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Cheltenham Festival – Wednesday
Yesterday we saw a fantastic first day to the Cheltenham festival.
It all started with the 1.30 (2.30) Supreme Novices Hurdle which looked a straight battle between the joint favourites Melon trained by Willie Mullins and Twiston-Davies Ballyandy but it didn’t quite go to script, Gordon Elliott’s Labaik @ 25/1 cam cruising past everything and managed to win comfortably beating Melon into 2nd, 3rd went to River Wylde @ 8/1.
The next race was the Arkle Chase 2.10 (3.10). The betting for this was dominated by 1 horse the favourite Altior for Nicky Henderson which went off @ 1/4F. Kim Baileys Charbel was leading with 2 fences to jump and traveling very well but fell at the last and left the favourite in the lead who cruised to a 6 length victory. Cloudy Dream @ 12/1 got up for 2nd and Ordinary World @ 25/1 finished 3rd.
The 3rd race was the Ultima Handicap Chase 2.50 (3.50) which was wide up in the betting but Singlefarmpayment went off favourite @ 5/1 and looked the winner coming up the straight but challenging was last years winner Un Temps Pour Tout for David Pipe who managed to beat the favourite in a photo finish @ 9/1, back in 3rd was the 2nd favourite Noble Endevour @ 15/2.
The 4th race was the big one of the day at 3.30 (4.30) Champion Hurdle. This one gave Nicky Henderson a 1st and 2nd and a double on the day. He had last years runner up My Tent or Yours and Buveur D’Air, the latter managed to take the win @ 5/1 and My Tent or Yours finished 2nd for the 2nd year running. Back in 3rd was Petit Mouchoir @ 7/1.
The 5th race was Mares Hurdle 4.10 (5.10) which was billed as a shoot out between Willie Mullins 2 mares Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini who went off at 11/4 2nd fav and 6/4 fav. The pace maker in the race was 3rd favourite Apple Jade for Gordon Elliot. Coming in the straight Apple Jade continued to lead but Mullins pair made fantastic progress into 2nd and 3rd and they all went for home and both looked to have paced the leader over the 2nd to last flight but she fought back to get her head in front and give Elliot a double on the day @ 7/2.
Gordon Elliot didn’t have to wait long for his 3rd winner of the day when Tiger Roll @ 16/1 went on to win the penultimate race National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase 4.50 (5.50) to win it’s 2nd race at the festival. in 2nd was Missed Approach @ 50/1, 3rd was Haymount @ 33/1.
The last race was a thriller, coming around the final turn there was about a dozen horses still in contention. It was Alan Fleming’s Tully East @ 8/1 who streaked clear to take the prize. Gold Present @ 14/1 for Nicky Henderson ran into 2nd place ahead of Two Taffs for Dan Skelton who was 7/1.
13:30 (14:30 Gib time) Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
This was won last year by the impressive Yorkhill @ 3/1 for Willie Mullins beating Alan Kings 11/10F Yanworth.
Harry Fry will saddle the favourite for this with Neon Wolf who is currently around the 2/1 mark. His nearest rival in the betting is Willie Mullins Bacardys who is around the 7/2 mark at the moment. I think the bookies have this correct and I think Neon Wolf will take all the beating here and have been shortening over the last couple of days
14:10 (15:10 Gib time) Royal Sun Alliance (RSA) Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Blaklion @ 8/1 won the RSA last year beating Mullins’ Shanehill.
Last years World Hurdle runner up Alpha Des Obeaux has to be one of the fancies for this but hasn’t really lived up to that performance since last year however it will enjoy the ground. I believe Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite will take all the beating. I think the only thing that can beat it is it’s own jumping. This is my nap of the meeting. 2 starts ago it was 15 lengths clear of a Grade 1 field in the Kauto Star Novices chase when it fell at the last fence. If it runs anything like that this time he will take all the beating.
14:50 (15:50 Gib time) Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
Irish raider Diamond King for Gordon Elliot took the Coral cup crown @ 12/1 beating Dan Skelton’s Long House Hall @ 16/1.
The in form Gordon Elliott will saddle the Favourite for the Coral cup in Tombestone who is currently around the 5/1 mark and will be looking to lay the rest of the field to rest but there is currently 25 other horses opposing here. My selection (although not a major fancy) is Dan Skelton’s Mister Miyagi who is around the 16/1 mark at the moment, i’m hoping he can karate chop his way into the winners enclosure.
15:30 (16:30 Gib time) Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)
The big one, the Queen Mother sent off a really hot favourite in Un DE Sceaux for Willie Mullins @ 4/6 but Nicky Henderson’s Sprinter Sacre @ 5/1 managed to take the race beating the favourite to the winners enclosure.
The build up to this will be dominated by 1 horse and that horse is Willie Mullins Douvan. This superstar is expected to go off a very short price favourite and is around 2/7. I can not see past the favourite here but this a very good race for each way punters and the 2nd fav Fox Norton will be a good each way bet @ around 9/1 at the moment.
16:10 (17:10 Gib time) Glenfarclas Chase (Cross Country Chase)
There was another favourite beaten into 2nd place in this as Ed Bolgers Josies Order @ 15/8 could only manage 2nd behind Any Currency @ 11/1 for Martin Keighley.
Owner JP McManus has 5 horses in this race 4 of which are within the first 5 in the betting, favouritism may change but currently Cantlow is fav @ around 3/1 and Cause for Causes is 2nd fav @ 4/1. I do not think Mr McManus will be in luck here however and I will be backing 16/1 shot Any Currency for Martin Keighley.
16:50 (17:50 Gib time) Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
The hugely competitive Fred Winter was won by Diego Du Charmil @ 13/2 for Nichols who had a 1,2 in the race with Romain De Senam coming in 2nd @ 20/1.
This is another really competitive Fred Winter and Nicky Henderson’s Divin Bere is currently heading the market @ 6/1 but that could easily change. My Selection here is for another Nicky Henderson horse in Domperignon Du Lys at around 10/1.
17:30 (18:30 Gib Time) Champion Bumper (Grade 1) (National Hunt Flat race)
Nigel Twiston-Davies managed his 2nd winner of the day with Ballyandy winning the bumper @ 5/1, Willie Mullins had 2nd and 3rd in the race with Battleford and Bacardys @ 25/1 and 16/1.
Willie Mullin’s will saddle the favourite in the last in the 6 year old Carter McKay who is around 5/1 but as I will have already have picked the 6 previous winners I will be looking for a bit of value in Joseph O’Briens West Coast Time @ 16/1.