Monday, March 14, 2011

Cheltenham Festival 2011 - Tuesday

Tomorrow the show begins... The Festival is a marathon not a sprint - in the past a cautious approach on the first day has served quite well. This year there are more temptations than normal, with the bookmakers already talking about impending doom if the four favourites oblige (Cue Card, Medermit, Menorah and Quevega); such talk looks like a layers' ploy to increase turnover.

Even without defending champion Binocular, the Champion Hurdle (3.20) is a very open race. Of the market leaders I much prefer Menorah and the unbeaten Peddlers Cross. Top-rated Hurricane Fly may want more cut, a comment that also applies to Oscar Whisky, while Dunguib has had an interrupted preparation. Khyber Kim's second in last year's race reads well but on official ratings Mille Chief has a bit to make up with several of these and five-year-olds have a poor record in the race. Peddlers Cross did the blog a favour at this meeting last year so Peddlers Cross (9/2 with Stan James this evening) gets the nod.

Favourites don't have a good record in the Arkle (2.05) recording just one win in the last ten runnings (Azertyuiop in 2003) but the biggest priced winner in that time was 9/1 chance Well Chief (2004) so the market has been a reasonable guide. On the book it looks between Medermit, Ghizao and Finian's Rainbow with Irish raider Realt Dubh respected. Alan King has been bullish about Medermit in the build-up and there was plenty to like about his victory over two and a half miles at Sandown the last time as he travelled and jumped well. Ghizao is top-rated but owner Andy Stewart believes Medermit is the one to beat. Finian's Rainbow didn't impress with his fencing at Warwick and appears to have drifted in the betting today. Medermit is the selection.

In the opener (1.30) I'm a Cue Card fan but won't be getting involved at around 2/1. Interesting to see Ruby Walsh on Nicholls' Al Ferof while connections of Marsh Warbler have taken this option rather than Friday's Triumph Hurdle as the ground is likely to have more cut. The four-year-old is one I like but has it all to do racing against his elders here.

Trends for the 2.40 point to a horse that is fairly prominent in the market and carries less than 11 stones - both Reve De Sivola and Sunnyhillboy fit the profile but neither looks guaranteed to stay. I wondered whether Razor Royale was showing signs of coming back to form last time at Kempton.

Having won the last two renewals of the mares' hurdle (4.40) Quevega is unsurprisingly priced up favourite. On official ratings Banjaxed Girl is the next best in the race - she makes some appeal each-way at 14/1 (Betfred). Sam Twiston-Davies rides although I note stable jockey Paddy Brennan is on the shorter-priced L'accordioniste who disappointed at Ascot where she didn't jump well but the mare is quite clearly held in high regard.

Three selections for tomorrow in an attempt to keep my powder dry for Wednesday...

Good luck everyone but remember the old saying - Beware the Ides of March - the day Julius Caesar was killed in 44 B.C.

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