Good evening from the Major who writes from a wonderfully colourful sky, gods palette dancing for us, splashed frivolously along the edge of the horizon. Birmingham for me on Cheltenham Eve, the fathers – Cold beer and football.
Us merry band of national hunt lovers crave this moment in time. Our year of sport aims towards this single moment, where we invest such hope in our dreams, the drama to be played out in that green amphitheatre, perfectly embraced in a nook at the base of Cotswolds escarpments. The golden stones tinge pink at dusk, an ancient warmth seeps gently onto the streets where we all gather, shuffling to town, our pockets laden with gelt or regret.
Right now, every thought we have held throughout our season, bits of form that caught our eye, performances that left you breathless and Pertemps runners from shrewd yards running late on into 4th places…. all of these cumulative thoughts, bubble away in a stewing pot of hope, the fare untainted by the cold light of reality. It is why this moment is so precious, so important in the lives of us that consider the glass half full, this is the joyous time, we cheer at the raising of the tapes on the first, not because we expect but because we wish, we yearn and not a small number of us, say farewell to these moments of anticipation. You might have a fancy ticket on Melon, you might have £2 on the tote on the wildest outsider, both conjure the same sense, both are equally right, until that tape goes up, we each share in the common pool of anticipation.
Champion Hurdle Tuesday is the greatest day of racing in the world. The Supreme is a wonderful opener with the best and brightest novices proving their mettle. The Mares Hurdle has a place in our hearts after Quevega made the race her own with some memorable late runs, weaving through flagging foes, that gutsy little mare.
The Champion Hurdle itself is a blistering two-mile whirlwind requiring accurate jumping and stamina to keep sticking a neck out when other beasts have called time. Hurricane Fly was among one of my most ill-judged horses, twice proving me foolish with devastating displays. Punjabi with that white face and socks gave me one of my greatest ever wins when one more stride would have been the undoing. Faugheen is an awful loss to the proceedings having proven a true champion. Just a little further back and the Hardy Eustace, Istabraq, Brave Inca and Rooster Booster memories are warm nuggets.
Yes, it is a fine day to be alive. I shall be on course and in touch on twitter. I will be in the Arkle Bar from 11.30ish until the Supreme. I would encourage you to come visit, I’d be proud to meet you. In a repeat of last years OperationNoMoreHeroes, we are running Operation Yanworth – The rules are simple, bring a £5 bet slip for any horse at the festival, a multiple if you like. Write your twitter handle on it and exchange with someone else, simple. Oh and mine is a Whisky Mac.
I am there with good friends. What else could you need in the world. Last week I went to a wedding, @mikedayuk. I am not a fan generally of weddings, I dislike the intense detail, something among the fancy place settings, the small touches intended to luxuriate a magic, it does not sit with me. However, this was a particularly good friend and should have anyone noticed my slightly watery eye, well, the pollen count was up. It helped that so many beautiful people were there. Fine souls, well cut dresses, one in a blue that I could have fallen into, well cut calves, bottle green. You know me, I fall in love most days and the last is always the best.
I have to say, the good lady cut a fine figure. Call me a cad all you like but it is time to pay the lady a compliment. On the eve of the wedding with friends, she spoke of a small glass of wine. Some time later, she was roaring with the best of them, leading a 1am march of a merry band she acquired off to the outdoor heated and covered swimming pool. All of this in a grand old manor house somewhere near to Cirencester. God bless her.
It is a funny thing marriage. I might find weddings tiresome but the idea of marriage is one that appeals to me. The security of the right soul at your side. She knows me, smells the mischief and that is OK. I know her blemishes too, after all.
We have a card to go through…. to Cheltenham – Let the fun begin.
Cheltenham – Champion Hurdle Day 2017 Tips
The curtain raiser is a much more open affair than some of the renewals that Mullins has plundered with Douvan, Vautour and Champagne Fever.
