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Cheltenham Festival Day One, as it happened
JOE watched and sweated through all the races at the Cheltenham Festival so you didn’t have to. Here’s how Day One unfolded live.

So Day One over already. You wait all year and then it flys by eh? Anyway, the big news form an Irish point of view was the poor run of Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle, which took down so many accumulators and ensured the bookies had a good day. The race was won by Rock On Ruby, a very fine run by a classy horse.

The other bankers, Sprinter Sacre and Quevega romped home but the bookies still won the day. Irish dominance of the Cross Country ended with the win of Phillip Hobbs' Balthazar King and the same man took the opener, the Supreme Novices’ with Cinders and Ashes.

Thanks for staying with us and we will be back here tomorrow with all the news and views on Day Two, from 12.00.


Massive reception in the winner's enclosure for Hunt Ball. Marvellous scenes. Returned the 13/2 favourite under top weight.


Owen Glendower was third at 33s and Battle Group was the same price in fourth.


Whoops of delight here as we had first and second. Nearly all losses covered and if Hurricane Fly had delivered it would have been a red letter day. Ah well, that final race softened the blow of a tough day.


Hunt Ball wins, White Star Line in second.


Cucumber Run continues to lead but he is an erratic jumper to say the least.


We're off. Ruby and That'll Do are last. And they fall. Horse and jockey okay. Phew.


Bit of a gamble on Venetia Williams' Carrickboy, in from 12s this morning to 8s now. Nicely handicapped.


Oh yes, Joey Barton has tweeted to remind the world that his treble, which didn't have Hurricane Fly, has landed two legs (Sprinter Sacre and Quevega). He just needs Triolo D'Alene to come in now. Don't know if you will be cheering on Henderson's charge now or not.


The final one of the day is a Novices' Handicap Chase, not exactly the sort of race where you would like to be trying to cover your losses.

Still, Hunt Ball and Bless The Wings are exchanging favouritism if you want to try and be careful. Both are around the 7/1 mark and you can make cases for both. Hunt Ball has come up an incredible 73 pounds in the ratings and is top weight for this one but those in the know say that he is well able for it.

Bless The Wings comes from Alan King and a win at Cheltenham in January seems to be the reason why he's fancied. If you're looking for a bit of value, White Star Line at 16s might give you a run for your money. They're off in 15 minutes.


A win for Ireland, Mullins and Walsh. Normal service resumes. Just one left on the card, stay with us folks.


Golden Sunbird, at 66/1, took third.


Quevega does it. The class act of the race. Kentford Grey Lady looked to get second so hopefully you made some back Each Way there but it was a massive bunch finish after Quevega.


Three flights left, still dawdling. This is gonna be a massive sprint finish.


All bunched up, not going a great pace. Quevega in around 10th place.


We're off in the Mares' Hurdle. All over the first safely.


The question on Twitter now is 'is there something up with the Mullins yard?' If Quevega doesn't win this one, that chatter will become much louder. Think it's nonsense but a lot of people just so puzzled by Hurricane's run that they are clutching at straws.

Shop DJ is the one getting the money before this one, now into 10s.


Desperately sad news as both Garde Champetre & Scotsirish had to be destroyed after the last race. A rotten day for Irish racing fans so far. C'mon Quevega.


Surely, surely, the first Irish winner, and the first for Mullins and Walsh, will be Quevega in the Mares' Hurdle. The last part of many accumulators, including my own, this is now a race maybe to just watch as the four-time champion is odds-on everywhere now.

However, if you are getting a little desperate to nab a winner Shane is advising we back Kentford Grey Lady at 16s. What A Charm looks big at 33/1 for a horse that won the Fred Winter last year. Ropey form this year but we might have a nibble at that price.


First English winner of the race. Balthazar King wins at 11/2, was 14s this morning. A New Story was 20/1, 33/1 for Wedger Pardy and Sizing Australia was 5/1.

Great Britain has five wins, zero to us at the moment.


Balthazar King wins a thrilling finish, just beating A New Story by a head. Wedger Pardy was third and Sizing Australia faded to take fourth


Double Dizzy and Dream Alliance lose thier riders. Sizing Australia looks good. Two to go.


