Dispatches from the front line of The Greatest Show On Turf

Paul Howarth

cheltenham.festival 300x225 Dispatches from the front line of The Greatest Show On TurfCheltenham Festival, Tuesday 12th March

Day One of Cheltenham is over.  Such is the anticipation that greets the Festival that my mate said he already felt sad before the first race because it meant the end was that much nearer.  I told him to stop being a pillock. But he had a point.

There were a few big questions today.  Firstly, would racing go ahead?  Wind chill assisted temperatures had plummeted to -12C overnight, meaning that it was touch and go whether we’d have any action at all.  Shortly before 10.30 a.m., there was a collective roar of relief around the Cotswolds as word came from the course that we were ON.

Now to the other questions.

Would My Tent Or Yours justify favouritism in the opener, the Supreme Novices Hurdle?  He’d cantered all over his rivals in his last race, making a mockery of a hugely competitive handicap.  And when he came there strongly in today’s race, swinging away on the bridle to challenge long-time leader Champagne Fever, he appeared to be running away with the contest.  But Champagne Fever, piloted by the peerless Ruby Walsh, found more up the hill to land a massive gamble for Ireland.

Next, in the Arkle, would Simonsig be as impressive as stablemate Sprinter Sacre had been 12 months ago?  Answer: no.  But he did prevail after surviving a bad blunder and holding off Irish outsider Baily Green.

In the big one, could Hurricane Fly recapture the Champion Hurdle crown he’d taken two years ago?  Having looked beaten down the back straight, ‘The Fly’ came back on the bridle and powered home to best last year’s champ Rock On Ruby.  It was the first time since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 that a horse had regained the Champion.  Historic stuff.  And we hadn’t seen the last of it.

Quevega is known simply as ‘The Mare’.  A nickname that seems to own the whole of her sex.  For good reason too.  As she lined up in today’s Mares’ Hurdle, would Willie Mullins’ inmate win the race for the fifth time on the trot?  Take a moment to consider the magnitude of this.  It requires a monumental effort just to get a horse to the start line five years running.  To win on all of those occasions is a feat seen about as rarely as Halley’s Comet.  And she did it.  Looking beaten as they rounded the home bend, Quevega – with that man Walsh on board – gradually worked her way back into contention and was travelling strongest as they approached the last.  She still had six lengths to make up but, with an increasing sense of inevitability, she wore down her rivals.  The first horse since Golden Miller in the ‘30s to win five on the trot at the Festival.  And the most delirious reaction from the Arkle Bar since Moscow Flyer’s Champion Chase in 2003.

See you tomorrow, Prestbury Park.

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  • Matt French

    Who the hell is Jamie?

  • Barry Jessup

    A vintage day. Cracking first race pre-empted by the biggest opening roar for years. And a brilliant display of jockeyship by Ruby. Day 2…

  • Greedy Ginger Pig

    I recall that one of your tips was to back Sprinter Sacre to win by 20 lengths… So close to audacious glory…

  • Bollins

    I wonder if Mary G Robinson is related to William G Stewart? I do hope so.

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