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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 6 December, 2019

4 things to look out for on Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival

After a hugely dramatic opening card, here’s what’s coming up tomorrow.

THE SECOND DAY OF Festival sees things settle down a little after the often-frantic opening day. And today’s action was frantic.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is the feature race on day two. It could be one for champs.

A true champion

Nicky Henderson Stable Visit - Lambourn Here's looking at you: Nicky Henderson and Altior. Source: Steven Paston

Altior is looking to break the record for consecutive wins over obstacles. He holds it jointly with Big Bucks with a scarcely credible 17 victories in a row.

He has turned up at the last three festivals and won by seven lengths in the Supreme, six lengths in the Arkle and seven lengths in last year’s Champion Chase. He is a phenom and there is little to no reason why he won’t win again. Min is the second-best horse in the race, and has finished second anytime he has come up against Altior.

There’s no reason he can flip that form, nothing else is even close. Altior is odds-on, arguably not that short, given his record. Frankel was dossing around the place at 1/20 at a similar stage in his career. After Altior wins on Wednesday, and he will win, debates will rage as to where next for this superstar. Enjoy those debates and enjoy this horse, a true champion.

A champion family

Joseph O'Brien and Gordon Elliott Trainers Joseph O'Brien and Gordon Elliott today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Donnacha O’Brien will have his first and probably only Cheltenham Festival ride on board Meticulous for his brother Joseph in the Wetherby’s Champion Bumper. Ireland’s reigning champion flat jockey, despite being only 20 will not be riding for much longer due to his sheer size.

The scales will win the war his body is waging against them, making future opportunities scarce. O’Brien junior isn’t the first rider from the “other code” to try win at the Festival; Jamie Spencer won this race on Pizarro, while many others have tried unsuccessfully.

There will be some family bragging rights up for grabs. Donnacha’s brother Joseph and uncle Pat Smullen, both champion flat jockeys, tried unsuccessfully to nab a festival win in the saddle in this race. His grandfather though was successful as a trainer in this race with Hairy Molly in 2006.

The family ties to the Champion Bumper even extend to Donnacha’s mount Meticulous. The grand dam (his granny) Manaree finished third in this race in 1992, his dam (mum) Refinement finished second in the 2004 renewal so it’s up to Meticulous and Donnacha to keep up the family traditions.

An unorthodox champion

Tiger Roll File Photo Tiger Roll ridden by Davy Russell on the way to winning the Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase. Source: Tim Goode

Tiger Roll should be the most famous horse in training. He’s seeking victory at a fourth Cheltenham Festival when he attempts to defend his Cross-Country crown on Wednesday.

He’s favourite to become the first horse since Red Rum to win back to back Grand Nationals at Aintree. He will not be revered like an Altior, but his achievements are impressive if unorthodox. After he won the two-mile Triumph Hurdle in 2014, he only won once in his next 11 starts.

He was then switched to fences and a further 11 starts later he won at the Festival again, this time over four miles. Some argue that the real skill of training a horse is concealing his true ability; Tiger Roll looked to be thoroughly exposed. It had taken him 25 races to begin to show his true ability. Hardly the form profile to suggest the Tiger was a star in the making. Since that win at the 2017 festival, Gordon Elliot’s little star has earned a lighter workload, with considerable success. There have only been eight starts since that 2017 win, he’s won half of them, including the biggest race of them all at Aintree. On Wednesday the little Tiger can continue to Roll his own way.


AP McCoy is “Champ” as viewers of ITV Racing will be nauseatingly reminded when he appears on screen over the course of the week. As a rider he rode more winners than anybody else.

He was a 20-time champion jockey, in fairness, he earned the nickname. Sir Anthony, as he can now be called, was synonymous with the green and gold JP McManus silks. On Wednesday the horse, Champ, named in honour of the great man is near the top of the market for the Ballymore Hurdle. Sometimes little should be read into a horse’s name. This appears not to be the case here.

AP famously said of his employer, “JP has a plan for every horse”. The same man had a plan for Limerick hurling, and that worked out ok. The horse has done little wrong thus far, winning his last four starts. In the opener on Wednesday, he faces his stiffest task to date. Champ the jockey was renowned for his strength in adversity, how heavy will the expectation of the moniker weigh on the horse Champ? We find out at just after half one on Wednesday afternoon.


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Thom Malone

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