By Racinguk.com staff
Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins are out on their own yet again in the top trainer and jockey championship, with two wins and three respectively, with the likes of Nicky Henderson, Barry Geraghty, Lizzie Kelly and Brian Hughes all stuck on one.
The last-gasp victory of Hughes and Mister Whitaker means Britain lead Ireland 4-3 in the Prestbury Cup standings
Not everyone is mad on the OLBG Mares' Hurdle, given it provides a softer option for a mare capable of competing in the championship events.
Apple's Jade is just one of those, with last year's winner clearly capable of adding another dimension to the Stayers' or the Champion.
She copes with the ground, has been as good as ever this term, and is probably part of a few lumpy accumulators that did not include Getabird.
Does anything beat her? Probably not. Perhaps the soft ground loving La Bague Au Roi is the most likely
Rich Ricci was not too disappointed in Faugheen, who weakened after taking a prominent position early.
"It was OK," he said. "Ruby thinks he needs a step up in trip so we might try the Stayers' at Punchestown."
A first winner for Lizzie Kelly at the Cheltenham Festival and one on the board already for Ruby Walsh before the Unibet Champion Hurdle has even been run.
A dual hero in Buveur d'Air would be one story, and few can really envisage him getting beaten here.
The result that would set the pulses racing would be if 2015 winner Faugheen and Walsh could return to their best. It's so hard to work out the vibes from the Mullins camp, although Walsh did tell RUK's Lydia Hislop that "I wouldn't be riding him if I didn't believe in him."
It depends if you believe in Ruby, or believe that Buveur d'Air sets the standard. It's a race that I'm sitting out.
"There is family pride but it adds to the pressure and it adds to the expectation," said trainer Nick Williams of his daughter-in-law.
"This is his track."
Marcus Freer owns the horse with wife Karen. They are called Babbit Racing as apparently that is the couple's pet name for each other.
"I own Flying Tiger, who won last year, with some friends and this is our own horse. I have to give credit to Nick Williams, he's a really underrated trainer.
"Lizzie is wonderful, she's been great for the sport but she's very modest and always says it's the same for female jockeys as for everyone, and there are lots of lads not getting chances. You only have to look at what she's done with Tea For Two and Agrapart."
Lizzie Kelly enjoyed her first Cheltenham Festival winner with a battling success on 5-1 favourite Coo Star Sivola in the Ultima Chase.
The combination were never far away and Kelly kicked on turning from home.
Shantou Flyer, ridden by 17-year-old James Bowen, threw down a strong challenge in the closing stages but Coo Star Sivola had just enough in hand to hang on.
Vintage Clouds and Beware The Bear filled the other two places.
Henry De Bromhead was never really convinced before the Racing Post Arkle Trophy that Petit Mouchoir woukd reverse the form with Footpad, and so it proved.
Petit Mouchoir was eventually bypassed by Brain Power up the Cheltenham hill and finished third.
De Bromhead will now hope to run Petit Mouchoir at Punchstown.
"Davy felt he possibly went too quick, but he was jumping and travelling so well he just let him roll," he said.
"Unfortunately he then fell in a bit of a hole, but it was only his third run over fences after an interrupted season.
"All being well he'll be at Punchestown."
Isaac Souede, who owns Footpad with Simon Munir, spoke of his affection for the six-year-old after watching him beat Brain Power by 14 lengths. “Footpad is a horse that I love, so for him to do well I’m thrilled about it,” Souede said. “He’s such a trier, and is a horse who is always pleasant. He’s loved at Willie’s yard and the owners love him too. “He did it well - it will be up to Willie (Mullins) and Anthony Bromley (racing manager) where goes next but I’m so pleased.” The win compensates Souede and Munir for Top Notch, Sceau Royal and We Have A Dream being ruled out of the meeting.
I'm sure it will be of huge significance that Britain will regain the lead in the Prestbury Cup as there is not a single Irish runner in the upcoming Ultima Handicap Chase.
Lizzie Kelly would love a first Festival winner and Coo Star Sivola has been a popular whisper on the preview circuit.
Singlefarmpayment must be another serious contender, with trainer Tom George already on the board, and his horse running eyecatchingly on his seasonal reappearance at the course when it appeared Newbury's Ladbrokes Trophy was a target.
David Pipe has done well in this race through his dual hero Un Temps Pour Tout, and Ramses De Teillee is the pick of stable jockey Tom Scudamore
Willie Mullins has so many potential options in the future for Footpad and his initial suggestion is that the Arkle winner could go up in trip.
“I wasn't so sure when he made that mistake down the back and was quite a way behind two very good horses," the trainer said. "He’s just been a natural. We initially had him down as a JLT horse and we were looking around for an Arkle horse, possibly even thinking of buying one, but then we realised we had one in the yard.
“We know that he stays two and a half. He could be a Gold Cup horse.”
