1740: And that team - is that. The wifi is playing up so I'm going to call it a day and head home for gammon, bitter and not a hint of red wine. Been a wonderful day, Quevega and Hunt Ball remarkable stories in their own right, we have a ne champion hurdler but the moment of the day for me has to be Sprinter Sacre. Very, very special. Thanks for all your help and we'll be back bright and even breezier around 0830 GMT on the morrow.
1735: What a remarkable story - and no fluke about it. Has a horse ever improved like this? BHA handicapper Phil Smith thinks not. "It's a great result, they've campaigned the horse very openly and the horse has just kept improving and improving. I've never known a horse improve like this, it's an incredible story," he said.
1715 Result:1st 1 Hunt Ball (IRE) 13-2 F
2nd 11 White Star Line (IRE) 14-1
3rd 9 Owen Glendower (IRE) 33-1<4th 5 Battle Group 33-1
1707: Bless The Wings for me - looks rock-solid each-way.
1705: Hunt Ball has been a remarkable story this season but it will be a terrific performance to give the weight away. Owner Anthony Knott is expecting fireworks though and says: "He'll go out and do a Sprinter Sacre, I promise you."
1700: "She's an extraordinary mare. She has lots of talent and even when some of the others horses aren't running up to scratch she brings her A game. It's fantastic. She's improving and we're looking forward to next year. We'll go back to Punchestown and have a look at the French Champion Hurdle too. I'm happy and very relieved," says Willie Mullins of Quevega's success.
1650: Sanity is restored, Quevega wins the OLBG Mares Hurdle for the fourth successive season. The 4-7 favourite was always cantering and while short of room turning in, found her way to the front at the last. Ruby Walsh, who had endured a frustrating day, showed real delight as she sprinted past the line.
1st 5 Quevega(FR) 4-7 F
2nd 16 Kentford Grey Lady 14-1
3rd 8 Golden Sunbird (IRE) 66-1
1628: Good luck to Andy Hughes who says: "Just waiting for Quevega now for a Placepot win. Looks like it's all I'm going to have any chance of getting from Day 1, which is actually a whole lot better than normal!"
1627: The Stumpster has been a rock today and says: "Like many others my guts have been removed in a similar fashion to that of "William Wallace" when Hurricane failed to land leg 2 of the big 3. Saying that it was a great performance by the winner.
"Sad news about Scotsirish and the old stager Garde Champetre pulled up quickly, i just hope the horse can be saved and enjoy its retirement.
"My placepot has been flattened but Quevega should get back the losses. The only danger appears to be "Shop DJ" with the money being lumped on. Im not concerned, it will just give me a nicer return with the mighty mare."
Sad news re GC I'm afraid. What a wonderful horse he'd been over the years.
1625: Damon In SelbyM writes: "How wrong could I be,its turned into a bookies white wash almost.Brave man who gets stuck into QUEVEGA now."
1622: Tragic postscript to the Cross-Country Chase with both Garde Champetre and Scotsirish sustaining fatal injuries.
1620: Nice tale from Dave Richards who writes: "Oh how I could kick myself in a big way. Check out the name of the bumper at Newbury that Rock on Ruby won in March 2010......
"I said that day that I would back Rock on Ruby each time after sponsoring the bumper.....
Though after meeting the owners that day, I can honestly say that you would struggle to find a better bunch of lads - well done to them all
1615: So the one banker wins, one loses and still the punters are in for Quevega. William Hill report a single cash bet of £200,000 at 4/6 about Willie Mullins' star in a south-west shop.
1610: So we have history, the first British winner of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase.
1st 6 Balthazar King (IRE) 11-2
2nd 7 A New Story (IRE) 20-1
3rd 15 Wedger Pardy (IRE) 33-1
4th 4 Sizing Australia (IRE) 5-1
1600: Our sponsors Sky Bet go 5-1 about Rock On Ruby winning the Champion next year, Hill's are 6s while both firms quote the dethroned king Hurricane Fly at 6-1.
1555: There have been fireworks at the odd Champion Hurdle press conference in the past but this one is very relaxed. Paul Nicholls heaping praise on Harry Fry and confirming Aintree is likely to be bext for Rock On Ruby.
