We’ve been counting down the days like kids counting down to Christmas Day. Only we can legally drink, so it’s been counting down and drinking whiskey, which is much more fun that just counting down on its own.
The Cheltenham Festival is here once again and if I was any more excited this blog would come with a NSFW warning. Thankfully it doesn’t but it should come with a far less catchy acronym of ‘HASASNMWABON’ warning – which of course stands for ‘Hilarity And Sarcasm And Some Narkiness Mixed With A Bit Of News’. I’ll be here all day long to bring you up to date with all the latest news, views and random insults that I think of regarding some of the people at Cheltenham.
Today is the day we’ll find out – among other things – if Hurricane Fly can regain the Champion Hurdle, Quevega can maintain her grip on the Mares’ Hurdle and Simonsig is all he’s cracked up to be. Feel free to contribute via the comments section or if you’re too fancy for that, give me a shout on Twitter where I’m @MinistryOfGlove.
‘HELL OF A HORSE’ COUNT: 2
‘RANDOM CELEBRITY WITH A TENUOUS LINK TO RACING’ COUNT: 1
5.26pm: Well, that’s all from day one. There’s no doubt that Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh and their string of stars will be sponsoring many a celebratory tipple around the taverns of Cheltenham this evening. And with fancied runners on Day Two, it could get even better for them. The last I heard, Paddy Power was curled up in the fetal position, sobbing and asking total strangers to pinch him in the hope that it was all a bad dream. It was a dream, but mainly for punters.
Join me tomorrow as I bring you all the news, views and sarky comments you’ll need for the Wednesday of Cheltenham week.
5.22pm: Rajdhani Express gets the Waley-Cohen colours into the winners circle and notches another Festival winner for Nicky Henderson. Ackertac finishes second, Ohio Gold is third and Shangani stays on four fourth. Some relief for the bookies, but not much on a day when we’ve got a kicking.
5.15 Cheltenham Result
1st Rajdhani Express 16/1
3rd Ohio Gold
5.16pm: They’re off at the second time of asking …
5.15pm: False start in the last race.
5.11pm: They’re down at the start and there’s more money for Colour Squadron who is in to 4/1. The Druids Nephew is in to 5/1.
5.05pm: With one to go, it’s clear that the punters have won Day One by some distance. That won’t stop people hoping to kick a poor bookie when he’s down and at the moment, Colour Squadron, The Druids Nephew, Carlito Brigante and Shangani are being well-backed to deliver one final hoof to the nuts of Paddy Power on the opening day of the Festival.
4.59pm: ‘And now it’s time for Come Dine With Me’ the Channel 4 continuity announcer says with far too much smug satisfaction in her voice. If ever there was a good time to switch back to Racing UK, it’s now. If you’re in the office, you can watch streaming of the last race if you place a bet of at least £1 or E1 on the race.
4.57pm: Great pic of Hurricane Fly regaining the title:
4.52pm: The replays confirm the difficulties Quevega had in running and what a great job Ruby did to keep his head when the pressure was on. Great performances from horse, trainer and jockey. when Paddy stops sobbing, he’ll probably admit the same.
4.45pm: The Paddy Power office is like a morgue, but that doesn’t take away from an outstanding performance from Quevega. It’s five in a row for Willie Mullins’ star and it was the toughest she’s been pushed in those five years. It didn’t look like she’d get up as they turned into the straight, but she went through the gears to assert her superiority. Sirene D’Ainay ran a great race to claim second and Swincombe Flame gets up for third.
Mares’ Hurdle Result
1st Quevega 8/11F
2nd Sirene D’Ainay
3rd Swincombe Flame
4.40pm: The girls get going in the Mares Hurdle …
4.38pm: After a slightly awkward interview with Quevega’s handler, we’re off down to the start where they’re about to start.
4.31pm: Great picture of the reaction to Hurricane Fly’s win from horse racing supporter and possibly the most Irish man in the history of Irishness, Hector o hEochagain:
Well Done the Champ is back ! Hurricane Fly pic.twitter.com/ynUzF5urcD
— Hector o hEochagain (@hectoron2fm) March 12, 2013
The reaction in the Paddy Power offices couldn’t be further removed from those scenes of joy.
4.24pm: The wounds are going to take a while to be adequately licked, but it could be about to get a lot worse before it gets better. The Mares’ Hurdle is next up on the rejigged card and despite the Mullins/Walsh combination gunning for a treble, Quevega has drifted to 8/11 from 8/13. Une Artiste is 6/1 and Swing Bowler is now 7/1 after strong support all day long. Kentford Grey Lady is out to 12/1 after being 10/1 earlier.