Mengli Khan finished a length and three quarters behind Kalashnikov and Summerville Boy in that pulsating Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle.
Trainer Gordon Elliott was happy with the run and immediately set a course for Ireland.
"I am very happy with him and I thought he ran a very good race," he said.
Jack (Kennedy) said he didn't pick up as well on soft ground as he would have liked.
"He is a good horse. He will definitely go to Punchestown."
Bit of an ordinary start to Cheltenham for its all-time leading rider Ruby Walsh as favourite Getabird faded rather tamely in the Supreme.
No chance to reflect on that for the rider as he’s back up on the fleet-footed Footpad, perhaps the most exciting new chaser on the scene, in the Racing Post Arkle.
He’s going to be stretched out if Aidan Coleman can get the athletic Saint Calvados out in front in a small field of five, while Petit Mouchoir ought to be sharper in what has been an interrupted campaign.
Footpad has been so impressive in three chasing starts so far, he’s a very unoriginal selection at a current 5-6
Amy Murphy’s heart-rate will have gone through the roof cheering on her eventual second Kalashnikov.
“It’s agonising but I’m hugely proud of him and delighted he has come second. It has really made a man of him.
“I haven’t spoken to the owner (father Paul) yet but I’d say that’s his last run of the season. He’s a chaser of the future.”
Worked it out yet?
Just about off in what might not look a vintage Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on paper, but history tells you this is a race that produces stars of the present and future.
Getabird was a wide-margin winner of both his two starts and while a point-to-point graduate is not always what you want in a race like this and he won't be allowed to dictate proceedings at his leisure, he sets an obvious standard and should not be bothered by the ground.
There will be plenty of goodwill for Betfair Hurdle winner Kalashnikov and his helpful young trainer Amy Murphy. Tom George’s Summerville Boy has the beating of Kalashnivikov on Sandown form and there is probably valid reason to expect Mengli Khan to be at his absolute peak for Gordon Elliott.
For what it’s worth, I thought Sharjah is the best option at the prices at 20-1, as taking a short price on Getabird is not my kind of bet. The Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci second-string looked really smart on heavy ground at Gowran in November and is excused his last couple of runs.
Peaking ahead to tomorrow, it looks a tip in itself that Barry Geraghty has opted to ride the Joseph O'Brien-trained Rhinestone instead of Nick Gifford's well fancied Didtheyleaveuoutto. The pair are both owned by JP McManus.
Gifford hopes Geraghty has got it wrong: "Didtheyleaveuoutto is in great form, but he has never been on this sort of ground before so it is a massive unknown for us.
"He has a great action and we will find out on Wednesday if he goes on it. If he does handle it, he will be an even more exciting horse going forward.
"Since Straw Bear (runner-up in the 2006 Supreme) we've not had a horse show this much so early in their career. It is very exciting, win, lose or draw, as we have a very exciting horse for the future."
"Barry has hopped on to the other one as he rode our one at Ascot and he obviously feels the other horse has got a better chance on the ground.
My French mole who works for Equidia, the French racing channel, tells me that David Cottin is disappointed in the heavy ground for his runner in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase tomorrow.
A full field of 16 have been declared and the French field three of the runners.
Cottin, who also has Brave Dancing in the Fred Winter, runs Urumqi, a 40-1 chance, while Emmanuel Clayeux runs Vicomte Du Seuil and the intriguing Urgent De Gregaine.
As you can see from the tweet below, Urumqi had to school in front of the stewards this morning, and I’m reliably informed that Cottin would have much preferred drying ground.
That said, the French insider was keen to point us towards Urgent De Gregaine, who will not mind the ground and, crucially, won here in January. You can get 16-1 with Sky Bet, who are offering 1/5 the first four home.
An hour and 10 minutes away from the first race at Cheltenham and the sun has been shining, albeit intermittently and bit too late for Henry de Bromhead’s liking.
The trainer is down to just Paloma Blue in the Sky Bet Supreme, having pulled Trainwreck out.
“He travelled over really well, he seems in great form,” he said. “He was very babyish his first couple of runs, at Christmas he started to get his act together and ran very well against Samcro. I thought he’d have a real crack on better ground.”
De Bromhead has a few big guns out today and of Petit Mouchoir in the Arkle, he added: “Davy seems keen on our horse, he’s done nothing wrong. He had an interrupted season and we’re coming back.”
The trainer did not rule out a good effort from Identity Thief at a huge price in the Unibet Champion Hurdle, either.
“He won a Fighting Fifth on heavy ground, he needed his last couple of runs, he’s in some form and I wouldn’t be blown away if he hit the frame,” he said.
"Footpad has been electric." - Will Footpad maintain his unbeaten record over fences in the Arkle? @STurnerTipster thinks so.— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) March 13, 2018
Cards ➡️ https://t.co/BO9hXiMUQq
Bet £20 on the 1.30 & get £10 for the next six races at @CheltenhamRaces: https://t.co/JT885yA1ZJ (T&Cs apply 🔞) pic.twitter.com/Xe3hwC5JYd
Sam Spinner, pictured below, and Supasundae head 17 horses declared for the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle on Thursday.
