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Cheltenham - Racing: Tuesday's Cheltenham Festival Review

Britain began the Cheltenham Festival with three straight winners, but it was Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore who stole the show on day one in the Cotswolds.

The unbeaten Honeysuckle stretched her perfect sequence to 15 and became the first two-time Champion Hurdle winning-mare in doing so.

Earlier, the Nicky Henderson-trained Constitution Hill obliterated the field in the curtain-raising Supreme Novices' Hurdle, powering 22-lengths clear of stablemate Jonbon to record a magnificent success.

Alan King's Edwardstone then justified his position as favourite in the Arkle - readily pulling clear of Gabynako to give the Barbury Castle trainer his first Festival winner in seven years - while the hosts were in dreamland when Corach Rambler roared up the famous Cheltenham hill to win the Ultima, the first handicap of the meeting.

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The stars of the show were to put Ireland on the scoresheet soon after, however, as Blackmore delivered another masterclass alongside willing partner Honeysuckle.

Honeysuckle silences doubters amid Festival frenzy

Winning trainer Henry De Bromhead declared Honeysuckle's incredible career to be a 'never-ending fairytale' following her second Champion Hurdle win.

Relatively easy in the market, Honeysuckle went off the 8/11fav - the biggest price she had been in months - before coming home with three-and-a-half-lengths to spare on 2020 winner Epatante and Zanahiyr in second and third respectively for Henderson and Gordon Elliott.

Blackmore raced wide through the early stages of the contest before moving in behind the front three on the run to three-out.

She manoeuvred between Zanahiyr and long-absent Appreciate It rounding the home bend and, as she always does, the mare responded generously when Blackmore asked her to go for home.

She had clear daylight at the last and, while the field closed on her near the line, that race-winning move on the final bend ensured she had more than enough in reserve.

After winning in front of empty stands last year, Honeysuckle and Blackmore got the fitting reception they deserved from the packed enclosures after their latest win.

"It's just incredible. Walking out there in front of the stands with all the people - this is such a special place and I'm so lucky to be riding winners here," said the winning jockey.

"She's just an incredible mare. She decides when she's happy to go and I haven't stopped her from doing that yet."

Constitution Hill sets Festival alight

Pre-race talk suggested the curtain-raiser was the hottest Supreme Novices' Hurdle in many a year - and so it was as Constitution Hill smashed Annie Power's track record on route to his astonishing success for Henderson and Nico de Boinville.

The overly-keen Dysart Dynamo caused a false start before the famous Cheltenham roar could officially go up, and the Willie Mullins-trained duly set the pace in front once they were underway.

He was still going about his business easily when he crashed out three from home, just as Paul Townend's mount appeared set to pull clear with the Henderson duo of Constitution Hill and Jonbon.

As that pair then turned for home, it briefly looked as if a proper duel was going to unfold but Constitution Hill careered away on the run to the last, merely nudged out by his rider in doing so.

He cruised home as de Boinville saluted the grandstand, while rallying Jonbon did enough to see off Kilcruit for he minor honours.

Winning owner Michael Buckley raised the prospect of going to Ireland as soon as April for a tantalising clash with the best two-miler in the business.

"I said to Nicky if he won impressively maybe we could go to Punchestown and take on Honeysuckle," said the owner. "He said he hadn't thought of that, but he did smile - he didn't throw his drink at me and tell me I was ridiculous.

"Maybe it's not the right thing to do, I don't know. But it's a bit of fun anyway."

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Edwardstone avoids mishap before Arkle glory

Arkle favourite Edwardstone was to have his most worrying moment early in the race before ultimately winning well for King and Tom Cannon - the rider enjoying his first Festival winner.

Rank outsider Brave Seasca came down at the fourth, with Saint Sam unseating behind him, and Edwardstone showing incredibly nimble footwork in avoiding potential carnage.

From there it was mostly plain sailing as Cannon's mount travelled strongly and put his stamp on the race from the second last to hold off 25/1 shot Gabynako for Gavin Cromwell in second, with Irish Arkle winner Blue Lord in third for the Townend and Mullins combo.

Winning trainer King suggested he was 'relieved', while Cannon paid tribute to his partner.

"I've got a better relationship with him than any other human being," the jockey said. "He wears his heart on his sleeve. He jumps well and goes out and does his thing."

Gaelic Warrior plot foiled

Gaelic Warrior could end the week as one of the best-supported horses of the entire meeting.

The French import had never run for Willie Mullins, but, in the famous Rich Ricci silks, he went off as short as 13/8fav for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, despite facing 20 rivals in a competitive event.

Paul Townend's mount led the field around, but his jumping was errant at times and he displayed clear signs of greenness.

He tried to put the race to bed off the home bend, but, despite being under maximum pressure, the Padraig Roche-trained Brazil drew alongside after the last and, galvanised by Mark Walsh, edged a photo finish with Bell Ex One an eye-catching third on first run for Paul Nicholls.

Earlier, the team of Henderson and de Boinville had combined with Marie's Rock as she stormed up the hill to overhaul Elliott's Queens Brook in the Mares' Hurdle. It was just a third British-trained winner in the race since its inception in 2008.

The ups and downs of racing were on full show, with Rachael Blackmore brought down on board favourite Telmesomethinggirl just as they were about to launch their challenge, a mere 40 minutes on from that famous Champion Hurdle success.

Corach Rambler was a winner for Scotland in the Ultima, coming from a long way back in the run to roar home and score for Lucinda Russell and Derek Fox, seeing off David Pipe's Gericault Roque and Oscar Elite inside the final 100 yards.

The final race of the day, the National Hunt Challenge Cup for amateur riders saw only six contest for the £60k first prize.

Run Wild Fred led the field all the way around under Jamie Codd, but it was Patrick Mullins on board Stattler who came to the second last full of running and they powered clear up the run-in to ensure Team Mullins got on the scoresheet and Ireland closed to within one of the hosts, with Britain in front 4-3 after a pulsating first day.

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