1525: Remarkable horse race and Hurricane Fly is dethroned. He didn't travel into the race with the same fluency as last year and while he ran on bravely, he never threatened to get to Rock On Ruby and Overturn. The winner is given a fantastic ride by Noel Fehily, the runner-up is just a lion of a racehorse. Binocular stalks the favourite throughout but can't get past him - let alone the front two.
Zarkandar flashes home late as many felt he could having been outpaced at a crucial stage. The front two were clear turning in as the big two played cat and mouse in behind.
1st 8 Rock On Ruby (IRE) 11-1
2nd 7 Overturn (IRE) 20-1
3rd 4 Hurricane Fly (IRE) 4-6 F
1517: Good luck to Andy Kay who says: "like many fellow punters and the bookies, are waiting nervously on the result of the next. Could this be a triumph for punters and a disaster for our bookmaking enemy? The Ordster has banged one in, Pricewise too, Sprinter Sacre destroyed his rivals and now the Hurricane is coming to blow them away? Got The Hurricane in pleny of ante post bets along with a lumpy double with Sprinter Scare. Come on Ruby!"
1515: Hurricane Fly is applauded through the parade. With one of the bankers having already gone up there's a flood of euros and pounds resting on him here. He should win but not at the price for me. I won't have a bet against him but it wouldn't surprise me to see Binocular run a huge race.
1502: Ruby Walsh and Tony McCoy both feel the ground is riding "slow". Other Irish riders are more impressed, Davy Russell saying "it's just splitting good and good to yielding. If it could stay that way it would be perfect." Davy Condon was the jockey to go with "beautiful" while Paul Townend said "its good and lovely jumping ground."
1500: Managed to get to the pre-parade ring for a very brief spell. Hurricane Fly isn't a horse who takes the breath away but looks perfectly fine, Brampour looked magnificent. Zarkandar is taking everything in his stride given he has been on his toes in the past.
1450: This is one that got away for owner JP McManus who said: "I don't have as many runners as usual this year and it's nice to have a winner on the first day. I tried to back Alfie Sherrin at 25-1 this morning. I rang at five past seven and the price had gone so I just decided to cheer him home."
1445: Jonjo talked a good game beforehand and Richie McLernon gave him a wonderful ride. Alfie Sherrin breaks Insider hearts up the hill. First Fez winner for the jockey.
1st 15 Alfie Sherrin 14-1
2nd 10 Fruity O'Rooney 16-1
3rd 6 Our Mick 11-1
4th 11 The Package 6-1.
1436: Don't forget you can watch our free Racing UK video replay of that stunning Sprinter Sacre performance.
1435: Colin Tizzard was thrilled with Cue Card in the Arkle but will be swerving another clash with Sprinter Sacre. "Why should we ever beat him? Cue Card was spot on today and ran well but the other fellow was too good. We can also go two-and-a-half or three miles," he said.
1433: Damon In Selby says: "Could be a bad day for the bookies now if Hurricane Fly and Quevega both go in as I imagine many people having had them in trebles with Sprint Sacre Dave.Hope your enjoying it."
It's tremendous D - can't wait for the Champion Hurdle now.
1432: The Stumpster writes: "An awesome performance by Sprinter Sacre. The first of the "Banker 3" to start off a great week. I'm on "Holding on Julio" to maintain its improvement and beat Our Mick and The Package in the next. As for the Sacre winnings, they have been invested on "The Fly" to comfortably win the Champion Hurdle."
1429: "We didn't think we'd get in the race and we're delighted with him. He has a nice weight, is in great form and hopefully has a good chance. The boys are saying the ground is perfect for him and with a bit of luck he'll be there or thereabouts," Jonjo O'Neill says of his runner and Pricewise pick Alfie Sherrin here.
1425: Quantatitiveeasing for me here. Go on AP.
1424: Both our sponsors Sky Bet and William Hill make Sprinter Sacre a 6-4 chance for next year's Champion Chase.
1423: Congratulations to Nicky Henderson who has now joined Fulke Walwyn as the most successful Festival trainer of all time. He's now on 40 winners.
1422: Paddy Power have been stung with their money-back offer there. The Irish firm are refunding 2million euros after Sprinter Sacre beat Cue Card.
1420: Sprinter Sacre is bred to be a Gold Cup horse but Barry Geraghty sees no reason to go beyond two miles with him.
1418: Owner Caroline Mould says of her Arkle winner: "I didn't want to sound arrogant but I thought he'd win. He's a machine."
