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    Cheltenham Blog  -  Day One, 14th March 2011    
    DATE POSTED: 14/03/2011    
    For the 2011 Cheltenham Festival, private handicapper Ryan H provides a daily blog with his views, selections and horses to consider...

My journey will start on Tuesday morning with a pocket full of money and a soul full of hope, on the way to my favourite place in the world. My plans have been that well arranged that I don't even know which hotel I am staying in yet!

The first day of the 2011 Cheltenham festival is predicted to start on ground far quicker than has been the case in previous years. It has to bourn in mind that this may play into the hands of the speedy types as opposed to the out and out stayers. So onto the races:

The first race, the SUPREME NOVICE HURDLE is a race I rarely get too stuck into due to the lack of form on offer. Although a horse who has taken my eye in the race is SPIRIT SON (Generally an 11/2 chance).  He is a classy looking horse who has the action to go on the predicted better ground even though he has raced on nothing faster than soft.  A sneaky outsider in the race could come in the form of MAGENS STAR, a once 97 rated mare when contesting listed and group races on the flat. The ground would be a slight concern but she has done nothing wrong in two easy wins over hurdles and the 25/1 available is a big each-way price.

The second race of the day is the ARKLE CHASE.  There appear to be only three horses with the necessary class to take this race and they are the three at the head of the market, Medermit, Ghizao and Finians Rainbow.  Preference is for MEDERMIT who fits the bill in many ways.  He likes the track, handles quicker ground, stays further than the 2 miles, is a graded chase winner and is a French bred horse (Only once in the past 10 years has a French bred not made the frame).  Despite being a short price at around 11/4 he is the horse which looks most likely to lift the prize.

The STEWART FAMILY SPINAL RESEARCH HANDICAP CHASE is the third race on the card and is always a competitive handicap in which only two favourites in the past 30 years have won the race.  With that in mind, mixed with the fact that this race has been kind to novices in the past, a chance is taken with ADAM'S ISLAND at the juicy odds of 25/1. He has raced six times over fences, won two and been placed three times (including behind festival fancies Captain Chris & Wymott) and his rider is value for his 5lbs claim.

The days feature race is the fourth race on the card the CHAMPION HURDLE. This years race will see many of the key trends for picking the winner of this race thrown out of the window as none of the 11 runners fit the bill of the ideal candidate, or have had interrupted preparations. HURRICANE FLY may prove to be the best bet in the race. He is unbeaten in his last four starts (all Grade 1's), stays the trip well, has won on quicker ground and his trainer Willie Mullins has had his horses in top form leading up to the festival. His jockey Ruby Walsh certainly knows his way around Cheltenham so at 4/1 he will be my selection in this tricky looking race.

CROSS COUNTRY CHASE gives us the fifth race.  A race dominated by the Irish in recent times, who have had a 1-2-3-4 three times in the past six years. All the trends and form point to GARDE CHAMPETRE and I have to agree with them both.  A horse who has won this race twice in the past, has had a perfect campaign leading up to the race and has the services of his usual, and very decent pilot, Nina Carberry. I think 9/2 looks a big price for a horse who is a more than likely the winner.

Only the fourth ever running of the
MARES HURDLE form the six race on the card. The race has been won the last two years by QUEVEGA and she looks all set to win again. She is always kept very fresh for this race and is lightly raced. She goes on any ground and it is difficult to find any of the opposition that on form should beat her. She has been backed this week and is now 10/11 best price but that fairly reflects her chance.

The final race on the card is the
CENTENARY NOVICE HANDICAP CHASE.  Very much a pin in the paper contest. A horse who looks to have been campaigned with a race of this nature in mind is ON BORROWED WINGS. He was progressive earlier in the season over fences until finding three miles too far at Doncaster.  He has now been dropped to the preferred 2m 4f and comes here off the back of a solid run over hurdles, that was possibly used to protect his very fair chase handicap mark. So at 12/1 he is my selection.


As expected, the first day of the Cheltenham festival 2011 looks as competitive and as classy as ever.  Two horses look likely winners to me: GARDE CHAMPETRE and QUEVEGA.  They may not be huge prices but if they do the business they should provide enough in winnings to carry us through the rest of this fantastic festival.

Don't miss Day Two of Ryan's Cheltenham Blog, available on read on Tuesday evening - only at Ownaracehorse. 

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