Pricewise doesn't know everything, as Dancing Tornado unseats JT McNamara. Jockey is fine.


Scotsirish ducked out early. More misery for Mullins


Ireland has won all seven runnings of the Cross Country. Can we do it again? There off...


Nice one from Daniel McDonnell


Right only ten minutes to the next one setting off, the Cross Country Chase. Mullins suffered a shock defeat in the last one, can he bounce back in this one? He has Scotsirish and Uncle Junior but then twice winner of this one Garde Champetre goes again aged 13 and Sizing Australia also runs.

Scotsirish is the favourite (3/1) but there are concerns over him going the distance. Perhaps we need to listen to Pricewise and go for Dancing Tornado, now 11s.


I have been *reminded* by my editor Shane Breslin that he tipped up Rock On Ruby way back in January. Here's the proof. I may well listen to him for the rest of the week now.


Sums up the mood of most punters well I think. So upset he can't even spell. We are similarly afflicted.


Okay folks, chin up, there's still time to make some money back. The Cross Country is off at 4.00 and we will preview that for you in a few, once we stop crying onto our keyboard over Hurricane Fly. Still, at least we didn't lump £110,000 on Willie Mullins horse like on punter did according to Twitter.


Inquest into what happened Hurricane Fly will begin now but he looked flat compared to most of his other 10 Grade 1 wins. Bookies win, again.


Paul Nicholls first ever Champion Hurdle success. Who saw that coming eh?


Bookies dancing as the majority of punters are left broken. Could be a quiet weeek from here on. Rock On Ruby returned at 11/1. Great win for Noel Fehily.


Rock On Ruby takes it!! He was just too strong, Overturn superb in second, Hurricane third just couldn't go with the pace. Binocular nowhere.


Two left to jump pace is increasing and Hurricane is being worked now. Rock On Rubi in the lead


No major moves, all travelling well as Overturn sets the pace


As expected Overturn leads. Hurricane and Binocular tucked in at the back. They are going a fair old lick...


And we’re off in the Champion Hurdle...


Horses are circling the start so here's the last bit of news. Binocular into 4s as reports of massive bets in the betting ring on Hurricane start to emerge. Massive race this for finances on both sides of the book.


Bit of news as Fruity O'Rooney's rider, Jamie Moore, gets a seven-day ban for his use of the whip on the runner up in the 2.40.


Hurricane now 4/6. Ouch!


Bit of money coming in for Overturn and Zaidpour. Overturn has the flat pace to lead them out but he surely couldn't hold on to win while Zaidpour has been in great form this year but the going may be too good. Still if you really want an outsider they are priced at 20s and 25s respectively.


Five of the top six trending subjects on Twitter in Ireland relate to Cheltenham. The other relates to Paddy's Day. Possibly the most Irish looking trending list we have ever seen. And no sign of One Direction or Jedward. God bless Cheltenham.


Hurricane Fly beat Binocular by nine lengths when they last met at Punchestown in May and most observers expect the same again. Also there are countless accumulators on the line if Hurricane loses. The bookies will be willing Binocular home.

The more brave among you may fancy Zarkander or Rock On Ruby and Robbie Power believes that Oscars Well (16s in places) could land in the money.


The big story of Day One is the battle between the reigning champion Hurricane Fly and the 2010 champ Binocular in the Champion Hurdle. Henderson’s Binocular missed last year’s Festival so we want to see these two do battle.

The consensus is that Hurricane is the real deal, an Istabraq in the making, while Binocular has gone backwards. We shall soon see.


Pricewise in the Racing Post tipped Alfie Sherrin this morning and he was available at 25/1. He was 14/1 when he set off. If you want to follow him, he has tipped Dancing Tornado in the 4.00...

Great win for Jonjo O'Neill and a first ever Festival success for jockey Richie McLernon.

We'll start the build up to the Champion Hurdle in a mo...


Winner for JP McManus, Alfie Sherrin jumped superbly and won at 14/1. Fruity O'Rooney was second after such a brave run. Our Mick was third and The Package took fourth. Hurricane next...


