verri

Looks to be a very, very open race.

14:47 , Matt Verri

Most of the runners are now down by the start line.

Blackmore got caught out in the Arkle, assuming it would be a false start and then having ground to make up.

Have to play to the... flag?

2:50pm - Ultima Handicap Chase

14:42 , Matt Verri

Tip: Victtorino E/W

This six-year-old gelding from Venetia Williams' yard didn't produce his best when last seen at Ascot on February 17, lacking fluency and making a couple of mistakes which cost him the race.

As a result, we are now getting a much better price than we usually would on a two-time premier handicap winner this season.

He has won in all conditions from good to heavy and if able to clean up some of his recent mistakes, may come up with a surprise win.

Update on conditions

14:37 , Matt Verri

We’ve had a change after the Arkle.

Going at Cheltenham is now heavy, soft in places.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Latest odds: Goffer top of the market

14:32 , Matt Verri

On we go, it’s the Ultima Handicap Chase up next.

Gordon Elliott looking for his first winner of the week, with The Goffer looking to have a real chance.

Just the one Willie Mullins horse in this one - Meetingofthewaters.

Latest odds:

The Goffer - 9/2

Trelawne - 5/1

Chianti Classico - 6/1

Meetingofthewaters - 7/1

Weveallbeencaught - 8/1

Stumptown - 17/2

Monbeg Genius - 12/1

16/1 Bar.

Odds via MyBettingSites.

14:29 , Matt Verri

So Willie Mullins is off the mark for the week.

That’s 95 Cheltenham winners for him, the century continues to edge closer.

Dare say he’ll be closer still by the end of the day.

"As good a ride as I've had off him"

14:21 , Matt Verri

Paul Townend a very happy jockey...

Arkle results

14:16 , Matt Verri

1 Gaelic Warrior 2/1

2 Found A Fifty 13/2

3 Il Etait Temps 7/2

Gaelic Warrior wins the Arkle!

14:15 , Matt Verri

Easy as you like!

Cruised to the front at the last, took it well and charges away up the hill.

Mullins and Townend are up and running!

14:14 , Matt Verri

Two to jump and Matata is a couple of lengths ahead.

Found A Fifty and Gaelic Warrior closing in - those three clear of the rest.

14:13 , Matt Verri

Matata leading them round, Gaelic Warrior just behind and jumping well.

Il Etait Temps is third last, not looking hugely comfortable. Hunters Yarn falling off the back.

14:11 , Matt Verri

Quilixios very slow off the mark - has a bit of work to do to then catch up with the pack.

Authorised Speed is a faller at the first fence.

Underway in the Arkle!

14:10 , Matt Verri

Here we go, they’re off in the second race of the afternoon.

14:07 , Matt Verri

Gaelic Warrior getting a bit hot in the paddock - not what those on him want to see.

No surprise to see the odds on the favourite starting to drift. Quilixios, after Blackmore’s opening win, now 5/1, having been 7/1.

14:04 , Matt Verri

Craig Kieswetter has been speaking ahead of the race, here to cheer on his horse Il Etait Temps.

“The whole of Cape Town and South Africa” is at Cheltenham he says, hoping to roar on a winner.

With it currently 40 degrees in Cape Town, he says the South Africans are the ones with all the coats on...

14:10 - Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase

14:00 , Matt Verri

Tip - Found A Fifty

Trainer Gordon Elliot's seven-year-old gelding Found A Fifty has really put himself on the map this jumps season with two seconds and one victory in Grade 1 at Leopardstown on December 26.

He was second last time out at Leopardstown in the Irish Arkle Novice Chase, losing to repeat opponent Il Etait Temps by a neck in a ding-dong battle in the closing stages.

The slight drop in distance in this race favours Found A Fifty however and he can reverse that form and provide a bit of a shock by preventing Willie Mullins from winning the race with his trio of top horses.

More questions over Henderson runners

13:56 , Matt Verri

Jeriko Du Reponet was pulled up in the Supreme.

Plenty of questions over the Nicky Henderson yard heading into the Festival - that hasn’t helped at all.

A real worry now over his runners this week.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Latest odds: Mullins response in Arkle Challenge Trophy?

13:50 , Matt Verri

On we move to the next race - it’s the Arkle.

Mullins again has the top two in the market, but Blackmore is on Quilixios so you can expect plenty of bets to come in there.

Latest odds:

Gaelic Warrior - 9/4

Il Etait Temps - 10/3

Quilixios - 13/2

Hunters Yarn - 13/2

Found A Fifty - 15/2

My Mate Mozzie - 12/1

JPR One - 12/1

14/1 Bar

Odds via DAZN Bet.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Reaction from Blackmore

13:46 , Matt Verri

“I didn't want to be in front jumping the last but he took me there and battled hard,” she tells ITV Sport.

