It's like Christmas Eve, being served your first legal pint and your first kiss all rolled into one. The excitement, the trepidation, the sheer buzz is enough to hook you in for ever! Cheltenham is here again! I can almost hear the roar as the tapes go up for the Supreme tomorrow. Disappointingly, as always, I'm at work – but Sky+ is set and I can't wait!
I thought I'd kick off the blog with the memory of two Cheltenham heroes of last year that are tragically no longer with us……..RIP Campbell and Brindisi.
Last year at the Festival this blog produced some great results, which are below. I've had a few naps come in in the past few days and weeks and am hopeful of another good week, but it's Cheltenham, so who knows.
Balthazar King 11-2
Brindisi Breeze 7-1
So, onto the action and the first day.
1.30 William Hill Supreme Novices Hurdle
What a cracker to start the festival off again, although the field isn't as big as recent years. This could help MY TENT OR YOURS as favourite's have a terrible record in this. However, justified favourite he is after his demolition job last time. But I can't have him a that price. I have backed JEZKI (treble) (3rd – 5-1) all year and he is four from four over hurdles including 2 Grade 1's to boot. That is enough for me and with the covers on it will be testing and whilst this one needs pace, he also has form on soft ground and that may play to his strengths up the hill. I am also having an each way flutter on CHAMPAGNE FEVER (WON – 5-1) who won well last time, won the bumper here last year and Ruby has opted for him over DODGING BULLETS. To me that is significant enough seen as the Nicholls inmate has a superior rating.
2.05 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy
The race centres around the potential brilliance of SIMONSIG and you cannot argue with how impressive he is. I'm not sure really if anything at these level weights can beat him. OVERTURN hasn't won on soft ground since 2009 and he may use up his stamina with a too bold approach. So, my each way option for the race is MAJALA (unplaced) who has steadily improved all year and may well have defeated FAGO even if that one hadn't have fallen at Warwick. Any horse who gallops away up the Haydock straight on heavy as he did in defeating OHIO GOLD should relish the Cheltenham hill.
2.40 JLT Speciality Handicap Chase
One of the Festival's many trappy handicaps, but to be honest I love trying to find the winner of these. It is pretty wide open to be fair, and the stats lean towards something younger than 11 and rated no more than 143-ish.
I like the chances of THE PACKAGE, who has a decent record in this and now has a tongue tie fitted after disappointing last time. I have also backed HEY BIG SPENDER (PU) all year and he has the class and the form to win this and is huge at 33-1, so he's my each way option and even though he is rated 145 he is on a very dangerous mark considering his illustrious past. My win option in the race if I have have to select one though is TOUR DES CHAMPS (unplaced) he has youth on his side and whilst he has serious risks in terms of his jumping, boy he has a right chance if he jumps well. A mistake last time cost him dearly against ROCKY CREEK at Ascot. He has ran in and against some very good horses in the past and this may be his day!
3.20 Stam James Champion Hurdle
What a tactical affair this could be. I have won well with ZARKANDAR this year and been thoroughly impressed with his attitude and form. GRANDOUET has appeared to be a damn smart horse, but BRIDLE and MONKEY come to mind. ROCK ON RUBY has a real chance again and has done nothing wrong, but I have to go against all the doubters as I think HURRICANE FLY (nb) (WON – 15-8) will take this. Ruby and the stable are very bullish about his chances, with preperation being its best. With little pace in the race forecast I think Ruby will bring the Fly upsides at the last and kick him on.
4.00 Cross Country Chase – postponed
I don't really like or pay much attention to these races so am just looking at form briefly for this and suggest taking a chance with the French one, especially if the ground is tacky. So for me SACREE TIEPY is the selection.
4.40 OLBG Mares' Hurdle
QUEVEGA is going for a five timer in this and looking to equal GOLDEN MILLER's record and go down in Festival Folklore. Who would argue, supremely talented and unbeaten. So my money is each way and it goes on KENTFORD GREY LADY, she has been impressive this year and whilst three miles seems to have brought the best out of her, including a good third to REVE DE SIVOLA, she does however have the pace for this distance too. Whilst she has the same five pounds pull with QUEVEGA she is rated 8lbs better this year off 142 and that could take her closer than the four lengths she lost by last year. The negative is the form of the stable!
5.15 Rewards4Racing Novices Handicap
Again another really close affair. I have got it down to two in my opinion. You can't get away from the strength of HAZY TOM's form in his Warwick defeat of CANTLOW, who went on to defeat both DARE ME and OSCARA DARA since that defeat. He has always been highly regarded and rated by his trainer, and if he has the stamina for this trip he has a great chance, so I'm on him each way. OHIO GOLD could also go well at a big price and I may also back him if MAJALA runs well in the Arkle. My selection of the winner may make me look very stupid, however, I can't get away from the fact that COLOUR SQUADRON (nap) is a handicap snip on his hurdle form of last year. His jumping is sketchy, but judging on his last few runs I reckon the JP bookie bashing hat was played to ensure this very appealing handicap debut mark (139). Especially when you consider CAPTAIN CONAN, who beat him in last year's Tolworth by a short head is rated 152. On those figures, if he jumps, he wins!
In summary, bloody enjoy this first day and here are my selections in black and white. COME ON THE GREATEST SPORTING SPECTACLE ON EARTH!!
1.30 JEZKI (treble) (win) CHAMPAGNE FEVER (ew)
2.05 MAJALA (ew)
2.40 TOUR DES CHAMPS (win) HEY BIG SPENDER (ew)
3.20 HURRICANE FLY (nb) (win)
4.00 SACREE TIEPY (win)
4.40 KENTFORD GREY LADY (ew)
5.15 COLOUR SQUADRON (nap) (win) HAZY TOM (ew)