As it happenedended1583863760

Cheltenham Festival LIVE results: Epatante seals bragging rights on day one as Honeysuckle beats Benie Des Dieux

Re-live the action on day one as Nicky Henderson took the bragging rights over rival Willie Mullins thanks to an upset in the Mares' Hurdle

Drone shots of Cheltenham race course

Nicky Henderson and Henry de Bromhead both picked up two wins a piece on day one of the Cheltenham Festival, but it was a day to forget for Willie Mullins as two or his horses worked together to cost themselves victory in the Mares' Hurdle.

Benie Des Dieux went into the Mares' Hurdle as the heavy favourite, but a last-minute drift reflected some uncertainty among the 60,000-plus crowd and so it transpired. In what was built-up as a showdown with the talented Honeysuckle, another Mullins-trained contender in Stormy Ireland managed to push Benie Des Dieux wide on the final turn and open the door for Rachael Blackmore to steer Honeysuckle through into the lead and away to victory by the slimmest of margins. The setback for Mullins came soon after rival Henderson moved clear in the overall wins race, with Epatante claiming the trainer's 66th Cheltenham victory by taking the Champion Hurdle.

Henderson had opened his account with victory in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle as Shishkin took the opening race of the day, while De Bromhead secured his first win in the Arkle as Put The Kettle On took the spoils. The Conditional clinched the Ultima after a late surge saw off joint-favourites Discorama and Vindication, and Imperial Aura took the Novices' Handicap Chase before the Gordon Elliott-trained Ravenhill took the National Hunt Chase.

Full racecard

Tuesday

1:30pm - The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle: 1. Shishkin 6-1 2. Abacadabras 11-5 3. Chantry House 15-2

2:10pm - The Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase: 1. Put The Kettle On 16-1 2. Fakir D’Oudairies 3-1 3. Rouge Vif 9-1

2:50pm - The Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase: 1. The Conditional 15-2 2. Kildisart 10-1 3. Discorama 11-2 Jt Fav 4. Vindication 11-2 Jt Fav

3:30pm - The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy: 1. Epatante 2/1 Fav 2. Sharjah 16/1 3. Darvar Star 17/2

4:10pm - The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle Race: 1. Honeysuckle 9/4 2. Benie Des Dieux 4-6 fav 3. Elfile 16/1

4:50pm - The Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase: 1. Imperial Aura 4-1 Jtfav 2. Galvin 4-1 Jtfav 3. Hold The Note 10-1

5:30pm - The National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup: 1 Ravenhill 12-1 2 Lord Du Mesnil 11-2 3 Lamanver Pippin 33-1

Wednesday

1:30pm - The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Race

2:10pm - The RSA Insurance Novices’ Steeple Chase

2:50pm - The Coral Cup Hurdle

3:30pm - The Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase

4:10pm - The Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase

4:50pm - The Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Race

5:30pm - The Weatherbys Champion Bumper

Thursday

1:30pm - The Marsh Novices’ Chase

2:10pm - The Pertemps Network Final

2:50pm - The Ryanair Steeple Chase

3:30pm - The Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle

4:10pm - The Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate

4:50pm - The Festival Mares Novices’ Hurdle

5:30pm - The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup

Friday

1:30pm - The JCB Triumph Hurdle

2:10pm - The Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle Race

2:50pm - The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Race

3:30pm - The Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase

4:10pm - The St James’s Place Foxhunter Steeple Chase Challenge Cup

4:50pm - Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase

5:30pm - Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

 

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Welcome to The Independent's live coverage of day one at the Cheltenham Festival as racing gets underway despite the meet falling under threat from the coronavirus outbreak.

There were plenty of fears heading into the week that sporting events across the country would be seriously impacted by the current pandemic sweeping the globe, but it was confirmed by the government on Monday that events can go ahead as planned, meaning the hundreds of thousands who will head to Cheltenham this week will get exactly what they've paid for.

The second-biggest meet on the National Hunt calendar takes place within Prestbury Park with more than £4.5m up for grabs in prize money and significantly more set to be splashed on each race by the punters, with the 28 races building up towards Friday's Gold Cup as the big one of the week.

We'll bring you every race live throughout the week, as well as the latest results, the best tips and everything else that goes on at Cheltenham.

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BREAKINGDay one is not even underway yet we have some big breaking news arriving - and it will be painful listening for many who will have backed Altior.

