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The 2021 Cheltenham Festival is now fast approaching, as anticipation continues to build in what is always one of the biggest horse racing events world-wide each year. The coronavirus continues to remain a challenge around the world and is impacting sport greatly. It is going to mean that no spectators will be in attendance at the track for this memorable week and there could even be some complications for horses travelling over from Ireland. It all means that it is set to be a different festival than usual but one that will again be well followed from racing fans around the world. Many people will already be looking ahead to the Gold Cup bookmakers for the different bonuses and offers available, as Al Boum Photo heads in, looking to win the race for the third year in succession. However, for some fans it is all about day one. So, with this being the case, here we look at the opening day of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.
Tuesday is the opening day of the festival, better known as Champions Day, with the Champion Hurdle heading up the card. The Supreme Novices Hurdle will kick start the festival and this year looks all about Appreciate It, who is the general 5/2 favourite. He finished second in the Champion Bumper at the festival last season, when starting favourite and has returned with two impressive performances over hurdles. This included a recent nine length victory and he now heads in as the clear horse to beat for Mullins' team. The Arkle is then next, and this is all about Shishkin, who for many is the banker of the festival. Now a general odds-on shot following two breath-taking performances over fences and he could just be the next future star of the sport. He was also the winner of the Supreme Novices Hurdle last season and will again be expected to pick up a victory on the opening day of the festival.
The Champion Hurdle is the key race on the opening day, and it looks a competitive one, with Epatante looking to defend her title, following an impressive victory in the race last season. She is the general 2/1 favourite but was recently beaten at very short odds, so does now have questions to answer. However, if she can bring a similar performance to Cheltenham, then she is the clear horse to beat, with Sharjah again set to be a major challenger. The final race to cover on the opening day is the Mares Hurdle. Another competitive race with last year's winner Honeysuckle heading in as the horse to beat. The Mullins-trained Concertista could be the key challenger, as we also wait to hear news on whether Benie Des Dieux will be contesting the race. It sets up for a fascinating contest between the horses, with Honeysuckle the horse to beat at this stage.
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