Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cheltenham Festival 2013 - Tuesday

The feature on the opening day, the Champion Hurdle, sees 2011 winner Hurricane Fly trying to regain his crown - the last horse to pull off this particular trick was Comedy Of Errors in 1975. Since the great Sea Pigeon won back-to-back victories in 1980/81, only two nine-year-olds have come home in front - Royal Gait (1992) and Rooster Booster (2003).

The stats may be against the favourite but his racecourse record stands the closest of inspections - 15 victories and two defeats in 17 outings.Those who want to oppose may wish to do so with Paddy Power who offer money back on all losing win wagers (up to a maximum £100) if 'The Fly' wins.

With underfoot conditions predicted to be soft, the ground appears to have gone against Cinders And Ashes and would be a slight worry for last year's winner Rock On Ruby. Trainer Harry Fry boasts a strike rate of over 30% (17 wins from just 55 runs) in this his first full season; the handler has decided to fit blinkers to his charge for the first time.

A worry for all particpiants is the lack of an obvious pacemaker in the race; a tactical running of the Champion Hurdle looks a distinct possibility. The ground holds no fears for Zarkander - his defeat of Grandouet and Rock On Ruby in the International last December was impressive but he received two pounds from the runner-up and four from the current champion that day.

Henderson saddles three - Binocular, another nine-year old looking to repeat former glories, Grandouet and Khyber Kim. This is just the season's second racecourse outing for both Binocular and Grandouet.

A fascinating renewal - Zarkander is the selection while Countrywide Flame (16/1) rates a value each-way wager, although in the past thirty years only two five-year-olds have taken the crown - See You Then (1985) and Katchit (2008).

William Hill pay a quarter the odds five places in the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle - two each-ways suggestions against favourite My Tent Or Yours together with the rest of the field - Melodic Rendezvous and Dodging Bullets.

The Arkle is a race to savour rather than one to bet on. The build-up has concentrated on Simonsig and the front-running Overturn. The latter-named has done this blog many a favour over the years but he wouldn't want the ground too soft; Simonsig is preferred while Tom George's Majala could run a race that belies his price.

One other suggestion for the opening day - Alfie Sherrin pipped an old favourite of mine Fruity O'Rooney (no relation to Wayne) one length in last year's running of the JLT Speciality Handicap Chase (Our Mick third). Fruity races off a mark one pound lower this year and his second behind Katenko last time out catches the eye - Our Mick was travelling well in that same race on his seasonal debut when unseating Jason Maguire three from home. Our Mick heads the market, having the look of one laid out for this, but Fruity O'Rooney races prominently and can establish a rhythm from the front - he rates an each-way bet at around the 10/1 mark.

Postscript [added 11.03.13 14:00]: Melodic Rendezvous not declared for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle following a bad scope.

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