Sadly no chance of being at the Greatest Show on Turf this year, but as I dream of donning the overcoat, badge and shiny shoes once more I still can’t help being hooked on the emotion, the history and the sheer joy of witnessing the best National Hunt horses in the business go hoof-to-hoof around Prestbury Park.
My Tent Or Yours can lay it down to them in the opener and defy his cramped odds, with Irish hopes Jezki and Champagne Fever the major threats.
By 2.05 Simonsig should be making it two from two for the maestro that is N J Henderson and I don’t think it will be either Overturn or Arvika Ligeonniere chasing him up the hill, but instead Lucinda Russell’s 28/1 shot Tap Might under A P McCoy.
At 2.40 we have what is usually one of the top three most competitive staying handicap chases on the calendar. A field of 24 line up for this three mile and half furlong contest and with a fast pace assured the winner is going have to stay every inch of that trip. For me, White Star Line has been ultra-consistent and should at least make the frame, while Monkerty Tunkerty is short-list material, though I am going to take the former plus the improving Nuts N Bolts (28/1) to be at least placed. With some luck in running then we may see one of them home in front.
The 3.20 is the feature on day one, the Stan James Champion Hurdle and Hurricane Fly can repeat the feat only previously achieved by Comedy Of Errors (1973 & ’75) in regaining his lost crown for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh. Zarkandar looks a big threat if ‘The Fly’ is below par, as was the case this time last year, while Countrywide Flame looks the each way value.
With the Cross Country Chase now postponed until Thursday, we’ll move on to the 4.40, the Mares’ Hurdle. Look no further than the great Quevega for a fifth successive win here. She looks banker material again and I fancy Swing Bowler to follow her up that mighty hill.
Finally on day one, the 5.15 is the Listed Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase and Colour Squadron looks open to plenty of improvement, the first of which we can see today. The Druids Nephew is an interesting contender, though at a price Johns Spirit can go well for the Jonjo O’Neill yard that does so well at the Festival in these type of races.
A fantastic afternoon ahead. Enjoy!