1415: Magnificent, absolutely magnificent. Al Ferof's error four out ends his chance but he'd never have landed a blow to that machine.
2nd 3 Cue Card 13-2
1405: No bet for me here but I'd love to see Sprinter Sacre fulfil his rich potential.
1403: Strangest sight of the Fez so far...Ant And Dec with Graham Wylie and the Prospect Wells team before the opener. At one stage it looked like the shorter one (Dec?) was going to replace Ruby Walsh in the saddle.
1359: Carl Kelly adds: "Dave today could be a great day. Can you buy me a scarfe aswell and send it in the post. Fence by fence updates I thought I had picked the wrong mcain horse then Result comes up as Cinders and Ashes. Great start Small bet on Al Ferof to turn the 1st (sure thing) fav."
They're not for sale CK - it seems the owners had them made for the day. What a blow.
1358: The Stumpster says: "I knew i should have followed Ronnie Corbett who tipped Cinders and Ashes this morning on Channel 4. I thought the horse would struggle with this much better ground. I was wrong. My selection Steps to Freedom was disappointing but my Placepot is still going as i also took Trifolium.
"Congrats to all who have started the day off with a nice 10/1 winner. Now for Sprinter to show its class, Menorah, if jumping better should follow it home."
1355: Thanks to Nick Burton who says: "Afternoon Dave. Not impressed missing day one of the festival to be stuck in an office but here goes, I like Galileo's Choice in the first. Agree he will run a big race. I would like to see Cue Card run to his best and if so take the glory. Bets of the day has to be Charminster in the last and Rock on Ruby to run a blinder. Also think there is plenty of E/W money to be had on Zaidpour, Mount Oscar and Fortification. Good luck today!"
1353: The show moves on and Sprinter Sacre has a great presence about him as he walks around the parade ring.
1352: Winning time for the opener points to genuine good ground.
1350: William Hill and Sky Bet both make Cinders And Ashes a 16-1 chance for next year's Champion Hurdle. Our sponsors offer the same price about Darlan who ran a cracker in second and came up the hill much stronger than I expected.
1347: Beryl McCain, mother of the winning trainer, added: "We never used to have horses who brought us to Cheltenham, now Donald has given us just that. This horse is named after a swear word in Thomas The Tank Engine!"
1345: Donald McCain is one proud trainer and says: "He was so relaxed beforehand I thought he was ill and he's won that easily. We hoped he was the real deal and now we know he's a serious tool."
1330 Result: 1st 4 Cinders And Ashes 10-1
2nd 6 Darlan 7-1
3rd 18 Trifolium (FR) 15-2
C e l e b r a t e good times, come on! What a start. At the last team Ord are one-two, at the line one-four. I'll take it though, after the blank Festival of 2006 (no winner at all) this feels sweet.
1323: Off to the lawn for the opener - thanks to Philip Burns for this! He says: "U lucky ******** I mean person . What a job, for those a little less fortunate than yourself can you try and give us indications during the races how things are going... bit like a Mat Chapman commentary !!!!!"
Fence-by-fence updates PB, will try to get more dynamic with my twitter account too (@DaveOrd). No promises though. Right the wait's over. Come on my horses!
1320: Sheikh Fahad, a huge new presence in the game, is here to watch Vulcantie, Galileo's Choice proving popular with the layers, Darlan on the drift.
1318: The sun is out for the first time today and the horses look wonderful in the parade ring - Steps To Freedom just about my pick.
1317: More scarves, this time the Cinders And Ashes team. I might buy one in about 20 minutes time.
1312: Ladies and gentlemen we have a horse in the parade ring. Its nearly show time.
1310: Hussein asks: "Someone has just asked me what happened to Peddlers Cross. Personally being harsh I think Donald has bottled it. Thoughts?"
He took the easy option H but it seems PC took a lot longer to get over the Kempton run than was first expected. I wasn't even going to consider backing him for the Jewson but he's drifting out to a fair old price now.
1309: Stephen Miller says: "Even though i'm stuck at my work desk and am probably going to miss all the racing this week, I'm excited enough to think I need a wee when I don't really. Steps to Freedom is my big punt today. Then chucked in Al Ferof, Hurrican Fly and Quevega, for a nice little cocktail of bets."
Make sure you before the race SM. If Steps To Freedom leads over the last you could lose any semblance of self control.