“I love this place, it's amazing to be coming here and riding these kinds of horses."

13:44 , Matt Verri

All the talk was about Willie Mullins and his push for a century of Cheltenham winners.

He has to settle for second here though, the trusty partnership of Rachael Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead getting the job done.

Blackmore always a huge popular winner, gets a big ovation.

Supreme Novices' Hurdle result

13:40 , Matt Verri

1 Slade Steel 7-2

2 Mystical Power 10-3

3 Firefox 11-2

4 Asian Master 16-1

13:38 , Matt Verri

Mystical Power did briefly look to have it on the run to home, but Slade Steel proved too strong.

Perfect start for Blackmore and De Bromhead.

Slade Steel wins the Supreme Novices' Hurdle!

13:36 , Matt Verri

Took the last with Mystical Power, but Slade Steel and Rachael Blackmore power away up the hill!

13:34 , Matt Verri

No real change to the order, as they move to within three of the finish.

Tullyhill and Tellherthename still at the front, Mystical Power further back in the pack. No move yet.

13:33 , Matt Verri

Tullyhill and Tellherthename setting the early pace at the front of the pack, as they move past the grandstands.

All very bunched still, with Supersundae at the rear.

Second time lucky

13:31 , Matt Verri

This time it is all good. Eight hurdles to run in this opening race.

They're.... not off!

13:31 , Matt Verri

A false start to kick off the week. Delightful.

The Cheltenham roar lasts about four seconds.

Here we go...

13:27 , Matt Verri

Horses are up at the start line.

Cheltenham roar just a couple of minutes away...

Great chance and major chance!

13:20 , Matt Verri

Willie Mullins on his two well-fancied horses in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle:

"Mystical Power was very impressive in the Moscow Flyer and has a great chance here.""Paul has picked Tullyhill who was outstanding when winning at Naas and Punchestown. He has a major chance."

Make of that what you will...

1:30pm - Supreme Novices' Hurdle

13:16 , Matt Verri

Tip - Jeriko De Reponet

This five-year-old gelding from Nicky Henderson's yard is so far unbeaten. On his penultimate start at Newbury on December 30 on soft ground, he quickened away after the last and won comfortably.

That performance had him tipped to be the one to beat for this race, but doubts were raised after he had to battle to win last time out at Doncaster on January 27 in the Grade 2 Rossington Novices Hurdle.

That was over good ground, so the softer going after rain overnight and this morning should present optimal conditions for this horse.

Latest odds: Mystical Power favourite for opener

13:09 , Matt Verri

Just 20 minutes to go until the Festival begins!

Willie Mullins has the two at the top of the market - Paul Townend has opted for Tullyhill.

Here are the odds for you...

Mystical Power 11/4

Tullyhill 3/1

Slade Steel 4/1

Firefox 6/1

Jeriko De Reponet 8/1

Mistergif 10/1

16/1 bar

Cheltenham odds, via BoyleSports

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

Costello on challenges as a tall jockey

13:05 , Matt Verri

Thomas Costello rides Asian Master in the opener.

The 22-year-old is unusually tall for a jockey, and 6ft 4in, and he has admitted staying on weight is a real challenge.

He told the Guardian. “I question myself sometimes why I am a jockey. It’s tough – I can’t lie. I try to watch what I eat and do plenty of exercise to try and keep on top of my weight but it is difficult.

“Breakfast is probably a no-go. For lunch, I try to have a sandwich then have something like a pasta-based dinner, nothing too heavy. I try to drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks. Chocolate and fizzy drinks are my guilty pleasures. It’s difficult not to, but I try not to snack as it doesn’t suit me at all.”

“I have to pursue my college degree in business as with my height I’m probably not going to last that long as a jockey.

“I’ll give it my best and enjoy it for a few years. Every day is a bonus – inevitably weight is going to catch up with me.”

Mullins set for huge first day

12:58 , Matt Verri

Seven races today - Willie Mullins has the favourite in five of them.

He needs six winners this week to reach a century at Cheltenham, and there’s every chance he takes a very significant step towards his ton this afternoon.

Mullins is almost certain to be the top trainer yet again.

Cheltenham needs new crop of stars

12:47 , Matt Verri

It says much for the extent to which Cheltenham dominates the National Hunt landscape that the most talked about performance prior to this year’s Festival did not come in a race at all.

Brilliant horses have missed major meetings before and will again, but for many the Constitution Hill saga epitomised so many of the growing problems that plague the sport, in particular the over-prioritisation of one week in March above all else.

Ideally, the removal of an unbeaten champion would at least come with the consolation of making an open renewal of the race. Instead, one long odds-on favourite has been replaced by another in Ireland’s best, State Man, showcasing a lack of depth at the pinnacle of the sport that is by no means limited to this division alone.

