WE’RE GOING MINUTE-by-minute as the sport of kings presents its finest fare.
12.49 – Good afternoon and welcome to our live minute-by-minute coverage of the Cheltenham Festival 2012.
The nervous energy is palpable, we are a mere matter of minutes away from the first gun of the festival. Are you ready for this?
12.55 – Before you get too excited and blow the whole piggy bank on a no-hoper have a thorough read of all our Cheltenham news here. And take note of Mark Hobbs’ considered opinions on where the value is.
12.59 – John McCririck is wearing an impressive white stetson that JR Ewing would be proud of. He and the nice informed lady known as “Female” are talking us through the main runners from later today.
Naturally, they are drawing quite the crowd – half listening in, half trying to get on TV.
13.14 – To add a little spice we’re having a (semi) in-house tipster competition. All the runners and riders have not yet claimed their silks, but The Score vs The Journal is set to be a modern day Kauto v Denman.
The rules are simple. Pick a horse, four points for a win, two for the runner up, one point for any other place.
Want to join in and represent our readership? Tweet us @thescore_ie or drop a comment below… what’s the matter?
13.18 – All round top man, and father to a champion jockey, Ted Walsh has tipped Dylan Ross for the opening race, the Supreme Novices Hurdle.
Interesting call, you can get him at 25/1.
That race, by the by, is just 12 minutes away.
13.25 – So a quick reminder on the main runners in the 1.30:
AP McCoy rides the favourite, Darlan, who is at 6/1. Steps to Freedom is at sevens and Dermot Weld’s Galileos Choice is third favourite at 13/2. All very tempting.
Willie Mullins has three runners, Simenon (50/1) Allure of Illusion (40/1) and Midnight Game (18/1).
13.28 – Our man in Cheltenham hasn’t quite gotten his bearings / away from the bar yet but he did rattle off this text this morning before entering the fuselage.
13.30 – So before we hear the gun and that big Cheltenham roar, here are The Journal and The Score’s shout for race one.
The Journal: Tetlami
The Score: Steps to Freedom
13.32 – You hear that? The Supreme Novices’ two mile Hurdle is underway.
13.36 – Cinders and Ashes wins the the Supreme Novices’ what a start to the festival, that went down to the wire.
Result: 1st: Cinders and Ashes. 2nd: Darlan 3rd: Trifolium.
13.42 – The pressure is off trainer, Donald McCain, tells Channel Four, “He’s a special horse – this is special it makes the rest of the week a lot easier.”
13.45 – So a thrilling race to begin with, but not so good for The Journal and The Score’s tips, Steps to Freedom and Tetlami.
Neither really featured at the head of the pack.
13.52 – The Tizzard family are a jolly nice bunch. They are standing around Cue Card as he gets saddled up for the 2.05 Arkle Chase.
“We heard they (Sprinter Sacre and Al Ferof) were unbeatable, but we said we’d show up anyway”, he said with a wink.
13.59 – So aside from Cue Card we are, of course, faced with the first superstar of the festival Sprinter Sacre who many have hailed as the best thing since Istabraq – if not better.
He’s a hot favourite with Barry Geraghty in the saddle 5/6.
But hold up a minute, Ruby Walsh and Paul Nicholls are in tandem on Al Ferof. If anyone is going to pull of the upset it’s this combination at 7/2.
With only six contenders, the remaining runners are Menorah (9/1), Foildubh (66/1) and Willie Mullins’ Blackstairmountain (16/1) with Paul Townend in the saddle.
Can Sprinter Sacre be beaten?
14.02 – Dermot O’Leary is adding some cringe to the parade ring. Get him off!
14.05 – No surprises in this office: The Journal and the Score will cancel each other out, both have gone for the favourite.
A half dozen horses are on the track and awaiting starters orders…
14.06 – And they’re off in the Arkle.
14.08 – Half way there and the three favourites are in reverse order: Cue Card leads, then Al Ferof followed by sprinter Sacre.
14.10 – Sprinter Sacre wins at a canter.
Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport
Arkle result: 1st: Sprinter Sacre. 2nd Cue Card. 3rd Menorah.
Al Ferof was going well in second place, but made a bad mistake on the fourth from last and comes in fourth.
