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Dublin: 4 °C Sunday 15 December, 2019
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LIVE: Cheltenham Day One

We have live news, views, tips and analysis from the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Ruby Walsh celebrates on Hurricane Fly after winning the Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy on Centenary Day at Cheltenham.
Ruby Walsh celebrates on Hurricane Fly after winning the Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy on Centenary Day at Cheltenham.
Image: David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Get in touch with your comments and tips as the afternoon’s action unfolds. Leave a comment below, send your e-mails to sport@thescore.ie , tweet us @thescore_ie or find us on Facebook. Latest updates appear at the top.

So the standings after one day at Cheltenham are:

  • The Newsroom: 10pts
  • TheScore: 10pts
  • Twitter Phil 9pts
  • Uncle Bill 2pts
  • Tea Randomiser 1pt

Join us bright and early for yet more from Prestbury Park. Or join us over at the Champions League liveblog at 7pm.

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5.24pm Divers takes it,  Quantitativeeasing second and Tullamore Dew third. Ferdy Murphy’s Divers was 10-1 and it’s another second for Nicky Henderson.

That’ll do.

5.20pm Final two fences – Vino Griego leads by a couple of lengths from Quantitativeeasing.

5.19pm Definity – with Ruby on board – makes a mistakes and slips back to tenth. Vino Griego leads.

5.06pm We’re almost ready to get going in the final run of the day.  Definity is the Paul Nicholls-Ruby Walsh entry with fine hurdles form. Divers, a Ferdy Murphy hope – and Twitter Phil’s pick – may give him a real challenge.

  • The Newsroom (10pts): Thaarawat
  • TheScore (9pts): Tullamore Dew
  • Twitter Phil (6pts): Divers
  • Uncle Bill (1 pt): Tullamore Dew
  • Tea Randomiser (1pt): Definity

5.51pm There’s just the one race left this evening: the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase. Then it’s tea-time (hopefully chicken dippers) and then we’re back with a Champions League liveblog.

4.48pm Let’s have a classified check of the latest scores…

  • The Newsroom: 10pts
  • TheScore: 9pts
  • Twitter Phil: 6 pts
  • Uncle Bill: 1 pt
  • Tea Randomiser: 1 pt

4.45pm Easy in the end for Ruby as Quevaga makes it a hat-trick. An absolutely brilliant ride on a great first day for the leading jockey.

Sparky May is in second after an early mistake and Ocean Transit is third.

4.45pm Banjaxed Girl still leading as Quevega makes it to second.

4.41pm Quevega is locked in at the bottom third of the field as Banjaxed Girl leads. Silver Gypsy in second.

4.33pm For everyone else, it’s a straight choice between Quevega and Sparky May in the Mares’ Hurdle.

Quevega is looking to make it a hat-trick of wins in the race with Ruby on board. Here’s our predictions:

  • The Newsroom (7pts): Quevega
  • Twitter Phil (6 pts): L’Accoedioniste
  • TheScore (6pts):  Quevega
  • Uncle Bill (1 pt): Banjaxed Girl
  • Tea Randomiser (1 pt): L’Accoedioniste

4.30pm RTÉ and Channel 4 are off the air for the day. And I inadvertently heard 30 seconds of Derek Mooney in an attempt to tune in some radio coverage.

You can watch individual races on certain betting websites if you have a flutter I’m told however. So I’ve bet our servers and computers on Banjaxed Girl.

If the site goes down after the race, you’ll know she lost.

4.16pm Now let’s go to our next jury for their points. Can you hear me, Cheltenham?

  • The Newsroom: 7pts
  • Twitter Phil: 6 pts
  • TheScore: 6pts
  • Uncle Bill: 1 pt
  • Tea Randomiser: 1 pt

The Newsroom have gone ahead but they haven’t relised it yet so don’t tell them. And I’m not bitter, but they haven’t had a winner all day.

It’s like Ana Ivanovic getting to World No 1 without ever winning a Grand Slam. We obviously need to revamp the rules.

