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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 25 March, 2019
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Let’s do this. The 2019 Cheltenham Festival is about to get underway at a really wet Prestbury Park.

The conditions are so bad in fact, that the clerk of the course has issued the following update. The possibility of tomorrow’s racing moving to Saturday is on the cards. 

The first is off at 1.30, of course, with the renewal of the Supreme Novices Hurdle.

In the meantime, this long chat with Ted Walsh and Patrick Mullins is well worth your time.  Favourite quote?

“You could give Ruby as big a bollocking as you ever gave a fella and he wouldn’t get upset. You’d say to him, ‘You gave that a stones of a ride.’ He’d never back answer or question it. he’d take it on board. Right up to the present day, I could ring Ruby and say: ‘You weren’t great there. Well?’ He might have a very good reason but you could still say it to him. 

The ITV coverage has begun and the question on everyone’s lips is, how’d AP McCoy get that shiner? 

‘Laurina for the Champion Hurdle’ says Fergus in the comments. What are your tips for today?

We asked Thom Malone for his fancies. 

The Supreme Hurdle, the opening race on Tuesday doesn’t have the ‘Irish Banker’ of yore, but it’s not lacking depth of quality. In the past, there were the successes of Vautour and Douvan alongside the defeats of Cousin Vinny, Dunguib and Min. Even the mad Labaik was a popular winner, although the volume of people claiming to have backed him doesn’t tally with his starting price of 25/1. 

This year’s Supreme had the biggest volume of entries since 2014. That openness is reflected in the betting, with Al Dancer heading the market at around 11/4. Nicky Henderson is a trainer one would expect to have won more than three renewals of this race.

He has had some serious horses beaten it in it too, such as Binocular and Sprinter Sacre. Mister Fisher (8/1) will not be the stable’s first string but has done little wrong on the track over hurdles. It looks like James Bowen, who knows him well, will ride and at the prices, he is the selection.

Read more here> 

The roar goes up and we’re off in the first at Cheltenham! 

False start! Everyone’s called back and we’ll try again. 

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Ruby Walsh gets off to a flier with Klassical Dream, trained by Willie Mullins, storming home!

Supreme Novices' Hurdle result

1. Klassical Dream (R Walsh) 6-1

2. Thomas Darby (R Johnson) 28-1

3. Itchy Feet (G Sheehan) 25-1

4. Fakir D’oudairies 9-2 (Jj Slevin)

‘He was always travelling, jumped like a stag,’ says Ruby who has a lovely word for the late John Coleman, who owned Klassical Dream, before passing away last year. 

Willie Mullins is, unusually emotional, as he reflects on that win. His ‘good pal’ John Coleman always sent him over a horse or two over the years he says and today’s win is the culmination of that ambition. His family are there to see it with his ashes.

 

 

Day 2 under threat

Our friends at the Racing Post write:

“The second day of the Cheltenham Festival is now under threat, with the racecourse predicting Wednesday’s racing will hinge on at least one morning inspection.

Eleven years on from the cancellation of the festival’s day two programme due to strong winds, the same fate could befall a card that is due to feature the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. Should Wednesday’s meeting be abandoned it is believed Cheltenham is considering extending this season’s festival to Saturday. Clerk of the course Simon Claisse had on Sunday played down the threat caused by Storm Gareth. However, the expectation is now that wind speeds of around 50 miles per hour could place temporary structures in jeopardy.

Should it not be possible to give a green light to racing at the point of the first inspection, Cheltenham has not ruled out the possibility of pushing back the time at which racegoers are allowed to enter the racecourse.”

It’s the Arkle up next, with what has been described in places as a ‘poor renewal’ and, more kindly, an ‘open race’.

Johnny fancies Kalashnikov, I think, with Jack Quinlan on board. 

The Mick Channon-trained Glen Forsa at 9-2 will go off favourite while the Gordon Elliott-Davy Russell combo will hope to get off the mark early with Hardline, second favourite at 7-2. 

Ruby Walsh on Klassical Dream celebrates winning the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle Ruby Walsh on Klassical Dream celebrates winning the first race of the day. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Standing start after a bit of commotion but we’re almost ready to go in the Arkle Challenge Trophy. 

The favourite Glen Forsa has unseated the rider and the aforementioned Kalashnikov has fallen too.   

Duc des Genievres wins the Arkle!

Willie Mullins does it again as Duc des Genievres wins! 

