So it’s finally here and we’re straight into a fascinating contest
- 1.30 Supreme Novices Hurdle
15 of the last 17 winners won last time out and 16 of 19 had run in the last 45 days. Irving and Vautour tick both boxes and hail from yards who know how to win this race. Both have been impressive but their prices reflect this and it might pay to look for an improver. Vaniteux fits this bill. A quick, slick jumper who stays further than the 2 miles raced today, something which is vital due to the pace of the race, the stiff finish and the occasion – many horses appear to be unable to handle the preliminaries and the roar of 50,000 people as they race up the final straight. Vaniteux is 11-1 and could run into a place at least.
- 2.05 Racing Post Arkle Chase
The second race on the card is probably hotter and met with greater anticipation than the first. 25 of the last 27 winners won last time out, 10 of 11 had finished in the first two on all completed starts and 9 of those 11 had three or more runs over fences. That doesn’t bode well for favourite Champagne Fever but he does bring first class course form to the race, having won at the previous two festivals. A front runner, he may well set the race up for something better prepared, more experienced and that horse is Trifolium. Third in the 2012 Supreme Novice Hurdle, he has took to the bigger obstacles well and will like the conditions. Top jockey Bryan Cooper can steer him home.
- 2.40 Bayliss & Harding ” Festival ” Handicap Chase
Twenty four runners, all likely to have been trained for this race, and an each way bet is the only way here. Standing Ovation notched a four time on Good ground in the Autumn and can be forgiven his last two defeats as the penultimate run came too quickly whilst the last run was on unsuitable soft ground. Has his conditions and the Pipe team are in good form. Wrong Turn is another who could run well.
- 3.20 Stan James Champion Hurdle
The main race of the first day and possibly the whole festival as none has been more eagerly awaited or debated over. Hurricane Fly bids to win the race for the third time but at the age of 10 he may have to move aside for a younger horse. He’s also unlikely to be as comfortable with the quick pace and conditions as My Tent Or Yours and The New One and i think it’s these two who are likely to fight out the finish. Jezki wears headgear for the first time and is also unbeaten when Barry Geraghty rides him.
- 4.00 OLBG Mares Hurdle
Little stands in the way of Que Vega securing her sixth straight win at the festival – which would be a new record and a remarkable achievement. Highland Retreat is backable each way though at around 12-1.
- 4.40 Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase
A 4 mile chase for amateur riders and you need a horse who stays and jumps. Midnight Prayer is such a horse and won well last time out over 3 miles 2 furlongs. The extra distance here should be no problem, nor should the drying ground and it’s likely some of these horses who have been slogging it out through the Winter mud will not like the milder temperatures or quicker ground today.
- Rewards4Racing Novices Handicap Chase
A hotly contested event with many young horses in form and still improving. Two to keep an eye on here are Present View and Festive Affair, with slight preference for the former. Has been winning well and the better conditions are likely to see even more improvement. 8 of the last 9 winners had won last time out.
Good luck !