That's because trainer Nicky Henderson has confirmed that Altior will NOT run in tomorrow's Queen Mother Champion Chase, ending his hopes of a third consecutive victory in the main event of the day.

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Altior will not run in Wednesday's Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival after trainer Nicky Henderson confirmed he had been withdrawn after pulling up lame at the weekend.

The two-time Champion Chase winner was bidding for a third consecutive title this year after cementing its status as one of the Festival greats, having already one the Supreme Novices Hurdle and the Arkle Trophy in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

But Henderson said on Sunday that a dormant splint that had not caused the 10-year-old any previous issues had “reared its ugly head”, and despite naming Altior at the 48-hour declaration following good progress overnight on Monday, his recovery has not progressed as hoped to leave the trainer little choice than to withdraw the horse.

"What is really disappointing is the improvement from the night before last to yesterday morning was so good that we were genuinely optimistic that, as long as that recovery rate was maintained, we figured he'd be sound this morning, and that is not the case,” Henderson told the Press Association.

"It's flattened off, he hasn't improved at all from last night, whereas the night before he improved dramatically. Consequently I think it's only right now that he will be taken out of the race."

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More from Nicky Henderson on Altior's withdrawal:

He added: "It's brutal - it's not an issue that has ever bothered him before, he's never taken a lame step in his life. The timing is just ridiculous, but that's what we say every year - you know something will come and bite you, but there are certain ones that are a bit bigger than the rest.

"It's very cruel, and cruel on everybody to be fair. To get him back from that race at Ascot to where he is now - he's been in such brilliant form, but he won't be there to show it."

Altior suffered his first defeat over jumps in November after winning 19 consecutive races, beaten by Cyrname in the 1965 Chase at Ascot, but has returned to form by winning Newbury’s Game Spirit Chase in February and was hotly fancied to make it three from three in Wednesday’s main event.

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Who to back?Picking a winner at the Cheltenham Festival is undoubtedly the toughest task of the week - after all, if there was a secret to it we'd all be rich.

But luckily the experts tend to know a thing or two when it comes to the signs to look out for, such as the going conditions, the form to take on board and the form to disregard, and whether the distance will favour a horse of not.

David Clough brings you our Tuesday tipping guide on who to back at day one.

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Last year there were more than 71,000 fans in attendance at Cheltenham on Gold Cup Friday, which each year proves the most-attended day of the Festival as it draws to a close.

Today's figures look to be quite a fair bit down on that, with the BBC's Laura Scott reporting that none of the four days have been sold out yet.

However, organisers The Jockey Club are still expecting around 62,000 people today that is still a remarkable turnout given the concerns around coronavirus this week.

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For the fourth year running, the Cheltenham Festival will be shown live on ITV in its entirety beyond each day's final two races, but the future of the coverage is in the balance ahead of next year's Festival as that broadcasting deal is due to expire at the end of the year.

Media rights holders remain hopeful of agreeing a new deal with ITV for racing coverage from 2021 onwards.

Reports on Tuesday suggested the channel could be in danger of losing the live rights to televise racing because the broadcaster could not guarantee the biggest events, including the Cheltenham Festival, will be shown on its main channel from next year.

There are nine months remaining on the existing four-year deal, with talks ongoing between ITV and the Racecourse Media Group (RMG), who deal with media rights sales on behalf of the courses.

ITV took over coverage of racing from Channel 4 in 2017 - and Jockey Club Racecourses, which stages the Cheltenham Festival, Randox Health Grand National and Investec Derby, is hoping for a positive resolution.

A spokesperson said: "Discussions continue, and we're pushing towards a win-win outcome for both parties."

RMG is similarly optimistic, with a spokeperson adding: "Commercial discussions are at an advanced stage, and we are very hopeful of a positive outcome in the near future."

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We're an hour away from the first race at Cheltenham with anticipation building in the paddock as the punters arrive in their waves.

But there can be no looking beyond the very visible signs that coronavirus is an issue for the Festival, with a number of unusual measures on display. 24 hand sanitisers have been installed at the venue, while for the first time a pharmacy van is available for anyone feeling ill during the day - for non-alcohol-related reasons.

There are also large signs being displayed on the big screen urging fans to look after their hygiene, given the risks os so many people gathering in close proximity.

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Some more information on the disappointing news that Altior will not be running this week after failing to recover from the leg injury picked up at the weekend:

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