Arkle Trophy result

1. Duc de Genievres (P Townend) 5-1

2. Us and Them (JJ Slevin) 14-1

3. Articulum (DJ Mullins) 25-1 

“I don’t have the vocabulary to describe [Willie Mullins],” says victorious jockey Paul Townend.  It’s two for two for the Irish trainer.  

Next up? The Ultima Handicap Chase. 

Willie Mullins has had 45-1 double so far; can he make it a hat-trick? He has Up For Review going as 7-1 favourite. 

Give Me Copper, owned by Alex Ferguson and Jeremy Kyle, goes off at 10-1. 

Paul Townend celebrates winning the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase with Duc Des Genievres Paul Townend celebrates winning the second race of the day with Duc Des Genievres. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Yet another false start. Standing start once more for the Ultima. 

Nicky Henderson gets on the board as Beware The Bear wins the Ultima! 

Ultima Handicap result

1. Beware The Bear (J McGrath) 10-1
2. Vintage Clouds (Danny Cook) 16-1
3. Lake View Lad (Henry Brooke) 25-1

Cork jockey, Jerry McGrath, is punching the air after that 16-1 win for Henderson. 

It’s the big one next with the Champion Hurdle and it has ‘the makings of a vintage renewal’ according to Thom Malone.

“Two mares, are shirking the ‘easier option’ of the mares race and lining up against an underappreciated champ in Buveur D’Air, himself looking for three in a row. Apple’s Jade has been the hurdling star of the season with three Grade one wins, bringing her lifetime top level haul to ten.

“Laurina arrives on a weather interrupted prep, but taking a road travelled by Annie Power to Champion Hurdle success in the past. At the prices and in rain-softened going, it’s Laurina (7/2), who won’t be stopping on her way up that famous hill.”

AP McCoy reckons the soft conditions today give Willie Mullins’ Laurina and even better chance. 

Who do you fancy?

An Irishman has put €10k on Apple’s Jade at 2-1 we’re told. 

And they’re off fine in the Champion Hurdle! 

Buveur D’Air has fallen! 

The JP McManus-owned horse stormed home in a dramatic renewal. 

“I was delighted when I saw the rain coming this morning,” says jockey Mark Walsh, “because he goes so well in it.”

That’s trainer Gavin Cromwell’s first win at the Festival. ‘I’m just lost for words,’ he says. 

Champion Hurdle result

1. Espoir D’Allen (M P Walsh) 16-1 
2. Melon (P Townend) 20-1 
3. Silver Streak (Adam Wedge) 80-1 

‘I loved a bet,’ explains winning owner JP McManus when asked how he got into the racing game. 

We’re underway in the Mare’s Hurdle… Champagne Lady’s just fallen. 

In the meantime, some of the jockeys have been reflecting on that dramatic Champion Hurdle renewal. 

10-1 Roksana wins the Mares Hurdle but there was serious drama once again as Benie des Dieux fell at the last! 

Mare's Hurdle result

1. Roksana (Harry Skelton) 10-1
2. Stormy Ireland (P Townend) 7-1
3. Good Thyne Tara (Rachael Blackmore) 25-1

‘I just don’t want the trolls to attack Ruby,’ says Rich Ricci after confirming the Irish jockey and the horse are fine. He then gets a good grilling about the BetBright situation. 

It’s the Novices Handicap chase next up at 4.50pm. Rachael Blackmore will go off on favourite A Plus Tard, at 6/1. 

It’s another false start — the fourth of the day — but they’re off in the Novice Handicap Chase. 

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Favourite A Plus Tard takes the win to give Rachael Blackmore a first Cheltenham victory! 

Novices' Handicap Chase result

1. A Plus Tard (Rachael Blackmore) 5-1
2. Tower Bridge (J J Slevin) 6-1 
3. Ben Dundee (K M Donoghue) 33-1 

What a win for Blackmore on the Henry de Bromhead-trained horse.  

Next up at Cheltenham is the National Hunt Chase, which goes to post at 5.30pm. 

Ballyward should go off as favourite at 11/4, with OK Corral (4/1) the next closest.

Theyyyyy’re off in the last race of the day! 

In what might have been the best race of the day, Le Breuil wins half a length in front of Discorama.

It was fiercely attritional , with favourite Ballyward falling along with in-race leader Gun Digger. 

National Hunt Chase (5.30) result

1 Le Breuil  (J J Codd) 14-1 
2 Discorama  (B O’Neill) 9-2 
3 Jerrysback  (D G Lavery) 16-1 

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