4.20pm: EXCLUSIVE! Latest picture of the Paddy Power employee who approved the Hurricane Fly Money-Back Special:
4.15pm: The Paddy Power bean-counters have been at the smelling salts and we’re starting to get a handle on how much the Hurricane Fly victory and Money-Back Special are going to cost us. The early word is there’ll be no Christmas bonus this year. Or any year until about 2033 by the looks of it.
4.05pm: And Hurricane Fly shows his class to regain his crown!!
Brilliant stuff from the 2011 champion, responding brilliantly after Rock On Ruby set a strong gallop. The defending champion was far from disgraced by pushing the favourite all the way. Countrywide Flame ran a big race for a place. From his saddle, Ruby admits he wasn’t convinced he was going to win it half way around.
I can’t say I was overly confident. He wasn’t travelling too well. I went to the front two furlongs too soon.
That’s the mother, father, auntie, uncle, first cousin, second cousins and in-laws of all bookie-bashers.
Champion Hurdle Result
1st Hurricane Fly 13/8F
2nd Rock On Ruby
3rd Countrywide Flame
All 9 ran.
4pm: The tape goes up, the crowd roar and in about five minutes we’ll know who the Champion Hurdler is …
3.56pm: They’re down at the start, doing circles until the time roles around. Zarkandar has been the subject of late support and is in to 7/2.
3.49pm: Hurricane Fly is in to 13/8 and the cheery Scottish lady bookie tells us she can’t do anything to stop people lumping on. A pioneering ‘FREE HEAD BUTT WITH EVERY BET PLACED’ offer might just do the job.
3.46pm: Clare Balding gets the camera to point at Noel Fehily for a moment, telling us
He’s moving from foot to foot, partially to stay warm I think
And partially because that’s how you walk, I’m guessing.
3.41pm: Channel 4 run the risk of getting a flash of jockey balls by cutting to the jockey’s room. Still though, even a flash of jockey balls would be better viewing than Hollyoaks.
3.40pm: 20 minutes to go before the feature race of the opening day. There’s been strong support for Hurricane Fly all day and the 2011 champ is 7/4. Defending champ, Rocky On Ruby is in to 5/1 from 11/2 and Binocular is now 10/1 from 9/1.
3.27pm: They went a furious pace and it took its toll on a few who couldn’t hack it. It didn’t perturb Golden Chieftain who powered up the hill to record a convincing victory for the Tizzard stable. And as you can tell from lack of cheers as he crossed the finish line, there weren’t many supporters at the racecourse. The well-backed Our Mick was second, White Star Line ran into a creditable third and Tullamore Dew finished off the places.
JLT Speciality Handicap Chase Result
1st Golden Chieftain 28/1
2nd Our Mick
3rd White Star Line
4th Tullamore Dew
3.21pm: Looks like a few flakes of snow are falling at Cheltenham. Or else someone’s potato salad just came off second best in a run-in with a fan.
3.20pm: The tape goes up and they’re away in the JLT Handicap …
3.05pm: If ever you want to feel old, watch Clare Balding interview 26 year old trainer, Harry Fry. We prefer to stick our heads in the sand about our ever advancing years and with that in mind, let’s look at the betting for the JLT Handicap Chase. Despite lots of money for Merry King earlier today, Our Mick is now heading the market at 7/1. There’s also been money for Loch Ba, Monkerty Tunkerty, White Star Line and Tour Des Champs. The Package, Quantitativeeasing and Midnight Chase are some of the horses who are as popular as a banker who just got a whopping bonus for doing sweet FA.
3.02pm: Olympic champion, Denise Lewis presents the trophy for the Arkle for some reason and that breaks our duck on the ‘random celebrity’ account. She tells us,
Everyone here is really into their horse racing
Yep, horse racing tends to attract a sort of horse racing crowd.
2.52pm: Clare Balding points out that we’ve now had two grey winners so far at Cheltenham. Hey! That’s a mean way to refer to Ruby Walsh.
Oh right – she was talking about Champagne Fever who also has a bit of the George Clooneys going on.
2.50pm: Did anyone notice anything interesting going on in the background of that last race? Anything inflate your interest by any chance?