Melon is one that all the likely lads have fancy tickets on. Yet, this Mullins runner looks a slightly weaker contender than previous balls of hype he has saddled. That said, Ruby has made him the choice and given he had three other perfectly good options in Crack Mome, Bunk off Early and Cilaos Emery, it has to be noted.
Beyond Conceit has an unbeaten record but the form doesn’t amount to great shakes, though he does get the Fehily treatment and is a battler, could be a place bet.
My choice though, I reckon is the least fashionable in the field. High Bridge ran a solid race in last years Champion Bumper and did better over hurdles this term, in my view giving him every right to give it a solid go tomorrow. 16/1.
Te Arkle is a race to watch. If Altior stands up, no form line can suggest he gets beat. Of course, he might make errors, he might have an off day, they are horses. Yet, I detest betting on ‘without’ markets. No, I’d rather enjoy Altior. If you must, have a saver on Royal Caviar.
I have never had a winner in the Ultima Handicap Chase but trends are there to be broken. Jonjo has had a bit of luck and Holywell has been a bit of class in the past. I am not convinced, more wary.
The favourite is an obvious and deserved favourite. Singlefarmpayment looks to have more to come and having performed well here before, is quite appealing. The prices of the last five winners varied from 8/1 to 28/1, this is a bookies race, unless you can read the tea leaves.
I am going to have a play on Henri Parry Morgan at 12/1. The Bowen runner is a bit hare ’em scare ’em, yet, he has caught the eye at times and this team could unleash one here.
The Champion Hurdle
Yanworth has been my play for some time and I am not going to abandon this choice now. I like these sorts that win good races in a scruffy fashion, they often never get the credit they deserve. Often Yanworth has looked gangly but he has competed in races where they dawdled and I don’t think my fella liked it. He won’t have that problem tomorrow.
Now, the others I appreciate! Buvuer D’Air has looked a fine sort and gets the benefit of Fehily in the saddle. Probably he’d prefer a bit more toe in the ground though.
Petit Mouchoir, has almost lived up to the French reference in his name, le mettre dans la poche avec le mouchoir par dessus. He is a hidden gem in the betting because 8/1 when they will go a fierce gallop is a fine price. A grey too. Ah, what has the handkerchief covered my friends.
Moon Racer is not for me and The New One has taught me not to back him, even while he will love the decent ground. Sceau Royal and Wicklow Brave are considered for the places at big money but my heart and wallet remain fixated on Yanworth.
Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini line up against many expectations in the Mares Hurdle. Apples Jade is a fine girl but I think she might get tapped for toe in the end. VVM is a ruthless galloper but has been deposed for Limini, a massively interesting call from Ruby.
Put the protagonists aside and Indian Stream at 66/1 has my boy Fehily in the saddle and a good strike rate over bigger obstacles.
Frankly, my bet of the day is Vroum Vroum Mag at 3/1. I am quite surprised she is this price and although many might turn an eyebrow at my confidence, I recall those effortless strides, that monstrous engine. Bring on the challengers… I thought my girl could win a Gold Cup, come test her mettle.
In the four miler, I vouch for a decent jockey. Putting aside Paddy Mullins on grounds of the horse he is on, Codd, Waley-Cohen and Biddick are the focus of my attentions. Codd has been booked by Meade to ride A Genie in a Bottle and 5/1 looks a bit short. Like all the rest (bar one) he is unproven at the trip and I would also be sceptical that good to soft is going to draw the best.
Arpege D’Alene is the ride of Biddick and this horse just looks too wayward for my liking. Waley-Cohen at 8/1 on Beware the Bear is my pick, despite the distance, lots of 6/7 year old improvers win this and the profile looks strong. All aboard.
If you haven’t lost enough money by 5.30, the novice handicap chase is designed to wring the last from your weakening grip. There is a handful of pounds between the top and bottom weights, these are novices and we are trying to judge improvement and potential… this is a nigh on impossible race. My tentative slip will be for Bun Doran who won really well on the penultimate start and the George yard are in good form.
May your dinner be taken drunken and in good company. May your bets be blessed and your horses develop pegasus type abilities.
Courage, roll the dice.