Viva la Cheltenham Fiesta
At half past one on Tuesday afternoon the Cheltenham Festival 2012 should be in full swing and what a festival lies in store. With grade one races in abundance, an aggregate attendance of almost a quarter of a million and the weather picking up, this is certainly an event that all racing fans should be looking forward to.
The Festival will reach a climax on Friday with the Gold Cup where two of racing’s greats meet for yet another duel. Long Run, last year’s winner, will be seeking to retain his title and to become the first racehorse to do so since the infamous Best Mate. Standing in the way of the Geraghty trained Long Run will be no less than the five times King George VI and Gold Cup winner Kauto Star.
Whilst there has been news from the Nicholls camp that Kauto Star has been recovering from a niggling injury you write the king off at your peril. Racing UK appeared far too daring in offering £240 refunds to any subscribers of the channel if Kauto Star does take the spoils on Friday. Another mount of interest in the race is Quel Espirit who has been churning out the victories for fun over in Ireland. Despite some stiff competition however, it will take an upset for the old guard to falter and Long Run does still seem the one to beat over the 3 miles and 2 furlongs.
There is no need to wait until Friday for a race oozing with class however. Day 1 of the festival will host the Supreme Novices Hurdle which is the opener, the Arkle and the Champion Hurdle.
The Supreme Novices’ seems hotly contested with all leading trainers and jockeys present as well as little separating the top three favourites who are Darlan, Steps to Freedom and Galileo’s choice. The latter catches the eye most in this one on the basis that Darlan seemed shaky and was a faller in his latest run out whilst Steps to Freedom hasn’t been tested since November last year.
The Arkle will see the formidable Sprinter Sacre vying for his fourth straight win; a horse who has never failed to place in 9 starts seems frighteningly potent. Al Ferof is the second favourite but it is unlikely that Ruby Walsh will be able to overturn a poor run at Ascot in January by overcoming the favourite.
The feature race of the day, the Champion Hurdle sees the long anticipated return of the Geraghty/McCoy led Binocular and the unbeaten Zarkandar take to the field but this race seems all about Hurricane Fly. He has not even come close to losing since 2009 and won a grade 1 at Leopardstown in January barely even getting out of first gear.
Others to look out for at the meeting include the all conquering Big Bucks who goes in search of an astonishing and record breaking 16th consecutive victory in Thursday’s World Hurdle, Grand Crus in the RSA chase and also Captain Chris if it is decided that he runs in Wednesday’s Ryanair Chase rather than the Gold Cup.
Let the green be sported and the Guinness flow; by the time it is St Patrick’s Day there is no doubt that we will have witnessed one of the greatest sporting spectacles of the calendar.