1307: I can't back three in the opener but as it approaches I'm becoming increasingly convinced Galileo's Choice will run a huge race.
1305: When did scarves become all the rage in this great game of ours? Hurricane Fly ones, Kauto Star ones, the yellow Betfair ones...none will go with the tweed jacket.
1302: Less than half an hour to go to the first. Time to get giddy and our fence-by-fence updates are now with you!
1300: Not only am I sat next to a radiator but I also have a tv in front of me which is stuck on ITV. Loose Women is not for racecourse viewing.
1258: Kevin C will be named as I raise my selfless glass of Guinness to absent friends. He writes: "I'm one of those unfortunates stuck in the office [barring a late lunch to catch the first two races] but still looking forward immensely to the week ahead. Especially as Thursday and Friday afternoons will be spent in front of a screen with plenty of refreshments! I'm going for the each way shots today with Tetlami, Mossley. Swincombe Flame and Mic's Delight - but would be almost as happy just to see a couple of Al Ferof, Binocular and Sizing Australia come in."
Best of luck KC.
1255: Good to have David Berry back with us. He says: "I thought I'd rear my ugly head again as it's Cheltenham. I'm alot like John Sandy who woke up early with excitement this morning. Normally I'm dead to world in the morning until my alarm goes off for the 3rd time, but this morning I was up and raring to go at 7.30am. Very unusual.
1245: Kazakhstan calling again with Si Adams who adds: "Great news for the Ord followers on Montbazon but especially on the Gold Cup picks. But that's for later in the week. But so is Hollow Tree I would like a nap and Nb for the day. I found someone in the office who likes horse racing, his name....derek o'connor. Not the jockey though, we wish him well on his recovery (the jockey that is) and I it made me think that we should take a moment before the off to spare a thought for those unable to make it at the last minute.
"Also a big thanks to all the staff who get the horses there in 1 piece. Was great to see Clifford honored recently and he is a true gent. All the best to everyone and have fun at the office Padge!!! Hoping the sweat patches are showing to early....choc will sort them out in the first with a lengthy win!"
For all of you poor souls stuck at work, overseas or recovering from illness and injury I'm going to do a selfless act. I will walk to the Arkle Bar and raise a glass of Guinness to absent friends.
My nap today is Quantitativeeasing. There, you have it.
1242: Big Chrisis a good guy. He says: "The red wine/beer effect should start to wear off any time now, particularly if you try a burger/lucazade (must be original flavour)/beer flavour hair of the dog remedy!
"I have done Steps to Freedom in the opener, although I can't stop looking at Agent Archie as an each prospect at a fancy price. I was very taken by the manner his front running last win, although he is obviously the stables second string and maybe just entered to set it up for Cinders.
"I do think the "big three" will all go in today, although common sense suggest that at least one will get turned over. Best of the rest - Big Barry G in the last.
"Can't believe that after weeks of anticipation, we're only an hour away from action."
We are sir - I've got the tingle and this time it isn't a cold sore.
1238: Glenn Sargent is sidelined at the moment but says: "I am fortunately/unfortunately off work recovering from shoulder surgery few weeks back, that said hasn't held me back in getting the bets on and getting excited to watch the fez from the comfort of the sofa rather than sneaking into the staff room "for cups of tea" every half hour or so. Hope the outfit you ended up on has done the business and heres to a good start to a terrific four day's worth of racing! Keep the updates coming on the blog (last time I followed it I got baby mix on his UK debut at insane odds, fingers crossed for same luck today!)"
Would be nice GS and glad to hear you're on the way back.
1235: Antoine writes: "Well well well..the festival is back.It is a sad reflection on my punting that breaking even over the 4 days will be a success for me but although my money would generally stop a train,I am dangerously optimistic..Gallileos choice in the 1st,menorah to outbattle Al ferof in the 2nd,The Package and Binocular..You always seem to have a preference for A.kIng horses Dave..or am I imagining this?"
No A I do have a soft spot for the Barbury Castle wizard - and Hendo. I'm a loyal man. One of my many failings...
1233: Great to have Daz Ottley back and he says: "Been a while since i got in touch having a 6 month old baby to keep an eye on is hard work. Anyway the girlfriend and baby will be out the way by 1pm which music to my ears.
