A reminder that this time tomorrow the Paddy Power Official Festival Preview will be kicking off at Cheltenham Racecourse. Full details can be found on the Cheltenham and Three Counties website. If you can’t make it to The Centaur then you can read a live report of the event here. So visit this time tomorrow for all the tips, news and gossip as it happens.
Despite the grey skies there had been no rain yet today and the ground continues to dry out with Clerk of the Course, Simon Claisse reporting Good going on the old course and cross-country course. The going on the new course remains good to soft (good in places).
For easy reference here is the full Cheltenham Festival 2008 race schedule:
First Day – Tuesday, 11 March (Old Course)
2.00 Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
2.35 Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase
3.15 Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
4.00 William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase
4.40 BGC Cross Country Chase
5.20 Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle
Second Day – Wednesday, 12 March (Old Course)
2.00 Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle
2.35 Royal & SunAlliance Chase
3.15 Queen Mother Champion Chase
4.00 Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle)
4.40 Peter O’Sullevan National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup
5.20 Weatherbys Champion Bumper
Third Day – Thursday, 13 March (New Course)
2.00 Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase
2.35 Ryanair Chase
3.15 Ladbrokes World Hurdle
4.00 Racing Post Plate Handicap Chase
4.40 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
5.20 Pertemps Final (Handicap Hurdle)
Fourth Day – Friday, 14 March (New Course)
2.00 JCB Triumph Hurdle
2.35 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
3.15 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup
4.00 Christie’s Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup
4.35 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup
5.10 David Nicholson Mares Only Hurdle
5.20 Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle
Good to see more confidence behind Celestial Halo (Triumph Hurdle) and Theatre Girl (Mares) today with the former now available at a best price 6/1 and the latter at a standout 11/2 with Corals. Also, encouraging to see Dave Nevison echo my views on Exotic Dancer in the Racing Channel Festival Preview that is running on Sky Channel 432. The reasons behing these selections can be found in the Festival Tips post.
On Friday I’ll be blogging live from the Centaur at Cheltenham Racecourse with the all the news, info and gossip from the Official Preview. I can confirm that the event will be chaired by Mike Cattermole (Commentator and Channel 4 Racing) and that the guests will be Alan King (Trainer), Mick Fitzgerald (Commentator), Tom Segal (Pricewise of the Racing Post) and Paul Ryan (Paddy Power). Tickets will be available on the door at £20 but if you can’t make it read the action here as it happens. Kick off is approximately 7.30pm.
Simon Claisse will decide on Thursday whether to continue the current program of watering. A very tricky decision this. The outcomes he doesn’t want are: 1) No watering and no rain as this will mean good ground or 2) Watering and rain which could potentially mean false ground. The best outcomes are 3) Watering and no rain 4) No watering and rain with the latter the best option of all four. Personally, I think he will water so hopefully it won’t rain!
My fancy for the Ballymore Properties Novice Hurdle is as low as 4/1 (11/2 still available) having been recommended here at 8/1. Forpadydeplasterer was well backed today following an excellent performance by tablemate River Liane at Leopardstown yesterday.
Tomorrow, VC Bet, Skybet and Tote go non-runner-no bet so you can have a bet safe in the knowledge that if your horse doesn’t run at the Festival you get your stake money back. Also, no rule 4 so no reductions if other horses don’t run so a great concession. The only 2 major bookmakers yet to fall into line at Hills – who will go non-runner-no bet on Thursday – and Ladbrokes who I understand are holding out until Saturday. If you are having a bet don’t bet with these 2 firms until they offer the concession.
Theatre Girl has been steadily backed since betting opened on the new David Nicholson Mares Hurdle and she’s now into a best price 11/2, having been recommended here at 7/1. As stated in my Festival tips post, trainer Alan King would love to win this for his former boss. There will be great scenes in the winners enclosure if he pulls it off.
A top-up to my Festival tips with Sam Thomas to be top jockey at 12/1 which is generally available. Sam has terrific prospects on Denman and Twist Magic plus will have the pick of Paul Nicholls horses after Ruby Walsh has decided his mount. OK, so he gets what could appear to be the second string but such is the strength in depth of the Ditcheat yard that he’ll have some terrific rides, especially in the handicaps. He is certainly not 12 times less likely to be top jockey than Ruby who is trading at around evens so this is definetely a value bet.