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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Cheltenham 2013 - Day 2

All aboard the Champagne Express! I must admit I feel drunk on the bubbles and sick with the thrill of the high-octane power inflicted by Messers Mullins and Walsh today. Whilst trackside observers were fortunate enough to witness Ruby Tuesday in the serenity of the Cotswolds, many of us had to slip out of our regular routines to find a television in order to be able to witness the most hotly anticipated day of the national hunt racing calendar, and it has a physical effect on us!

Returning to work after a selection has won or lost can be equally as difficult. Shaking, sweating and unable to focus on your professional tasks; colleagues looking at you with suspicion and confusion. Even if you haven't had a gamble, watching or listening to those contests today was enough to distract even the most casual of racing fans.

Ruby Walsh performed at his absolute best this afternoon. the three winning rides upon Champagne Fever, Hurricane Fly and Quevega perfectly highlighting the harmony with which Ruby connects to his equine partners in very different ways.

Champagne Fever made all the running in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, holding off the JP McManus pair of Jezki and the favourite, My Tent or Yours, their iconic green and yellow hoops flanking the pink of Champagne, and rewarding followers of yesterday's blog with a 6/1 return to kick-start proceedings or reward for laying MTOY at around 2/1.

£375 profit to start the day - BetVictor would have refunded £50 of my
stake had Champagne Fever failed to get the corks popping
Ruby knew: "he jumped like a stag" were his poignant words to Alice Plunkett in the immediate aftermath of a race in which his TurfTrax times were at least a couple of seconds quicker than his ride in the second grade 1 hurdle of the day, the championship race - the Champion Hurdle.

But the ride given to Hurricane Fly in the more prestigious contest was the antithesis of Ruby's earlier victory. In the build up to the race, I got caught up in the excitement and recalled with more clarity (thanks to the channel 4 replay) the disdain with which the Fly recently won the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. Having backed Zarkandar with the Paddy Power offer, I took Hurricane Fly on Betfair at 2.74 and also backed the forecast with bet365. A mile into the race I was worried. Hurricane Fly seemed uncomfortable in his stride, was off the bridle and being asked to give more and was jumping with clumsiness. But somehow, Ruby calmed the 2011 champion hurdler down and found some rhythm. Sidestepping the fallen Grandouet and back in control, he hunted down Rock on Ruby and the impressive (and young) Countrywide Flame, who I had antepost and topped up on each-way before the off, with the precision of a marksman. It was a breathtaking finish to an extraordinary race.

Last-minute money on Hurricane Fly with Betfair...Money back on losing Zarkandar bet with Paddy Power 
Simonsig vs Overturn disappointed in the Arkle, with the grey getting the job done, but with none of the fluency we were expecting, and the brave McCain trained flat and hurdle hero Overturn unable to get Simonsig to tire under the scrutiny of a rapid pace. I let out a small sigh, having laid Simonsig and backed overturn, whilst Backers of Simonsig / Quevega doubles breathed a sigh of relief.  After all, the Mares' Hurdle was a foregone conclusion.. wasn't it?

I quite literally backed the wrong horse.. and layed the right one too
At 1.8 on Betfair, the market didn't seem sure, so I have a £100 on her, with a speculative £10 e/w on Swincombe Flame and a bit on the Pricewise pick, Swing Bowler. Ruby Walsh further demonstrated his versatility on board the four-time Mares' champion, holding her back in amongst a packed field, and biding his time. Now, I don't know if he got the tactics absolutely spot on here or not, but I was calm and assured until it seemed Ruby had left it too late to get out into the open and urge Quevega on. He doesn't thrash at horses like many other jockeys, instead Ruby seems to connect with his animal, and this ride was reminiscent of the most in-depth interrogations Big Buck's has been subjected to on the rare occasions he gets cross-examined by his inquisitors. Quevega put her hoof on the racing bible and under oath, swore to deliver a 27/1 treble to backers of the three big hurdle winners today. Ruby's emotional delight at his trio of day one triumphs was matched only by the humble understatements of his trainer, WP Mullins, who simple stated how grateful he was for being given the opportunity to train these things. Incredible stuff.