2.48pm: Nicky Henderson puts Simonsig’s dodgy jumping down to the horse being a little too keen and going a little too quickly.
2.45pm: Simonsig wins the Arkle, but not without putting a few hearts in mouths. Barry Geraghty kept control despite some sketchy jumping and kept him going up the hill when he came under pressure from Baily Green who put in a commendable effort at 33/1. Overturn set the pace, but drifted away. It’s a kicking for the bookies, not that too many tears will be shed.
The Arkle Result
1st Simongsig 8/15F
2nd Baily Green
All 7 ran
2.40pm: They’re off and running in the Arkle …
2.38pm: Ted Walsh is back! Great news for the ‘Hell of a Horse’ count!
2.34pm: Good suggestion from Thomas Kerr of the Racing Post:
Disappointed the Cross Country is cancelled? Recreate the thrill of the race by blindfolding a dozen cats and releasing them in your garden
— Tom Kerr (@ThomasKerrRP) March 12, 2013
2.30pm: Betting rules aren’t the sexiest rules ever – certainly not as sexy as banking rules – but sometimes we have to talk about them. Just to mop up the housework after the Cross Country Chase rescheduling:
Cross Country chase rescheduled for 5.15 Thursday. As per our rules, all bets will stand as the race is not being reopened. #CheltFest
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) March 12, 2013
2.25pm: The swearwods are still echoing around the office after the excitement of the Festival opener, but already it’s time to look ahead to the Arkle. It’s good news for Simonsig who has been backed in to 8/15 for victory. Fears that Overturn won’t like the ground have been eased with the switch in going conditions, but he’s still out to 9/2 after being 4/1 earlier. There’s been some money for Arvika Ligeonniere who is now 7/1 from 8/1. People aren’t being fooled by His Excellency’s name as he’s now out to 80/1 from 33/1.
2.15pm: Just before we began we got news that the Cross Country Chase had been postponed. It now looks like it’ll happen on Thursday. Great news if you like a bit of ‘Wacky Races’ in your National Hunt racing.
2.10pm: And that’s why you avoid the favourite in the Supreme Novice’s Hurdle like it’s a lift home from George Michael! Ruby Walsh drives Champagne Fever up the hill to deny the favourite, My Tent Or Yours. Great performance from both and the although the favourite was beaten, he still showed he has a touch of class. Jezki completes the top three.
Supreme Novice’s Hurdle Result
1st Champagne Fever 5/1
2nd My Tent Or Yours
All 12 ran
2.06pm: News arrives that the Cross Cross Country Chase been abandoned just as the tape goes up and they’re off to that famous Cheltenham roar … best of luck one and all.
2pm: Five minutes to go and the horses are trotting down to the start for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
1.57pm: JP McManus plays his card so close to his chest, they’re somewhere in his lungs. When asked about his best bet for the week, he bats it away with the type of tight-lips you normally only get in Mafia crime dramas.
1.55pm: There’s a game of Cheltenham Catchphrase on elsewhere on the blog. Get the thinking cap on and get over there for your chance to win a £/E50 Free Bet.
1.53pm: YESSSS! Graham Cunningham steps into Ted’s shoes and gives us our second Hell of a Horse of the day.
1.52pm: Where’s Ted Walsh gone?? This is playing havoc with my ‘Hell of a Horse’ count.
1.49pm: GOING CHANGE: It’s now Soft (Good to Soft in places), which means it’s not as soggy as had been expected earlier today.
1.47pm: Here’s all your Cheltenham Day One tips in a cheesy 80s quiz show format featuring the presenting talents of none other than Henry Kelly.
1.45pm: About 20 minutes until the 2013 FEstival gets underway. My Tent Or Yours is in to 15/8 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Jezki is out to 5/1 from 9/2, Champagne Fever is in to 5/1 from 13/2 and Un Atout is a bit hokey-cokey in-out-in-out and currently 7/1.
1.33pm: Davy Russell rides Un Atout in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in about half an hour. He’s confident, but he stops some way short of trash-talking about an upset of My Tent Or Yours.
He’s a little bit inexperienced. He has an each way chance.
1.19pm: I was afraid of this. Channel 4 have about half an hour of TV to fill and it’s not all BAFTA winning material. In the meantime read this piece I wrote about the importance of looking for previous Cheltenham form when picking out your Festival bets.
