Ruby Tuesday/Looking Forward to WednesdayIt was an amazing Day One here at the Cheltenham festival with jockey Ruby Walsh -- after missing most of the season due to injury -- winning three on the day, including Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle.
I got to the course early this morning and I had the pleasure of attending Channel Four's The Morning Line preview show. I had the opportunity to speak for a few minutes with pundit extraordinaire Nick Luck (who American racing fans will know from his excellent work on the Breeders' Cup telecasts).
I thought Cheltenham was crazy for me until I saw his dawn til past dusk schedule, power walking from one set to another, greeting people along the way like the Mayor of Cheltenham, stopping in between to make a writing deadline. Nick, I'm exhausted just watching you do your thing! Keep up the good work.
Day Two's first Grade 1s comes in Race 3, the Jewson Novices' Chase, run at 2 miles and 5 furlongs (considerably farther than yesterday's Arkle). Favored #10 TIME FOR RUPERT is the one for me, based on his obvious class and love of the Cheltenham chase course. There are mumbles that he wouldn't be out of place in Friday's Gold Cup and I like his chances here.
Race 4 is the feature, the 2 mile Queen Mother Champion Chase. This looks like a two horse race between Ireland's BIG ZEB and the UK's MASTER MINDED, both of whom have won this race before. Based on the state of the ground, which I thought produced good ground times yesterday, I have to go with BIG ZEB, who seems better suited to those conditions than MASTER MINDED, whose only three defeats have come on good ground. However, watch the weather. At the moment it looks like it might pour -- this was NOT in the forecast -- and that could really turn things around.
Race 7 is the 24 runner, 2 mile, Grade 1 Champion Bumper. As mentioned yesterday, a bumper is a flat race for jump bred horses, and this race can produce future jumping stars. I'll be honest with you -- I haven't done nearly enough tape study to properly tip this race. But I will tell you that I happened to run into one of the owners from the Winning Ways Racing Syndicate last night, at the Plough in Prestbury (my favorite Cheltenham Pub). He says that his horse, #16 RAISE THE BEAT, is doing well and will love the ground (assuming these dark clouds go away and it stays good). Look: back home I wouldn't be caught dead passing along a tip I heard in a pub. But this is Cheltenham, and that's just how they do things here.
One more Plough related tip: I was completely stymied in my efforts to get a taxi last night and received help from an unlikely source. I'll tell the whole story in a later blog but for now just know I'll be rooting like crazy in Race 2, the 2 mile 5 furlong Neptune Novices' Hurdle, for #3 FIRST LIEUTENANT. He has every chance on form as well.
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