Ladbrokes' Hayley O'Connor marks your card for Day One of Cheltenham live from the course
Hayley gives you the lowdown on the mood at Prestbury Park this morning, and she has some top tips for you too. Jerry Flannery makes his picks too.
I'm writing this as I look out over the winner's enclosure and I'm desperately trying to envisage just who will be parading here later on. I'm hoping the Irish flag will be flying high but I'm also fearing a bad day for the bookies that may have us on the ropes just one day into battle.
But that isn't what this blog is about; its purpose is to give you some winners and as a rare fan of favourites, hopefully at some big prices too.
The opening race, the Supreme Novices (1.30), is a quagmire in my opinion and I'm really struggling to nail my colours to the mast on this one. Irving is no doubt a speedy Gonzales, his relations have scored highly on the flat and he's had a good season, but there is a question of whether he will stay. Willie Mullins' Vautour is unbeaten in three but I'm not convinced he'll show his best on this better ground and the stable's other contender Wicklow Brave undoubtedly has talent but his jumping is dodge from time to time. Gilgamboa could run into a place but there's nothing I can say with confidence that I believe will win the race.
So onto the next - the Arkle (2.05). I'm going to have to call a spade a spade here and say this does not appear a vintage renewal folks and I am going to take on the favourite. Champagne Fever performs superbly at this course and did a cracking piece of work after racing at Leopardstown, so if you've backed him - don't panic. However, his jumping isn't spectacular. So... I'm going for the generously priced Ted Veale (16/1) each way. "What the...?" I hear you say. Well here are my reasons;
-versatile on the ground, many of the Irish runners this week will not have performed yet this season on this going
-finished ahead of the favourite in a Grade 1 at Punchestown behind Jezki
-has the important course form having won the County Hurdle at the festival last year.
- has speed, which he showed when fourth in the Ebor on the flat.
- made his chasing debut in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham when third to Dodging Bullets
-these we're followed by two disappointing runs, but were on heavy ground and I believe he'll improve significantly on this surface.
My final word in this is that his trainer Tony Martin is a shrewd fox, I say that with respect, and he's not running him here for no reason.
I've spoken already in previous blogs on the Champion Hurdle (3.20) and I think the only value left in the race is Jezki (8/1) each way. Barry Geraghty seems to bring out the best in this horse and the application of a hood along with a faster run race, might just see him spring a surprise.
Hopefully we get some money in our pockets, no doubt many of you will have doubled up on Hurricane Fly and Quevega; and despite not being my selections, I'd love to see a victory for both. Hurricane Fly, I believe, is the most likely winner of the Champion, but at his current odds (7/2), I won't get rich, while at odds-on, wonder mare Quevega will only get me out of trouble.
Hopefully this week I'll have more winners that Jerry Flannery, who I've given a grand to in charity bets for MS Ireland. Although I want him to win as much as possible for the good cause, my ego will be dented if I prove to know less about backing horses than he does.
— Jerry Flannery (@jerryflannery) March 11, 2014
Ciao and Happy Cheltenham!
Don't forget to check back here at around 1.00 today as when will kick off our bumper live blog of the day's action, with all the tips, advice, craic and winners from Day One of Cheltenham 2014.