1.10pm: ‘What could make Cheltenham even better?’ you’re probably not asking right about now. Well, regardless of whether you asked that question or not, here’s a monkey tipping up horses:
1.06pm: A cold looking Ruby Walsh is being interviewed by Clare Balding now. He’s surprisingly chatty for a man who looks like he’s shivering. He’s bullish – some may even say slightly smug – about Hurricane Fly’s chances in the Champion Hurdle, telling us:
Willie Mullins has him back where he was two years ago
12.58pm: MARES’ HURDLE PREVIEW
Now it the Channel 4 ladies can stop wearing ridiculous hats for long enough, I’ll do my preview of the Mares’ Hurdle. It won’t take long because Quevega will make it five Festival wins in a row. I’ve heard talk of her getting older and having too many miles on the clock, but (a) she’s only nine and (b) she’s run six times since the start of the 2009/10 season. If she happens to lose today, it won’t be down to age or general deterioration. Une Artiste will probably be the one to benefit if she’s not at her best, but don’t count on it.
12.55pm: The great ‘riduclous hat-off’ continues among the women Channel 4 Racing Team. Alice Plunkett takes a commanding lead with this effort.
There’s a 19th century Russian guardsman now wondering who stole his hat.
12.48pm: Mick Fitzgerald tells us:
A good judge once told me not to give a winner in the first race or you’ll be harassed for the rest of the week
I would question the legal credentials of that judge if that’s how he concludes a trial.
12.42pm: Not long to go now. It’s over to Channel 4 where Clare Balding looks suspiciously like she’s trying to smuggle someone in for free by wearing a comically over-sized jacket.
12.28pm: CHAMPION HURDLE PREVIEW
I’ve dithered about what to make of this race for most of the season and now that the big day is finally here, I’m still dithering. I’m a big fan of course form at Cheltenham, which doesn’t narrow it down much in this instance. Eight of today’s runners have previously won at the track and of them, at least 5 of them are good enough to have realistic aspirations of winning this one.
I had been leaning towards Rock On Ruby to defend his title, but having seen the prices on offer for Hurricane Fly, I’m thinking about going against my gut instinct. ‘Always ignore your gut instinct’ – that’s a saying no-one uses, but it’s the policy I’m adopting. The 2011 winner is the classiest horse in the field and – as everyone associated with him has been saying – he’s had his ideal prep this year. He’ll be made work hard, but he’ll be the one leading them home.
And in the latest shameless plug of Paddy Power offers, don’t forget our AMAZEBALLS* Money-Back Special on the race:
*I’ll promise not use the word ‘amazeballs’ of you promise to tell everyone about out Hurriance Fly Money-Back Special.
12.22pm: If you like NAPS and you like competitions, try our NAPS competition. It’s free to enter as there’s €20,000 worth of prizes to be won. Plus there’s the added bonus of showing off how smart you are in a public arena.
12.14pm: The Queen has been doing her Festival research judging by her selection of morning papers. I get Cameron’s going to get a busy tone if he’s tries to ring her between 2pm and 6pm this afternoon. Still though, not getting the response he was hoping for – he must be used to that after appointing George Osbourne as chancellor.
12.04pm: Nicky Henderson’s daughter, Camilla (you may have spotted her being the woman wearing the less poodle-like hat on the Morning Line earlier) has tweeted about the Paddy Power Lucky Pants trophy her Dad won at Sandown:
@paddypower loving the Paddy Power Pants Trophy from Sandown, NJH has his in the middle of the dining table this week!
— Camilla Henderson (@camillahendo) March 12, 2013
If you missed them, here’s the work of art she was talking about:
11.50am: JLT HANDICAP CHASE PREVIEW
Just because I’m previewing this race, don’t take it as a sign I know what I’m talking about. This race is a puzzle wrapped in lottery wrapped in the pages of a difficult book of Soduku. It’s a nightmare and although there’s been money for Merry King at the top of the betting, like the Pope giving advice on technical advice, I don’t tend to place much weight on it.
I backed White Star Line when he was beaten by Hunt Ball at the Festival last year and for some reason, that noble, but ultimately unsuccessful run bizarrely inspires a misplaced sense of loyalty in me. To somewhat add a dimension of logic to my half-arsed theory, he carries a light weight and that could count for a lot today. I’m going for him once again, but I could talk you backing anyone in such an open weight.
11.43am: I’ve got this picture of Barry Geraghty going for a gentle jog around Cheltenham. Of course this is a still picture and he’s not moving, but ironically that’s not too inaccurate a representation of the speed he was actually going ; ) Sorry Barry! He’s just saving his energy for winning lots of races later I’m sure.