"Todays Horses are 1.30 Galileo's Choice,2.05 Sprinter Sacre.2.40 Our Mick.3.20 Zarkandar,4.00 Scotirish (NAP),4.40 Dare To Doubt e/w,5.15 Triolo D'Alene. Time to bash the bookies!!"
It is sir and you have a very considerate girlfriend.
1230: Danny In Madstone writes: "Afternoon The best E/W bet in The Champion Hurdle is Rock On Ruby who was only a short head behind Binocular but is more than double the price! Also The Package looks interesting in the 2.40 singles and a E/W Double."
1227: TonyNick Robson of Racing Plus fame is sitting next to me and he's keen on Overturn each-way without the Fly. I've backed Weird Al and Midnight Chase without the big two in the Gold Cup. Definitely some interesting specials markets out there this week.
1225: Thanks to Simon Burgess who writes: "Week off work for me, cant stand going to Cheltenham as its too busy so will watch at home and wait for Aintree Thursday.
"Out to get 2 red hot favourites beat today. Out to get Sprinter beaten with Cue Card and the Fly beaten with Zarkander.
"Cant see Darlan winning the opener and you have to follow what Alan King says and go with Montbazon. Am following the Trends horses in the handicaps (Fruity O Rooney and Harpsy Cord) but also like Charminster at a nice price in the last."
Good mix there SB and victory for Montbazon would be a most pleasant start to proceedings.
1222: Hello to David Matthews who says: "The Matthews boys are suited and booted and en route to Cheltenham. We disagree on everything except for the fact that we fancy an English winner for the X Country. We're backing Double Dizzy, Fortification and Baltazar King. Good luck!"
And to you the Matthews boys. Have a cracker.
1220: Andy Hughes is right to give me a stern talking to. He says: "hangover or no hangover, you're better off than us office dwellers, no doubt about it. It'll be a day of watching the fence by fence updates on sportinglife.com for me.
"As for the selections, I had a hard time of it picking them out last night and will be happy just to have plumped for 1 or 2 winners (who am I kidding eh?!). I only had 2 winners the whole festival last year, Big Buck's on the Thursday followed up by the majestic Zemsky at 40's on the Friday.
"In the first I've gone for Tetlami, but it could easily have been Trifolium. In the Arkle it's Cue Card for me. At least one of these short priced favourites is going to fail today and I'm counting on it being Sprinter Sacre. Onto the 2.40 and Our Mick shades it from Tullamore Dew. Hurricane Fly to win the feature race at a canter... Then it's Sizing Australia in the next before Ackertack romps home in the last.
"What a bashing I'm going to give these bookies. Roll on Thursday and Friday where I'l be taking my seat in front of the tv in the pub."
Don't sit too close to the screen AH -that's advice for Friday.
1215: Thanks to Matthew Taylor for restoring my faith in the human race. He writes: "Never mind best bets for the day Dave, what's the Ord Festival Nap? That's what we're all waiting for!
"In the interests of fairness, mine is Captain Chris in the Ryanair. He's a 2.5 miler through and through so 16s is a ridiculous price assuming he turns up. Bobs Worth is my nb to lower the colours of Grands Crus tomorrow - fully expect GC to follow in hoofprints of Long Run. He's the best horse in the race and I'll back him for the King George next season but don't fancy him in the slog of the RSA."
Hollow Tree each-way in the Triumph for me MT. No way should he be a 20-1 chance.
1210: I am now a believer in the healing qualities of lamb meatballs. Six of the pesky little blighters have just been polished off along with potato and mixed veg. I feel like a new man. Not literally.
1150: Time for a report from our sponsors Sky Bet courtesy of Andy Twitchen in the trading room.
1.30 Supreme Novice Hurdle (5 Places) We are the only firm to offer 5 places here so the chances are we will go into race 2 with a hefty loss. The good news for us is that there has been a fairly even spread of money across many runners with MONTBAZON (13/2) being one of the most popular. He was abit of a talking horse until his last time out win at Newbury but Alan King has made no secret of the fact he holds him in the highest regard - so far he looks one of the most professional in the line up without being flashy. Bookmakers will be desperate not to allow Ruby Walsh off to a flyer due to the mass number of multiples that will follow him therefore PROSPECT WELLS (12/1) would be a scary start if he were to oblige along with likely favourite DARLAN (5/1, AP McCoy) who will be our biggest loser come the off. Of the outsiders HAZY TOM 40/1 from 50/1 is the best backed.