That he is trained by Willie Mullins turns focus to another troubling fact. Mullins is a genius, the leading trainer at this meeting for five straight years, but the gap to his rivals appears to be growing and the extent of his week-to-week dominance is becoming a turn-off for some.

In isolation, none of these concerns are particularly new, but this season they have snowballed. Throw in widening dissent at the spiralling cost of attending the Festival itself — across entry, food, drink, travel and accommodation — and it is not difficult to spot a perfect storm brewing.

The Festival has begun under darker clouds before and shone through by the opening day’s end, but seldom can so many of the sport’s problems been at least partially self-inflicted.

Read our full preveiw here!

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Wednesday inspection on cross-country course

12:39 , Matt Verri

There will be an inspection tomorrow morning on Cheltenham’s cross-country course, with the Glenfarclas Chase potentially pushed back to Friday.

The race is scheduled to be run tomorrow, but the amount of rain that has fallen could mean that is forced to change.

A statement from Cheltenham said: "Following six millimetres of rainfall overnight, which is a significant change from the 2mm-4mm initially forecast, and with a further 4mm-6mm forecast today, there will now be an inspection on the cross-country course at 8am tomorrow. The cross-country course is currently waterlogged in places."

"In the unfortunate event that the cross-country course fails tomorrow's inspection, we are working alongside the British Horseracing Authority on a contingency plan for the Glenfarclas Chase to be run on Friday, Gold Cup Day."

"We will keep everyone informed as and when decisions have been made."

Interview with Skelton brothers

12:28 , Matt Verri

When the showjumper Nick Skelton suffered in a fall in 2000, his then teenage son Dan’s first reaction was to run to the spooked horse, rather than his stricken father.

“Working with horses, they sometimes bite you, kick you or you fall off,” says the trainer. “The vast majority of the time, the person that gets bitten, kicked or falls off jumps back up. Dad didn’t.”

Skelton Sr’s neck was broken and he was told he would never ride again. Dan’s brother, Harry, nearly four years his junior, never doubted his father would get back in the saddle, though, and remembers bouncing up and down on his hospital bed when he visited him.

“It never occurred to me how bad it was,” recalls the former champion jockey. “He’s your dad, he’s invincible, he’ll be fine.”

Skelton Sr sought far and wide to find a doctor who would finally allow him to get back in the saddle, although he fell off his first time riding properly, before going on to win Olympic gold in 2016; at 58, Britain’s oldest Olympic champion for 104 years.

“He always tells us it’s not what you achieve in a day, a month or a year,” continues Harry. “It’s what you achieve in a lifetime.”

The boys’ father has passed on a drive that both share in their differing roles in the riding world, as well as an obsession for winning. “It’s like a drug,” says Harry. “You just want more.”

Not even partnering for 1,000 winners — a milestone the pair passed in October — is sufficient, nor Harry’s champion jockey title in 2021, nor the stable’s two winners at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.

Read the full interview here!

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Slade Steel to give Blackmore winning start?

12:16 , Matt Verri

Rachael Blackmore begins her week on Slade Steel this afternoon, and she’s in confident mood.

“Slade Steel runs in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle instead of in the Gallagher,” Blackmore told Betfair.

“Before I rode him in the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle over two miles at the Dublin Racing Festival, I would have said that he would have been better in the longer race.

“But he was sharp at Leopardstown, I don't think that the two-mile trip will be an issue for him.

“Obviously this is a very good race, it's a Supreme Novices' Hurdle and it's very competitive, but I think that he is bang in there with his chance.

“He's a horse we've always held in high regard and soft ground won't be an issue for him. We're hoping for a big run.”

 (David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA Wire)
(David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA Wire)

Banker or bust?

12:09 , Matt Verri

Mares’ Hurdle - Lossiemouth

A ready winner of the Triumph Hurdle at last year’s meeting, Willie Mullins’s mare has been trained with this day in mind ever since and was hugely impressive on her sole outing this season when hammering Love Envoi - runner-up in the 2023 Mares’ Hurdle - by nine-and-a-half lengths.

This will be the five-year-old’s first run at two-and-a-half miles, with her stamina yet to be proven - but is there anything else in the race good enough to put it under serious pressure?

Verdict: Banker

Banker or bust?

12:00 , Matt Verri

Champion Hurdle - State Man

A couple of weeks ago you could have made a strong case that State Man in the “without Constitution Hill” market might have been the biggest banker of the meeting. Ironically, with the defending champion out of the race, he now faces a slightly stiffer task in obliging in the main market, with one or two opportunists - namely Irish Point and Iberico Lord - re-routing.

Nonetheless, as State Man has dominated Ireland with a run of eight straight Grade 1 successes, plenty have remarked that without Constitution Hill on the scene, the seven-year-old would be talked of as a great in his own right. He should prove it this week.