Alfie Sherrin just takes it, beating long-time leader Fruity O'Rooney in the final stages. Great race but no joy for the backers in this office.


Tullamore Dew struggling, Pentiffic makes a mistake


Eleven to go, all still upright. Mon Mome near the back.


We're off, three miles, 19 fences. Good luck...


Hold On Julio also getting some support. Can Alan King get off the mark? Slightly dodgy jumper though so if you fancy a thrilling ride get on him.


The other one to watch in this one is David Pipe's The Package. Second in this race in 2010 he hasn't run since November of that year but he is being aimed at the Grand National so the distance, or the fences, shouldn't bother him here. Yours for 6/1.


For those of you with an eye to next year already, Sprinter Sacre is 6/4 for the 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase!


In case you were wondering, Quantitativeeasing is the favourite now. Can Henderson go back-to-back? With AP on board? Tempting at 6/1...


Right next up is the JLT Speciality Handicap Hurdle. It might be a Grade 3 but there’s some class in here. We have heard people make cases for almost all the 19 runners but we are putting our paltry punts on Tullamore Dew and Magnanimity.


He's not off until 3.20 but these boys are giving Hurricane their full support


So the first of the bankers delivers. Bookies are sweating now. Barry Geraghty called the ride "unbelievable". Cue Card was the only challanger. Menorah took third and Al Ferof never recovered from making a mess of a big fence three from home.

Nicky Henderson now has 40 winners at the Festival.


Sprinter Sacre is the real deal alright! Awesome winner of the Arkle, Cue Card second. Barry Geraghty barely touched him. Super jumping too.


Mistake by Al Ferof leaves Sprinter Sacre clear. Three from home


All jumping well, eight to go. Cue Card leads Al Ferof


And we're off in the Arkle...


Wille Carson has described Sprinter Sacre as potentially "the Muhammed Ali of horse racing" whatever that means and X Factor's Dermot O'Leary is now on the telly talking about racing. He fancies Cue Card and Al Ferof.


Just watching some of Sprinter Sacre's jumping there. Wow, he does look hard to beat


Donald McCain post-race interview on Cinders and Ashes success in the opener: "That was magic. He's a fair horse. I wasn't sure if he'd be as good on that ground but he's a bit like Peddlers Cross - he's a tool." We're sure he meant it as a compliment.


The others going to post are Cue Card, Menorah, Blackstairmountain and Foildubh but this seems to be a two-horse race in some eyes, one in most.


Aboard the odds-on favourite is Barry Geragthy and the Irish jockey has described him as the best he has ever ridden. Al Ferof beat him here last year but can he do it again? Looking at the market, nobody thinks so.


Right, the first of the bankers is up next, as Sprinter Sacre looks to take the Arkle. He faces five others, of which Al Ferof is the big challenger.


Well, how did that go for you folks? Not a great race for us in here but we move on and we will begin to build up to the Arkle in a few minutes.


Galileo's Choice, Steps To Freedom and Midnight Chase never challenged. The winner came home at 10/1.


Cinders and Ashes hit the last but won well. Darlan second, Trifolium third and Montbazon nabbed fourth I think.


Cinders and Ashes takes it for Donald McCain


Bunched up with three to go...


Steps To Freedom and Galileo's Choice near the rear of the field. Nothing to worry about right? Five to jump.


Agent Archie the early leader


There’s the roar and away we go!


Irish horses now the top two in the market. Are we going to get off to a good start in the chase to beat last year's Irish tally of 13. Horses are lining up...


Weld's horse, Galileo's Choice, now the 6/1 favourite. Huge money must be flooding in for him.


Jessica Harrington, trainer of Steps To Freedom, very happy with the ground and sounding positive on the telly. We hope she's right...


Galileo's Choice is now vying with Darlan for favouritism. I think it's safe to say nobody knows who's going to win the opener.


Steps To Freedom now joint favourite at 6/1 with Darlan in places. Hope you got him when he was a bit bigger!


And the last bit of advice/head wrecking info is that Noel Meade's Dylan Ross, at 25/1, is probably the best bet each-way according to Ted Walsh. Confused. Good. Get used to it. That's how you're supposed to feel during the Festival.