Don’t let the blurriness fool you.
11.39am: Noel Fehily, the jockey who’ll be looking to defend the Champion Hurdle on board Rock On Ruby, is being interviewed by Racing UK. The main topic of conversation is the decision to put blinkers on the horse. He has a few thoughts on it, but essentially what he’s saying is ‘I hope they can make him run faster.’
If I was doing these interviews, there would be A LOT more dead air on Racing UK.
11.31am: After years of bullying Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, it’s good to see Buzz has done well for himself. He’s now Paul Nicholls’ right hand man at Ditcheat.
11.17am: The merits of basing your betting on what former Irish international footballers are yet to be proved, but if it’s something you live your life by, here’s what Kevin Kilbane is tipping up for day one:
Brilliant day at Cheltenham ahead. 1.30 jezki, 2.05 simonsig, 2.40 fruity o'rooney, 3.20, hurricane fly, 4.00 arabella boy, 4.40 quevega.
— Kevin Kilbane (@kdkilbane77) March 12, 2013
11.08am: If you’re wondering what approach to take with your Festival betting tactics, here’s a look at how the favourites have performed in the last 10 years.
If you’re looking for more detail or snarky comments than a neat graphic can provide, then you’re in luck, because both are available right over here.
10.55am: If you’re cursing your luck for not having a handy A4 sheet from top jockeys and pundits concisely outlining their tips for day one of the Festival, then curse the gods no more.
Print this off, share it around the office, enjoy the kudos and make people buy sandwiches to show their gratitude. It’s both informative and potentially yummy for you.
10.48am: Despite the delay, Channel 4 confirm they’re still starting their show at 12.35pm. That’s great news because I understand the alternative was a vintage episode of Hollyoaks. And a ‘vintage’ episode of Hollyoaks is one that is marginally less shit than all the other ones.
Hi everyone. Despite delays to all races by 35-40 minutes, Channel 4 will STILL go on air as scheduled at 12.35pm #cheltfest
— Channel 4 Racing (@Channel4Racing) March 12, 2013
10.34am: ARKLE CHASE PREVIEW
I had been holding off doing any more previews until racing was confirmed to be going ahead. Ya know – I don’t want to waste time on races that aren’t happening. I much prefer to waste it looking for overly speculative winners that rarely actually come to pass.
I had been convinced that Simonsig just needed to turn up to win the the Arkle Chase, but now I’m less convinced than whenever Tom Cruise walks down the aisle with a woman.
After looking at Overturn’s form in more detail, I’ve decided he can put it up the favourite. Putting too much faith in his three cakewalks so far this season is more dangerous than being an older lady in the vicinity of Harry Styles. But that said, he’s won well, he’s actually got a higher rating than Nicky Henderson’s star and his front running tactics might ask questions of Simonsig he hasn’t to answer before. Partially because I’m trying my best to appear alternative and not mainstream and partially because he offers a bit of value, I’m going for Overturn in this one and blithely dismissing everyone else in the race.
10.25am: ACTUAL BREAKING NEWS! As Simon Claisse teed up earlier, racing will go ahead today, but races have been put back by about half an hour. We’ll start at 2.05 with the Supreme Novices and the Cross Country Chase has been moved back to 5.45. Noel Edmonds is sobbing into his beard somewhere in the Deal or No Deal studios.
For the sake of clarity here’s the new timetable for day one:
2.05 CHELTENHAM – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
2.40 CHELTENHAM – The Arkle Chase
3.20 CHELTENHAM – JLT Handicap Chase
4.00 CHELTENHAM – Champion Hurdle
4.40 CHELTENHAM – Mares’ Hurdle
5.15 CHELTENHAM – Novices’ Handicap Chase
5.45 CHELTENHAM – Cross Country Chase (pending another inspection)
10.22am: Hot off the digital camera presses – no, it’s not a page from the ‘older gent who likes the outdoor lifestyle’ pages of the Littlewoods catalogue, it’s Willie Mullins walking the track earlier this morning.
10.11am: They’ve started to pick up the bin bags at Cheltenham. They’re going to let the sun get at the ground and hopefully racing will go ahead as planned.
10am: Right time for the first look at what’s shaking and baking in the Cheltenham betting. My Tent Or Yours is back to 2/1 after being 5/2 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Un Atout has drifted slightly to 7/1 from 13/2 in the same race.