14.17 – Barry Geraghty was understandably very pleased, yet unsurprised after the win. He reiterated that this may wll be the best horse he’s ever saddled.
“Moscow (Flyer) would doss,” he said about the former Gold cup winner, “he’d only beat an average horse by a couple of lengths. This fella just goes.”
Geraghty was always well in control and once Al Ferof faltered he was absolutely imperious.
14.27 – So that result leaves the tipster competition mini-league looking a little like this:
The Score: 4
The Journal: 4
Ah now, we didn’t need a crystal ball for that one.
14.35 – The 2.40 is approaching and this is the chance to bookmakers to claim some dough back.
There is a huge field and McCririck tells us that there have only been three favourites to win since he was a lad.
The Journal team have put their money on Quantitativeeasing with AP mcCoy on board and trained by Noel Henderson.
We here at The Score fancy, The Package. The 13/2 favourite.
14.41 – Just as I say that, The Package is drifting and Hold on Julio is our new favourite at 11/2.
The weather has cleared a little and Channel Four is bringing us pictures from their big fat blimp.
They’re off in the JLT Handicap Chase.
This could get messy.
14.43 – Fruity Orooney travelling well and leads from Pentiffic coming up to halfway.
14.46 – No change in the front two as we near the last two jumps…
JLT result: 1st Alfie Sherrin. 2nd Fruity Orooney. 3rd Our Mick. 4th The Package.
14.52 – Well, our tip, The Package started badly but fought his way up into second with one to jump. By that stage, unfortunately the tank was empty.
Still, at least it leaves our tipster competition looking like this:
The Score: 5
The Journal: 4
14.56 – So there’s the first Irish winner. Jonjo O’Neill is bowled over with joy.
15.01 – OK, the big race of the day is just 20 minutes away. It’s the Champion Hurdle.
Who do you fancy?
15.09 – All the talk in the build up to this one is about ‘value’. In other words, Hurricane Fly is an odds-on favourite with Ruby Walsh on board.
Willie Mullins is the trainer of this horse, the winner of 10 grade 1 races.
Outside of him, AP McCoy is on the second favourite Binocular (9/2) and Paul Nicholls trains the 7/2 shot Zarkander.
Nicholls has four contenders here with Rock on Ruby, Brampour and Celestial Halo all in the mix.
Mullins’ secondary concern is Zaidpour.
15.12 – Rumour has it a punter at the track has put on £100,000 to win £80,000 on Hurricane.
We can’t argue with that. The Score predict Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh and Hurricane Fly.
The Journal, controversially, have opted for Binocular.
Oh, it’s on!
15.19 – Everyone is down at the starting line nice and early.
Reports are that Hurricane Fly has started sweating a bit – just warming up, I say.
Sure, didn’t Mike Tyson always come into the ring dripping wet….
15.21 – The Champion Hurdle is under way!
15.24 – Hurricane Fly well down the field. Overturn leads Cellestial Halo with three to jump.
15.26 – Rock on ruby wins the Champion Hurdle.
15.27 – Walsh kept Hurricane Fly back in the field for much of the race and looked to be making a charge, but Overturn and Rock on Ruby did not wilt.
Champion Hurdle result: 1st Rock on Ruby. 2nd Overturn. 3rd Hurricane Fly.
15.38 – Well, that was a disastrous one for punters. Hurricane Fly was one of the nailed-on bets for the week and many will have had him in accumulators.
Some guy in Cheltenham is down £100,000 too. I hope he could afford it and hasn’t just lost his house.
So, moving on from repossessions; our Tipster mini-league continues apace:
The Score: 6
The Journal: 4
15.42 – Alas, we’re nearing the end of day one and still nobody has been brave enough to interview Peter Casey.
Why ever could that be?
YouTube credit: JimJimNugent
15.49 – Stop wiping your tears away with beaten dockets. that next winner is just around the corner.
From here the day begins to wind down, but try telling that to the Mullins family. Paul will ride the 3/1 favourite Scotsirish in the Glenfarclas cross country handicap in 10 short minutes.
15.57 – Henry de Bromhead’s Sizing Australia (9/2) looks the biggest threat here.
