TUESDAY PREVIEWThere really aren't any small races at Cheltnham, but today the Festival kicks off with three of the biggest big ones: The Supreme Novices' Hurdle (G1, 2 1/16 miles), The Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase(a G1 for Novice Chasers, 2 miles) and the day's feature race, The Champion Hurdle (2 1/16 miles), the race I wrote about in my previous post which was won by the great Rooster Booster in 2003.
Before we get to the tips, here's a little bit of background for the uninitiated. Hurdles are smaller obstacles, as compared to the larger Steeplehase fences. Sometimes horses will go on from Hurdle races to Chases but classwise, Hurdling isn't any better or worse than Chasing, it's just different, emphasizing a different skill set for the horses, with the former putting a bit more emphasis on speed and the latter being a little more oriented toward jumping ability. The same jockeys ride both types of races.
Novice races are races for less experienced runners, but they still hold a tremendous amount of prestige -- sort of like big stakes races restricted to three-year-olds in the USA. They're not the best of the best like the bigest Cheltenham events for the more experienced runners, but they are still championship events.
In today's first race, #2 CUE CARD looks a deserving favorite to me. He stamped himself as a contender for this prize a year ago when he blew the doors off the field in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham (a Bumper is a flat race for inexperienced jump-bred horses). Last time, he found MENORAH too difficult but that runner is among the favorites in the Champion Hurdle and CUE CARD faces only novices here. Big chance to get things off to a rollicking start for trainer Colin Tizzard and his son Joe, who rides this beast.
In Race 2, the Arkle, I am interested to take a shot with a little bit of a price, #7 REALT DUBH, an improving horse who comes off a win in the Irish equivalent of this race.
In Race 4, the Champion Hurdle, there is a classic Irish-English tussle (more on that idea later in another post) between Eire's #4 HURRICANE FLY and the home team's #6 MENORAH. I don't know where to land here, and will use the prices and paddock to finalize my selection (check back via my Twitter feed for more on how that turns out) but if forced to make a pick now, I'd go with #4 HURRICANE FLY.