Merry King has been well backed to land the JLT Handicap Chase. He’s 13/2 now after being 15/2 earlier thanks to Pricewise’s attempts to financially castrate Paddy. The Package is out to 14/1 from 12/1, Monkery Tunkery is in to 16/1 from 20/1 and there’s a handful of other slight changes too boring to go into here.
Swing Bowler has been backed in the Mares’ Hurdle Betting, but not to the point where she’s expected to challenge Quevega’s favouritism. The David Pipe trained mare is now 7/1 from 9/1. Colour Squadron has been backed in to 6/1 from 13/2 in the Novices’ Handicap Chase.
9.51am: If you’re a fan of double page spreads featuring our excellent Money-Back if Hurricane Fly wins the Champion Hurdle offer, then today’s Racing Post is right up your street. If you look hard enough, there’s also some writing in it and some of it is about today’s NAPS. Despite apparent bankers like Simonsig, Hurricane Fly, Quevega and My Tent Or Yours running today, the joint most popular NAPs of the day are Shangani in the 5.15 Cheltenham and Monkery Tunkery in the JLT Handicap Chase. Both get two NAPS each from the panel of pickers.
9.48am: LOLz and other stuff people young people say in Twitter-speak:
Live Pictures from Cheltenham as Clerk Simon Claisse heads out for a final inspection… pic.twitter.com/EvGY0Qjk3e
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) March 12, 2013
9.45am: Crack out the sun cream and the speedos – the sun is shining at Cheltenham! It’s now a toasty 0 degrees Celsius at the racecourse.
9.43am: Dessie Hughes is on Racing UK. He mutters something about Our Conor. All I pick up is ‘very good’ which I think means ‘very good’.
9.38am: Google Translate tells me ‘Pique Sous’ means ‘picnic under’ in French. I’m not convinced. Google Translate once told me ‘j’aime double face aides maritales’ means ‘hello, I find you attractive and would like you share a bottle of budget sparkling wine with you’.
It doesn’t. No need to Google it, just trust me.
9.35am: Clerk of the course, Simon Claise suggests they might delay races today if it helps to make Day One happen. Bad news for fans of Deal or No Deal on Channel 4, but good news for fans of Cheltenham and seeing less of Noel Edmonds’ smug face.
9.31am: Still snowing at Cheltenham. I don’t know where they got images of the sun shining at Cheltenham from. Must have been stock footage from about 1986.
9.28am: Shameless brown-nosing from Pogal Joners. Shameless brown-nosing that we really appreciate and need for our fragile egos.
The reason I plug the Paddy Power blog is it's funny – even for us novices. Run by @MinistryOfGlove
— Pogal Joners (@PogalJoners) March 12, 2013
9.10am: SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE PREVIEW
Call me a cynic, but every single year there’s a hot favourite hyped up to within an inch of his life and most of the time they disappoint terribly. This year My Tent Or Yours has the dubious honour of being the talking horse and that’s enough reason for me to avoid him at all costs. He’s clearly talented, but I think his win in the Betfair Hurdle might have been his high water mark for the season, so I’m looking for alternative.
I like Jezki, Un Atout, Champagne Fever and Dodging Bullets, but I’m ignoring logic and going with the vague hunch there’ll be a big upset in this race. Pique Sous has a snippet of course form thanks to his course form in the Champion Bumper last year. He’s open to improvement, which admittedly he needs a lot of. He won’t mind the soft ground and at a big price, he’s my speculative pick for the opener.
9.05am: Five minutes of Frasier is about all I can stomach before wanting to slap him girlishly. It’s over to Racing Uk were we can see the sun is shining at Cheltenham and there’s no need for the huskies just yet.
9.01am: BREAKING NEWS! Frasier’s nose is out of joint as KACL hire a new presenter who isn’t a qualified doctor for the prime time morning slot. He’s not going to like that one bit. I’ll stay with this until the bitter end.
8.56am: If you like to use the charity selections of the Channel Four Morning Line team to base your punting strategy on, then you’re in luck. Here’s who the team are plumping for on Day One:
Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle
Colour Squadron in the Novices’ Handicap Chase
Arabella Boy in the Cross Country Chase Betting
Our Mick in the JLT Handicap Chase
8.49am: Ted is on fire this morning. I’ve no idea who or what he was talking about, but this is poetry in punditry:
It’s like wrapping a sangwich (sandwich) in plastic and thinking it’s going to be nice three days later. It’s not – it’s going to be soggy
8.44am: Ted is sure Simonsig will find more if Overturn manages to put the pressure on in the The Arkle Chase. He also brilliantly calls Arvika Ligeonniere ‘a big bag of wind’.