The Jedd O'Keeffe-trained Sam Spinner heads ante-post lists, with the prospect of testing conditions of no concern for the Long Walk Hurdle winner.
Supasundae bids for his second Festival success for Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power. Last year's Coral Cup hero returns to three miles having claimed the scalp of Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle over two miles at Leopardstown last month.
Yanworth is sent back over hurdles by Alan King following a mixed novice campaign over fences. The eight-year-old is one of two runners for leading owner JP McManus along with Unowhatimeanharry from Harry Fry's yard.
Willie Mullins struck gold with Nichols Canyon 12 months ago. This year the Closutton handler fires a four-pronged assault with Bacardys, Penhill, Augusta Kate and Let's Dance all in contention.
Un De Sceaux will face a maximum of six rivals as he attempts to defend his Ryanair Chase title on Thursday.
Willie Mullins' 10-year-old has won both his starts this season and will relish the testing conditions at Prestbury Park.
Mullins has also declared Douvan, but he is due to run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase tomorrow.
Cue Card will try to regain to the two-mile-five-furlong crown he won back in 2013 having fallen in the Gold Cup the last two years.
Cloudy Dream, Sub Lieutenant, Balko Des Flos and Frodon also run.
A couple of the top amateurs in the game have been talking about their mounts in the National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase.
Lisa O’Neill said of Mossback: “We’ll give it a good go anyway,” she said. “It’s a very competitive race, you’ve got to get from A to B. We go out with every chance and will try our best.”
Derek O’Connor said of No Comment: “It’s a very competitive contest and he’s in really good form. He handles soft ground but I’d be a little concerned about heavy ground.”
Ted Walsh seems hopeful if not exactly hugely confident about Any Second Now in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase. JP McManus’ runner is one of the leading contenders.
“He has an each-way chance,” he said. “I thought last year he’d make a good chaser. Monalee made mincemeat out of him then Invitation Only did the same thing. I ran him in couple of good Grade Ones, he ran respectable. I think he’ll run well, I know he doesn’t like fast ground, and I’d be disappointed if he’s not jumping the last with a chance. He should be thereabouts.”
Amy Murphy's Betfair Hurdle winner Kalashnikov is on the drift for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at 1.30pm.
After he was beaten in to second in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January by Supreme rival Summerville Boy, Murphy was delighted with the run in heavy ground - the conditions he faces this afternoon.
Summerville Boy has not run since - hopefully to allow full recovery, whereas Kalashinikov gunned down his rivals at Newbury in the Betfair Hurdle off 11st 5lb.
By Murphy's own admission - Kalashnikov was, and is, a big baby, so there is likley to be more to come. Racing UK presenter Rachel Casey went to see Murphy in Newmarket to find out just how much in the video below.
It seems some punters are already focusing on the last race today, with Bet Victor trimming course winner Mister Whitaker to 15/2 from 10/1. Faugheen is 6/1 for the Champion Hurdle with them from 13/2, while Cogry is 16/1 from 25/1 for the Ultima Chase. Kalashnikov is out to 11/2 from 9/2 for the Supreme.
Great news that Altior is able to run in tomorrow's Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival after his injury scare.
The outstanding eight-year-old is hot favourite for the two-mile championship, but was reported to be lame on Monday morning with pus in his foot.
However, overnight treatment appears to have worked and Nicky Henderson reports his charge to be fit for action.
He tweeted: "Pleased to report that Altior is perfectly sound this morning so it's all systems go for him in the Champion Chase."
However, stable stalwart My Tent Or Yours, a three-time Champion Hurdle runner-up, has been ruled out of today's Unibet Champion Hurdle on veterinary advice.
The race distances are as advertised, apart from the two handicaps that bring today’s seven-race card to a close.
The National Hunt Chase is actually 3m7f166, as the start has been moved forward 23 yards but the stud chase bend is out six yards which adds 19 yards.
The Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase is actually 2m4f 74y, which mans your pick on heavy ground won’t have quite as far to tough it out up that hill.
A foggy and damp welcome to the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, ahead of what is sure to be a landmark day whatever the weather.
The skies may well be grey over Prestbury Park this morning but the weather is not going to dampen the enthusiasm for those racegoers already qeueing up outside the course.
It's not quite raining, and good thing too as the going here is currently heavy, soft in places.
It was dry overnight, and today is forecast to be dry with sunny spells with temperatures of 9-10C.
"We have not had any rainfall since 1am this morning.
The going on the chase and hurdles courses today is heavy, soft in places.
This is the first tim we have started the Festival on heavy since 1982, with the last day to feature havy in the description being Gold Cup day in 1989.
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