Satisfying returns in the Mares' Hurdle as Quevega made history 
Spinning with success, the final profitable moment of the day for this blog came like a serendipitous additional train back home having delightfully dozed off and missed your stop. Already firmly in the green, and with my festival accumulator very much alive, Radjhani Express picked me up from Paradise Parkway and delivered me straight to the front door of my place on Astonishment Avenue. I had some confidence in Sam Waley-Cohen's chances, but at 25/1 (advised yesterday at 28/1), and with little support in the press amongst those who know far more than I do, it was phenomenally satisfying to collect another big chunk of cash at the close of a fantastic fillip-filled festival funday.

£470 profit for the day on Betfair to go with £375 on BetVictor, with about £50 of non-refunded losses elsewhere made it a smashing first day's work

Anyway, onto tomorrow.

National Hunt Chase

I honestly have no idea about this one yet! Will have a look in the morning but this was the race I tipped Soll for last year. The money I lost on the first race of day 2 last year saw me spiral out of control and lose about a grand on what we call "Black Wednesday" so I look down the card with a mixture of trepidation as the memories flood back, and also relief that I don't have any very strong fancies. It's an amateur jockey race, and so the first rider I looked for was today's winner Sam Waley-Cohen, but he doesn't have a ride booked - maybe he's busy putting a filling in someone's molar tooth in his dentist surgery? Only Godsmejudge for Alan King and Tofino Bay, ridden by Nina Carberry are jumping out at me at the moment, so I might have a small play on those two.


All the talk has been for Pont Alexandre, who provides another opportunity for Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins to extend the lead they are enjoying over their rivals. At 2.58 on Betfair, I'd rather be a backer than a layer to get off to a solid start to the day with what many are calling the nap of the week!


Right - I'm on a Ruby Walsh / Paul Nicholls jockey / trainer double for the week and I'm going to go for Unioniste here. Boston Bob is being talked up as one who has been tilted for this race, and he will like the ground, but I'm going for the Ditcheat based grey, who wears the same eye-catching colours as another of my favourite horses, Al Ferof. The only other one that jumps out at me is Goulanes, but that's mainly because I immediately associate him with the gorgeous Kate Miller from William Hill, as she tipped him up to me at this same track just a few months ago.

"Queen Mum" - the Champion Chase
Nothing can beat Sprinter Sacre tomorrow. I'm on in my accumulator and think he will follow up last year's Arkle with another display of supreme leaping and rapid accelerating, doing so with that peacock-esque flamboyance that says he really knows he's bloody good. Mail de Bievre to follow him home at 5.2 for a place on Betfair looks good to me. I'm just glad Finian's Rainbow is nowhere to be seen.. he might be under the weather, but I'm not a fan and don't think he deserved this prestigious title last year when he got the better of Sizing Europe amidst all the "do-we-jump-don't-we-jump?" in the closing stages of the race.

Coral Cup

Pendra - half way down the weights, running off a mark of 139, figures of 1-112, AP McCoy desperate to get his first win of the week, odds of 17/2 available - done. Black Thunder for a place as an additional selection for Mr Nicholls at 7/1 on Betfair seems a reasonable price. He couldn't win when 9/2 favourite off the same mark of 145 when he had a claimant (Harry Derham) on board at Kempton in January but that is the only time he's finished outside the top 3 since his career began, you'll get a return if he finishes in the top 4 here, and the last time he was victorious was out in the west country on the softish left-handed undulations of Chepstow, not dissimilar to the conditions at Cheltenham in the morning.

Fred Winter and Bumper
No selection yet - it's been a long day and I need some rest.. but with the 2m Bumper featuring Joseph O'Brien riding for his father aboard Shield, chamion of the flat Richard Hughes saddling up on Sgt Reckless for legendary trainer Mick Channon, and Graham Lee chasing down a staggering 1000th win under rules with Caledonia (a 100/1 shot), there's a lot to consider in what many would usually write off as an end-of-the-afternoon donkey derby.

Phew..  I think Leyton Orient's win at home to Portsmouth tonight really took it out of me!

MORNING UPDATE:  I've backed Caledonia for the Bumper and, in the Coral Cup added another target - Ericht: trained by Nicky Henderson,  his jockey takes a massive 10lbs off a horse already only carrying 10-10 and with form figures of 1711, his last three rides being taken by Barry Geraghty and the one before that.... by today's jockey Gary Derwin.  I was delighted to see last year's Palphabet "Jumps Jockey of the Year" Brendan Powell Jr getting a win in a similar profile in yesterday's JLT with light-as-a-feather Golden Chieftain. 


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