4.09 Thrilling finish with five in contention up the hill but  Sizing Australia takes it with Andrew Lynch on board ahead of Garde Champetre.

“He’s fair gutsy, the horse,” Lynch tells the TV cameras. Ireland keep their dominance of this race going.

4.04pm Lord Nellerie is leading two thirds of the way through. Sizing Australia moving up nicely.

L’Ami has pulled out with Quolibet.

4pm Choc Thornton and Barry Geraghty pick up a day’s suspension each for whip use and interference respectively, we’re told.

And they’re off in the Handicap Chase…

3.52pm Here’s our Cross Country Chase predictions:

  • Twitter Phil (6 pts): One Cool Cookie
  • TheScore (6pts): L’Ami
  • The Newsroom (5pts): Garde Champetre
  • Uncle Bill (1 pt): Maljimar
  • Tea Randomiser (1 pt):  Another Jewel

3.42pm We’re through the looking glass here people. Niall has come back in from the bookies wearing a crown and Colm Murray is quoting TS Elliot on RTÉ: “Well now that’s done – and I’m glad it’s over”.

3.37pm Hurricane Fly is looking a little edgy in the enclosure. His ear-plugs are still in and he’s better off.

The ‘Irish are going mad’ according to the Channel Four reporter on the scene and she advises them to put the flag away, in order to give the horse some peace.

But they’re entitled to celebrate this, Ruby’s first, Champion Hurdle.

15.32 That’s my first winner of the day, so I’ve to head off to collect my winnings. Before I hand over to Adrian, here are the updated standings in the Cheltenham Challenge.

  • Twitter Phil – 6 pts
  • The Score – 6 pts
  • The Newsroom – 5 pts
  • Uncle Bill – 1 pt
  • The Randomiser – 1 pt

15.30 First win in the Champion Hurdle for Willie Mullins. First win in the Champion Hurdle for Ruby Walsh. Great ride by Ruby – I wasn’t sure about the decision to switch Paul Townend off him, but they were right.

15.28 Finally, an Irish winner. Hurricane Fly travelled superbly all the way and, though it seemed as though Peddlers Cross had run the perfect race, the Irish raider had just enough in hand coming up the hill. It was a close finish though and Peddlers Cross really vindicated those who have been talking him up as a great horse.

15.27 Result: 1. Hurricane Fly 2. Peddlers Cross 3. Oscar Whiskey

15.26 HURRICANE FLY WINS THE CHAMPION HURDLE

15.19 Just about off. This one is going to be great. Don’t go anywhere.

15.18 Money is being heaped on Menorah. Absolutely heaped. He’s now in to joint-favouritism at 3/1 alongside Hurricane Fly. Only minutes away now.

15.14 Although I’m madly in love with Hurricane Fly, I’m not foolish enough to ignore the claims of Menorah and Peddlers Cross. Two cracking British horses – but are they as good as their form suggests? Is Hurricane Fly? In about ten minutes’ time, we’ll know for sure.

15.11 Ok, let’s get the Cheltenham Challenge tips out of the way:

  • TheScore – Hurricane Fly
  • The Newsroom – Hurricane Fly
  • Uncle Bill – Khyber Kim
  • Twitter Phil – Menorah
  • The Randomiser – Oscar Whisky

15.10 Hurricane Fly is wearing earplugs – but that’s normal according to Ted Walsh. Ted really fancies this horse though, so he would say that.

15.07 It really doesn’t get any better than this. Hurricane Fly was touching 11/4 there for a minute as the Irish moulah rolls in. No Irish winners yet, but there are three in this race – the favourite, Dunguib and Thousand Stars.

15.06 In case you missed it earlier, we had a Champion Hurdle preview on site earlier today. If you’ve yet to make up your mind, it might be worth a look.

Hurricane Fly: Anyone who has seen him race in Ireland in recent months cannot but be impressed, and the quality of the competition which he has beaten shouldn’t be called into question.

15.04 John Coffey has been in touch on Twitter. He’s going for Dunguib, last year’s beaten Supreme Novice. What do you reckon?