8.37am: ‘The early bird gets the worm’, but sometimes the early bird gets a bit of a lie-in and still gets all the Cheltenham news, which is better than a worm. Here’s a round-up of what’s happened so far this morning at the Festival.
8.32am: Our glorious leader, Paddy Power is on the Morning Line. He resists the temptation to mock Tanya’s hat and shamelessly plugs that we’re 5/2 on My Tent Or Yours in the Supreme Novices’. A solid start from Paddy – ‘apart from the not slagging the hat’ bit.
8.25am: Ted opens the account while talking up Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle.
8.22am: Jim Culloty, winner of three Gold Cups on board Best Mate, looks to be undergoing some sort of Benjamin Button process, looking about ten years younger than he did ten years ago. He gives Mick Fitz a bit of stick for a less than courageous outlook at the Festival:
You used to be wetting yourself in the weighing room before you went out
He also gives us the little gem:
Cross the first bridge first
8.21am: Some things never change. Every year Sam Thomas interviews the head valet, every year I don’t give a shit.
8.17am: If you think I was being harsh about Tanya’s hat, here’s the evidence. Looks like the hat ripped off a poodle’s head in an unsavoury fight to the death and is now carrying it around like a morbid trophy.
8.13am: Mick Fitz talks to Dessie Hughes. The trainer says some words, but what his eyes really say is ‘stop talking to me so I can go somewhere warm’.
8.11am: DAMMIT TED! Don’t be teasing us like that! Ted gives us a ‘hell of a race’ but we’re left waiting for our first ‘hell of a horse’
8.04am: In my first corporate obligation of the day, we’ve gone a standout 5/2 on My Tent Or Yours in the Supreme Novices’. If you fancy him, get it while you can.
7.59am: Mick Fitz is talking to Clerk of the Course, Simon Claise.
98% of the course is fine, but we can’t say we’ll race until it’s 100% fine. I remain confident, but you never know with this weather.
He also tells us that bypassing problem areas may be an option if required, but with temperatures expected to creep up, it should be ok, especially if we get some sun.
7.56am: There’s no John McCririck this year, but it’s apparent that Tanya Stevenson will bravely shoulder the burden of his ‘silly hat wearing’ duties.
7.55am: That’s about enough Sky Sports News for the moment. It’s over to Channel 4 for the Morning Line.
7.48am: There is SNOW FALLING (or at the very least a bad case of dandruff) at Cheltenham. Maybe the complacency about this 10.30am inspection being a formality is more misplaced than betting on one of Paddy Power’s tips. One Sky Sports News reporter tells us the track is still frozen, which isn’t much of a change from the ‘still frozen’ status we got about 20 minutes ago.
7.34am: Here’s the covers that will hopefully save the day at Cheltenham:
It better work because it cost a fortune in bin bags.
7.22am: Mark ‘The noisier than your typical Couch’ Winstanley has summed up the freezing conditions at Cheltenham this morning:
I swear Ranulph Fiennes was seen heading back to the smoke muttering: “This is too much for me.”
Not quite as hilarious as the time he described Joe Tizzard’s riding style as being like ‘a monkey f*cking a football’ but good nonetheless.
7.05am: Today Pricewise of the Racing Post is telling us to put the piggy bank on Merry King and Poole Master in the JLT Handicap Chase. In the Cross Country Chase Betting, he’s going for Sacree Tiepy and in the Mares’ Hurdle, his finger of wisdom points to Swing Bowler each way.
He already told us to lump on River Maigue in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He also recommended Fago in the Arkle and Cotton Mill in the Champion Hurdle, but that hasn’t worked out so well.
That’s saved you €2.70 or GB£2.00, so if you see me in a pub, feel free to buy me 62% of a pint of Guinness or two and a quarter packets of dry roasted peanuts.
6.55am: Hello and welcome. There’s some insults and general grumbling coming up, but first and foremost, we have some important news from the racecourse. They’ve announced that there will be a 10.30am inspection at Cheltenham due to the low temperatures overnight and parts of the course being frozen. With most the course covered and the mercury expected to move slightly above ‘Baltic’ later in the day, we should be ok, but it’s not the ideal start.