The lucky Aintree racegoers will be next to see brilliant Champion Hurdle winner Constitution Hill as it’s confirmed the horse has come out of Tuesday’s race well and will be lining up for the big hurdle race on the Thursday of the Grand National meeting.
There’s news on where the money has been going before the Ballymore Novice Hurdle. Oddspedia spokesperson Callum Wilson reports: “There’s two market movers queuing up behind Impaire Et Passe at the top of the market, with the Mullins horse drifting from 6-4 out to 2-1 this morning. Hermes Allen has been cut in from 9-2 into 3-1 and Gaelic Warrior is also proving popular with punters after shortening from 7-1 into 5-1. Money is also coming for Champ Kiely – cut from 9/1 into as short as 15/2 ahead of the curtain raiser for day two of the Cheltenham Festival.”
The home team registered two winners on Tuesday’s opening card, but this is the day when things could get seriously ugly for British stables and if there is to be any let-up in the tide of Irish winners, this opener probably needs to go Hermes Allen’s way. The good news for supporters of Paul Nicholls’s runner is that he is unbeaten, notched a very cosy Grade One win in the Challow Hurdle last time out and looked very much as if he had plenty more to come. The bad news is that the money has been coming for Willie Mullins’s Impaire Et Passe all week, to such an extent that he is now a clear favourite, and a market move like that generally means only one thing.
Unlike Hermes Allen, though, he has yet to win at Grade One level, and there are several more runners in the field, including two more Mullins-trained hopefuls in Gaelic Warrior and Champ Kiely, that have achieved just as much to date. The Irish challenge has extra depth in the form of Barry Connell’s Good Land, and the trainer has been almost as bullish in his bigging-up of this one as he was about Marine Nationale, who gave him a first Festival winner as a trainer in yesterday’s Supreme Novice Hurdle. I’m going to throw in my lot with Hermes Allen, who should arguably be favourite on his form to date, but another trifecta for the Irish would also come as no great surprise.
SELECTION: Hermes Allen
If his runner Steal A March hadn’t gone lame we might have had his owner, the King, getting along to Cheltenham tomorrow but the Queen Consort has got to the track today.
Here’s today’s menu:
1.30 Ballymore Novice Hurdle
2.10 Brown Advisory Novices’ Steeple Chase
2.50 Coral Cup Hurdle
3.30 Queen Mother Champion Chase
4.10 Cross-Country Steeple Chase
4.50 Grand Annual Handicap Chase
5.30 Champion Bumper
Here is Greg Wood’s guide to the TV races
Please note the racing on the box today will not start on the main ITV channel (it will be on ITV4) because it’s Budget Day … back in 2004 when Cheltenham also clashed with that prime Westminster event it caused quite a bit of controversy …
Good morning on day two of the Cheltenham Festival. You’ve got your ground news – it’s going to be testing – and you’ve got your information on the horses that have been backed and the ones that won’t be turning up. It might have been a bright start, if cold, at the track but don’t be fooled. Laura Tobin was on ITV Racing’s Opening Show earlier and gave punters a warning … there is going to be plenty of rain from about 3pm onwards so start looking for the soft-ground lovers in the later races. It could boost the Irish chances of winning every race, a ‘“greenwash” as highlighted by my colleague Greg Wood in his introduction to today’s action though the people at BestofBets.com have pointed out to me that on Friday the Irish have six of the ante-post favourites on the seven-race card and Friday is … St Patrick’s Day!
These are the horses punters are getting stuck into so far …
Hermes Allen (Ballymore, 1.30) 9/2 into 5/2
Sir Gerhard (Brown Advisory, 2.10) 5/1 into 10/3
Sa Fureur (Coral Cup, 2.50) 16/1 into 10/1
Epson Du Houx (Grand Annual, 4.50) 16/1 into 11/1
Western Diego (Champion Bumper, 5.30) 14/1 into 9/1
Soft – Chase & Hurdle Courses (Old Course)
Soft, Good to Soft in places – Cross Country Course
2.10pm Brown Advisory Novice Chase (Grade 1) 3m 80y
2 Amirite (Self Certificate, Coughing)
4.50pm Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase) 1m 7f 199y
13 Dancing On My Own (Self Certificate, Coughing)
For all their dominance at the Festival in recent seasons, one achievement is still proving elusive for the visiting Irish stables: a “greenwash” of all seven races on a single afternoon at the meeting. But they may not have many better chances than today, when Edwardstone, the narrow market leader in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, is likely to be the only British-trained favourite on the card and Ireland will supply around 60% of the runners.
The feature event, in fact, is the only race on the second afternoon at Cheltenham in which British-trained runners are in the majority, with five out of seven. Ireland fields 16 of 26 in the Coral Cup, a dozen of 20 runners in the Grand Annual Handicap Chase and no fewer than 18 of 24 in the concluding Champion Bumper.
If Hermes Allen, the second-favourite, fails to extend his unbeaten record in the opening Ballymore Novice Hurdle, it could all come down to the Champion Chase, where Edwardstone and Gary Moore’s Editeur Du Gite are up against last year’s winner, Energumene.
It promises to be a vintage renewal of the two-mile chasing championship, with last year’s Arkle Trophy winner – Edwardstone – up against the reigning champ, and Editeur Du Gite, who beat the pair of them in the Clarence House Chase last time out, also in the mix. There is even a little bit of football rivalry thrown in ahead of the M23 Derby at the Amex Stadium tonight, as Energumene is owned by the Brighton chairman, Tony Bloom, while Editeur Du Gite runs in the red and blue colours of Steve Preston, a lifelong Crystal Palace fan.
It is hard to see beyond the big three in the feature event, but the bookies will be hoping for a little relief elsewhere on the card after a good day for the punters on Tuesday, including wins for three clear favourites and two joint-favourites. Jazzy Matty, in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, is the only winner at double-figure odds so far, and the Coral Cup (2.50) and perhaps the Grand Annual (4.50) probably offer the layers the best chance for an upset today.
The going for the second day is soft on both the hurdle and chase courses, and soft (good-to-soft in places) on the cross-country track, which stages the Cross Country Chase at 4.10. Picks for the five races on ITV today are here, race previews will be appearing here on the blog throughout the day at an appropriate moment along with betting news, instant reactions and all manner of Festival-related nuggets. Enjoy the ride!