15.00 It seems that the world is finally waking up to what I’ve been saying for the last week. Believe the hype surrounding Hurricane Fly. Mullins’ horse is the class act and I really do believe that he’s going to win this one. He was 4/1 this morning, but he’s been backed in to 3/1 now. There’s a lot of British money going on Menorah as well – he’s in to 7/2. Peddlers Cross is static at the moment at 9/2.

14.59 Stats love: Ireland have won the Champion Hurdle on 7 of the last 12 occasions. So there you go.

14.58 It’s time for the big one – the Champion Hurdle. If you haven’t already done so, I’d advise you to print out TheScore’s office sweepstakes sheet and do a quick office whip-around.

14.52 More importantly, how are things looking in the Cheltenham Challenge. Twitter Phil is playing a blinder – he’s had two winners from the first three races. I can only hope he had real money and not just Score Dollars on his two winners.

  • Twitter Phil – 6 pts
  • The Score – 3 pts
  • The Newsroom – 2 pts
  • Uncle Bill – 1 pt
  • The Randomiser – 0 pts

14.49 A cracking finish to the Spinal Research Handicap with Bensalem and Carole’s Legacy going nose-to-nose until the very end before Choc Thornton got Bensalem up on the line. I guess that counts as redemption following last year’s disappointing fall.

You have to feel for Geraghty though – that’s his third runner-up placing so far today. Great Endeavour was travelling well before falling two from home, while Sunnyhillboy never even had a chance.

14.47 Result 1. Bensalem (5/1) 2. Carole’s Legacy (9/1) 3. Reve de Sivola (9/1) 4. Fair Along (25/1)

14.43 FALLER! Sunnyhillboy goes to ground early, throwing Tony McCoy to the ground. He gets up very gingerly, we’ll keep an eye on him to make sure he’s ok.

14.41 We’re off in the Spinal Research Handicap Chase.

14.38 A few comments from the stables before we get started.

Jonjo O’Neill, trainer of Sunnyhillboy, has said that the step up in trip will suit his horse. However, he adds, it will also suit his arch-nemesis Great Endeavour.

David Pipe, trainer of Great Endeavour, has described the horse as “one of my better chances this week.”

Darryl Jacob, jockey of Reve de Sivola, and Dessie Hughes, trainer of Rare Bob, have both claimed that the drying ground and step up in trip will suit. Which begs the question, is there anyone who the going and distance does not suit?

14.36 Quite a few of you have e-mailed in to say that you’ve gotten off to a decent start. Nobody brave enough to admit that they put the bank of Cue Card however. Convenient that …

14.34 Here are our pros’ tips for the third race of the day:

  • TheScore – Sunnyhillboy
  • The Newsroom – Sunnyhillboy
  • Uncle Bill – Reve de Sivola
  • Twitter Phil – Bensalem
  • The Randomiser – No Panic

14.30 If you’re looking outside the top three in the betting, it may be worth a look at Wolf Moon as an each-way shout. He’s the Pricewise selection in this race and, seeing as he’s gone two from two in the festival’s opening races, we should probably pay a little bit of attention. Barry Geraghty has finished second in both of the first two races – can he go one better aboard Carole’s Dream?

14.25 Punters with a good memory will remember that Bensalem was poised to win this exact same race last year when he crashed out two from home, so backers will be hoping that he might just be able to stay on his feet.

The battle between Sunnyhillboy and Great Endeavour is an interesting one, particularly as the latter is giving up nine pounds in weight. The two have met on two occasions since Great Endeavour beat Sunnyhill into second place in last year’s plate, and those placings have not been reversed in their two contests since. Can McCoy and Sunnyhillboy pull this one out of the bag today?

14.20 Right, let’s have a proper look at this next race, the Spinal Research Handicap Chase.

There seems to be a little bit of money on Tony McCoy’s mount, Sunnyhillboy, who has been backed into 5/1 favouritism. Great Endeavour and Bensalem are mooching just behind in the betting at odds of 13/2.