Verdict: Banker

Mullins eyeing Cheltenham century

11:50 , Matt Verri

It could prove to be an historic week for Willie Mullins.

The Irish trainer has 94 Cheltenham winners to his name - he is six away from becoming the first to ever reach a century.

Mullins has had at least six winners at each of the last four Cheltenham Festivals, but he is not taking anything for granted.

"It's not something I think anyone in racing ever thought of so I don't know," said Mullins when asked about the milestone.

"We've gone one or two days without a winner at Cheltenham and no-one is gifted winners at Cheltenham. It's only when you go back every year - you sort of forget how hard it is to win there."


Craig Kieswetter interview

11:41 , Matt Verri

Any cricketer will tell you that there is no worse place to be than sat in the dressing room, powerless to affect, as a nervy chase unfolds. But how about when one is being run over two miles and fences?

Few are better set to make the comparison than Craig Kieswetter, the former England batter, whose post-playing career has taken him into the heart of the family line in racehorse ownership and breeding, and this afternoon, on to the Cheltenham Festival, with Arkle contender Il Etait Temps.

“It is exactly like that,” says the T20 World Cup winner. “It's a unique sport in that the levels sort of dissipate as you go down.

“The owner actually has zero control. Then the trainer loses a percentage of control once the horse is saddled and ready to go. Then, even though the jockey has the most control, he's still sitting on a live animal with a brain of its own.”

Read our full interview here!

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Open race to start the Festival!

11:31 , Matt Verri

It looks set to be a day of Irish domination, with the ground having had so much rain that horses bereft of stamina will be worth opposing. The action starts with the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30pm), the picture for which got rather murky after Ballyburn was rerouted elsewhere.

This race is open. Slade Steel, who chased home Ballyburn at Leopardstown, is interesting and has some upside. His stamina is assured. Mystical Power is greatly feared; the faster the ground the better for him.

Leading jockey Paul Townend rides Tullyhill, who could be hard to pass, with the hooded Mistergif described as “the unknown quantity of the race” by rider Daryl Jacob. Bookmakers can expect plenty of custom.

 (David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA Wire)
(David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA Wire)

Look at the course...

11:21 , Matt Verri

Got to image we could have heavy ground by the time the action gets underway this afternoon...

No Constitution Hill

11:11 , Matt Verri

Much of the build-up to the Festival has been dominated by Constitution Hill.

The seven-year-old unbeaten hurdler was due to defend his Champion Hurdle crown, but was ruled out following unsatisfactory blood test results.

Trainer Nicky Henderson said in a statement last week: "He has undoubtedly improved over the weekend and seems noticeably brighter than he was at the end of last week and I really did think he was much perkier when ridden this morning.

"Unfortunately the all-important blood test shows that although the figures have also improved they are quite a way from being satisfactory for a horse to commence serious training and to race in a week's time.

"There are three significant markers on the blood test all of which have down since Thursday's sample but are still raised enough to indicate that he has not fully recovered from whatever was ailing him.

"The only way to continue the improvement is not to stress him and he obviously cannot run in these Olympic Games if he's not trained sufficiently.”

 (David Davies/PA Wire)
(David Davies/PA Wire)

Weather update

11:02 , Matt Verri

The rain has been falling overnight... and it’s not much better this morning.

Soft, heavy in places is the official going - that could well change ahead of this afternoon.

Jon Pullin has been explaining the challenge.

Cheltenham tips for day one

10:54 , Matt Verri

1.30pm: Jeriko Du Reponet

2.10pm: Found A Fifty

2.50pm: Victtorino

3.30pm: State Man, Nemean Lion

4.10pm: Lossiemouth, You Wear It Well

4.50pm: Miss Manzor

5.30pm: Corbetts Cross

How to watch the Cheltenham Festival

10:46 , Matt Verri

TV channel: ITV1 will broadcast the first five races for FREE, with coverage beginning at 1pm every day and running until 4.30pm. Preview show 'The Opening Show' will be broadcast on ITV4 from 8.30am to 10am every morning of the meet.

The only place to watch the Festival in its entirety is on Racing TV, which will broadcast all seven races on each day of the meeting.

Racing TV is a subscription-based channel available through Sky and Virgin Media and online via its website and app. Build-up coverage starts at 12.30pm GMT every day and coverage concludes after the final race.

Live stream: Racing TV subscribers can stream the action live via the website or app, or cast to their TV, while ITV viewers can do likewise via the ITVX website and app for FREE.

Live coverage: You can also follow all the action LIVE right here with us!

Full card for day one

10:38 , Matt Verri

1.30pm: Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

2.10pm: Arkle Challenge Trophy

2.50pm: Handicap Steeple Chase

3.30pm: Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

4.10pm: Mares’ Hurdle

4.50pm: Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

5.30pm: National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup

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