Another Willie Mullins horses. Uncle Junior is 8/1, fourth favourite behind Balthazar King who has moved up to 6/1.
16.00 – We’re hearing that the jockey of Fruity Orooney who finished second in the JLT chase has been banned for a week for overuse of the whip.
16.01 – And they’re off!
16.02 – The Score and The Journal have each picked a Willie Mullins horse. Scotsirish for the newsroom and Uncle Junior for sport…
16.04 – Dancing Tornado has unseated his rider.
16.05 – Wedger Pardy leads coming up to half way. Balthazzar and Sizing Australia are close behind.
16.09 – Balthazar King wins by a nose ahead of A New Story.
16.11 – Glenfarclas Cross country result: 1st Balthazar King. 2nd A New Story. 3rd Wedger Pardy. 4th Sizing Australia.
16.14 – Hell of a result for Wedger Pardy, a 33/1 shot. Somebody will be happy with that one, but not us.
Meanwhile, our man trackside is feeling the pain of all his travelling countrymen.
16.25 – If you think that’s bad news spare a thought for The Journal’s pick, Scotsirish.
The Willie Mullins favourite was pulled up lame and has been ‘euthanized’, the poor auld divil.
It all amounts to no change in the mini-league.
The Score: 6
The Journal: 4
Here’s hoping Mullins has better fortune in the penultimate race of the day where Quevega is favourite with Ruby Walsh on board.
16.37 – Outside of Quevega (4/7) there is a long gap in the odds back to Shop DJ (10/1) with Davy Russell in the saddle.
Barry Geraghty rides Noel Henderson’s, Kells Belle (33/1) So there is plenty of value here for betting on a place or without the favourite.
But The Score is going for Ruby’s ride again.
16.42 – They’re underway and Quevega is biding his time.
16.42 – We’re hearing that it’s Our Girl Salley’s birthday today. Can it earn a gift of a win from 20/1? Good a call as any.
16.44 – Half way there and the 100/1 shot Dorabelle leads from Kells Belle.
16.46 – Quevega makes a late charge and wins. An overdue winner for Ireland.
OLBG Mares’ hurdle result: 1st Quevega. 2nd Kentford Grey lady 3rd Golden Sunbird. 4th Alasi.
16.57 – So with the last race of the day coming up, our tipsters mini-league looks like this.
The Score: 10
The Journal: 8
Eat my goal!
17.09 – Right the 5.15 is coming up. Are you chasing lost earnings or reinvesting winnings - I reckon most of us are firmly in the former camp.
Ruby walsh will be quickly changing his silks as he gets on board Paul Nicholls’ That’ll Do, which will set off at 12/1.
It’s a tightly bunched field this, in terms of odds. Hunt Ball is the 7/1 joint favourite with Bless The Wings, Triolo Dalene and at 8/1 is Carrickboy.
17.11 – And Carrickboy, trained by Venetia Williams, is The Score’s pick for the last race as we desperately claw to salvage back the rent money.
The Journal’s choice is Bless the Wings.
17.15 – Here we go the PLI Novices Handicap Chase, the last race of the day has begun.
17.17 – Ruby Walsh is unseated by That’ll Do.
17.19 – Vino Griego leads Cucumber Run at the half way point. Falcon Island, the long shot, is travelling well.
17.21 – Hunt Ball, the top-weighted favourite wins.
PLI Novices Handicap Chase result: 1st Hunt Ball. 2nd White Star line. 3rd Owen Glendower. 4th Battle Group. Some Bookies are paying on a 5th place, that was Ackertac.
17.36 – Well, I hope you all had a better day of betting than we did. It’s just about time for us to wrap this up.
Before I do, here’s the final standings of our Tipster Mini-league.
The Score: 10
The Journal: 8
Impressed? Us Neither.
Cheltenham Tuesday started off with a bang with a brilliant race in the Supreme Novices Hurdle and when Sprinter Sacre romped home it looked like being a good day for the punters. But you never see a bookie on a bike.
We’re off home to press our faces against a shop window and hope somebody takes pity and throws out some scraps.
Perhaps the tooth fairy will leave some money under the pillow so we can do it all again tomorrow.
Until then.. Goodbye.