But Dermot Weld’s miserable run at the Festival has to end soon and Galileo’s Choice is getting some strong support, with the better ground expected to suit him. Ruby Walsh is aboard Prospect Wells and after a wind operation a few months ago (on the horse, not Ruby), he could get Walsh off to a slightly unexpected flyer.

And we have also been reminded that the last 12 winners of this race have run in the last 45 days, putting our fancy Steps To Freedom, out of action since November, in trouble. Oh dear.


Okay, as the opener looms into sight let’s look at the Supreme Novices. The ante-post talk has all been about AP McCoy and Darlan. But support for him has softened, especially after a bad fall at Newbury last time out.

An amazing stat is that the last 53 horses that came to Cheltenham on the back of a fall failed to win. Yikes.

We have been hearing positive vibes about Steps Of Freedom for a while now and the man in the saddle today, Robbie Power, was on The Morning Line today and he was very bullish about his chances.

Alan King’s yard is in super form so Montbazon has to be in the reckoning. We have a few euro each-way on him and Steps To Freedom and if the result falls right, we will have a tidy boost to our Festival fund.


Okay folks, about 30 minutes until the off. Now's the time to grab lunch, visit the little boy's room or do anything else of importance. The next few hours are going to be hectic...


Nevermind the Hurricane, Dancing Tornado in the Cross Country Chase has come in from 28 to 14s. The exchanges are also going negative on Mullins' Scots Irish in the same race.


And if you are looking for some Placepot pointers, we have them for you here. Good luck!


Looking at the opener, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the one on the drift is Mullins' Midnight Game. He's out to 20s in some places. Seems a bit large to me but Mullins said this morning he didn't sparkle in his work so that probably accounts for the flood of money away.


The Tote pools are building up nicely, with the Jackpot pool set to hit £300,000 and the Placepot pool is heading for the £1m mark. If you fancy getting in for a slice, all the details are here.


The BBC are reporting that Mick Fitzgerald is another Tullamore Dew fan and he's one of the former jockey's tips of the day. The other is Triolo d'Alene in the last.


One non-runner to report in the 4.40. Belle De Fontenay. She woke up stiff this morning. You can make your own jokes can't you?


Probably the biggest market mover so far is David Pipe's The Package. Tipped up by Pricewise in today's Racing Post to take the JLT Handicap, he has come in from 13/2 this morning to sit at 5s in some places. We still like Dessie Hughes' Magnanimity while Tullamore Dew has been tipped to us by everyone today. Decision, decisions...


Probably more famous now for his love of racing than actually playing football, Michael Owen offers up this advice...

... while Wexford footballer Aindreas Doyle fancies Tetlami, Al Ferof, The Package and Hurricane Fly. Are we helping or hindering you here?


For what it's worth, here's Joey Barton's tips of the day. We will have a few others we have found on Twitter for you later


We will let you know through the day what we have backed here in JOE Towers so please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail us at shout@joe.ie to let us know what you are on and any other tips you may have. Also let us know the ones you are avoiding and why.


How Hurricane Fly does in the Champion Hurdle will probaby dictate how many of us feel after day one but the treble that half the country seems to be on is Sprinter Sacre/ Hurricane Fly/Quevega. If that comes the week is going to be a good one. If you got it at 5s well done, that seems hard to find now.

Bookies who opened up at Evs on both Sprinter Sacre and Hurricane Fly have now gone odds on as money floods in on the bankers. Quevega is a steady 1/2 to win a fourth Mares' Hurdle.


Good afternoon everybody and welcome to JOE's live blog of Day One of the Cheltenham Festival. We plan to bring you all the latest news, market moves, results, advice, craic and reaction from the biggest National Hunt festival in the world each day.

Today is the day when all the focus is on Hurricane Fly, Willie Mulins' star hurdler, but today's card is packed with quality. All we have to do now is pick our way through it.

We will update you wih all the market moves in a minute but first the going is described as good, good to soft and we are told by those in the know that is should suit the Irish raiders. Good news then for us patriotic punters

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