14.18 Here are the standings for the Cheltenham Challenge after two races.

  • TheScore & Twitter Phil – 3 pts
  • The Newsroom – 2 pts
  • Uncle Bill & The Randomiser – 0 pts

14.15 That’s a really good run from Captain Chris, a horse whom many thought needed a longer trip. Finian’s Rainbow looked home and hosed coming around the bed, Ghizao ruling himself out after a bad mistake four out. But just as Finian’s backers started counting their winnings, Richard Johnson and Captain Chris came out of nowhere to win by 2 3/4 lengths. He went off at 6/1, but I’m almost certain you could have got him at double that before Pricewise tipped him a few days ago.

14.10 Result: 1. Captain Chris 2. Finian’s Rainbow 3. Realt Dubh

14.06 They’re off in the Arkle. Medermit the one they’re going for on course; Ghizao not moving from odds of 4/1.

14.03 The Arkle is just about to go to post – here are our tipsters’ choices. Pretty unanimous, eh?

  • TheScore (3pts)- Ghizao
  • The Newsroom (0)- Finian’s Rainbow
  • Uncle Bill (0)- Ghizao
  • Twitter Phil (3) – Ghizao
  • The Randomiser (0) – Ghizao

14.00 Apologies for that, we had a slight technical difficulty there (Adrian spilled red lemonade all over the shop) which prevented us from bringing you that result any sooner.

In short, Cue Card was found wanting for the extra few yards of pace coming up the hill. Spirit Son rallied bravely and looked to have done just about enough, but Ruby Walsh and Al Ferof had the legs in the end, winning by two lengths at odds of 10/1. Nice start.

13.30 Result: 1. Al Ferof 2. Spirit Son 3. Sprinter Sacre

13.27 The horses are just going down to post. All the money is on Cue Card who is now 7/4. The only other horse that there seems to be any money for is Nicky Henderson’s Spirit Son who is now gone back in 11/2 having touched 6/1.  There’s a lot of love for Magen’s Star as well. She’s been backed from 18/1 into 12/1 with some firms.

13.25 And here are their choices for the Supreme Novices.

  • TheScore – Al Ferof
  • The Newsroom – Recession Proof
  • Uncle Bill – Hidden Universe
  • Twitter Phil – Al Ferof
  • The Randomiser – Hidden Universe

13.19 In order to add a bit of interest, we’ve set up TheScore.ie’s Cheltenham Challenge. Here are the runners and riders.

  • TheScore – myself and Adrian will be batting for the home team
  • “The Newsroom” – our colleagues over at TheJournal.ie have put their heads together in an attempt to cause an upset.
  • “Uncle Bill” – our anonymous Cheltenham tipster tells us that he has been banned from the course after clearing out the bookies last year. The proof will be in the pudding
  • Phil Connolly (@Filly_10) – Phil is representing TheScore’s Twitter fanbase in today’s challenge.
  • “The Randomiser” – A nifty little device which we sometimes use to decide who has to make the tea. The 21st century equivalent of sticking a pin in the page.

13.15 We’ve had bucket-loads of coverage over the last few days. Check out the best bits here, or browse through the entirety of it here.

13.00 We’re only a half-an-hour away from that famous Cheltenham roar and I for one cannot wait.

The first race of the day is the two-mile Supreme Novices Hurdle which will get underway at 13:30. A lot of bookies tried to get their week off to a good start this morning by pushing out the price on the favourite Cue Card whom they all seem willing to oppose. Last year’s Champion Bumper winner touched 3/1 with some firms earlier today, but he’s now back in to 9/4. “Top of the head,” as John McCririck roars at me from Channel 4′s coverage.

If you don’t fancy the favourite, there are a few other chances in the field – Ruby’s on Al Ferof, Barry Geraghty’s on Spirit Son, and Choc Thornton is Recession Proof. All three have chances and are available at 10/1.

A word of advice – if you are backing on this race, it might be worth taking your custom to Paddy Power who are refunding all losing win bets if Cue Card does win. To their credit, Boylesports are trying too – they’re refunding your stake if your horse finishes second in any of the first four races.

Read more of TheScore.ie’s Cheltenham coverage here >

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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