"2.05 Arkle Novice Chase SPRINTER SACRE (5/6) is one of the most exciting horses we have seen for many a year and nothing will match him for speed, however there is a possibility he could run away with Barry Geraghty and falter up the hill - that may be wishful thinking though and he looks incredibly hard to beat.The Ruby Walsh and Paul Nicholls combination hold our best chance of an upset with the grey AL FEROF (11/4) - he will be finishing strongly at the business end but will he be close enough to capitalise?
"3.20 Champion Hurdle The highlight of day 1 with the former champ BINOCULAR (9/2) taking on the talented but fragile reigning Champ HURRICANE FLY (4/5). Punters are assuming the Hurricane is banker number 2 and he will be a desperate result for us especially if SPRINTER SACRE has already obliged. The good ground has come right for the slick BINOCULAR and smooth travelling OSCARS WELL (12/1) but in truth we will take anything winning other than the favourite.
"Best of the rest: In the 2.40 HOLD ON JULIO (13/2) is our biggest loser but we are hopeful of getting that one beat. Very impressive on his last 2 runs despite the odd jumping error which he won't get away with here and has risen significantly in the weights. As expected the Cross Country race is the quietest heat of the day but in the unlikely event of a non-Irish winner we will be very happy. Wonder mare QUEVEGA (1/2) looks a certainty as she tries to win the race for the 4th time - if QUEVEGA rounds off the banker treble it will be carnage for bookmakers across the industry."
1140: Matt Haynes writes: "Unfortunately I am stuck in the office all this week but will be sneaking off to watch the tele upstairs, at regular intervals and hopefully watch a few of my selections go in. I have a feeling today that it may be the most predictable of the few days ahead with probable wins from Sprinter Sacre, Hurricane Fly & Quevaga. At bigger prices though in the other races I like Vulcanite (fairly distant 2nd to Montbazon) but Charlie Longsdons string weren't firing and I know he expects a lot more today, and what a season he has had! I am also liking Going Wrong in the last for the inevitable Ferdy Murphy festival winner, Tullamore Dew and Sizing Australia."
You go wandering this afternoon MH - it's a man's right during the Fez.
1130: Interesting to see Timeform have Darlan five pounds clear of his rivals in the opener - lots with the telling p in the chasing pack though. Al Ferof is actually top-rated in the Arkle while Hurricane Fly is seven pounds clear of the Champion Hurdle field.
1120: We've been going for over three hours now and not one email - not one - asking what my best bets for the day are. Well I'm going to tell you anyway. As well as the two in the Supreme (Cinders And Ashes and Montbazon) I'll be mostly backing Quantitativeeasing, Uncle Junior and Bless The Wings. Oh there'll be others too in various multiples, exactas and Placepots. There'll be others.
1115: David Richards says: "Morning Dave, Hows things?
All set for a fantastic week I hope - and already off to a good start by winning £500 out of the bookies machine for a £30 stake - happy days.
"Really fancy Prospect Wells today - ignore Sandown run and the strong pace will be ideal in the Supreme. Raya Star franked form well at Newbury.
"Sprinter Sacre looks the weakest of the 3 "good things" today - no bet in the race for me though.
"Sneaky ew double on Double Dizzy (was all the rage at the December meeting and going well before jockey forgot Sat Nav) - 28/1 looks huge with only 1lb more on it's back. Also Battle Group in the 5.15 - campaigned over hurdles all year and first time blinkers today for the chase.
"Anyway, have a great week and all the very best to you and your bloggers."
Dave, I won't lie, I'm struggling. My feet now hurt and my mouth remains dry but I'm getting there. Thanks for asking though!
1110: Andrew In Norfolk is missing in action this week. He says: "Watching from the sofa this year and hugely jealous I'm not there although I'll not miss the mobs. Full of cold so dosing up and hoping to find a few winners to cheer me up - not the best way to start a holiday. Please walk Cleeve Hill for me on Gold Cup Day it is sure to be hard going (it always is after three days with occasional visits to the Village!)!
"Realt Dubh and Sir Des Champs look good for me and will have a few each way shillings on Montbazon and Falcon Island today and just enjoy the sheer quality on show."
Some day's racing ahead Andy - but I'll pass on walking up Cleeve Hill. I'm not the man I used to be and even a Dave Ord in his prime (one Tuesday afternoon in 1993) would have struggled to make that climb.
1105: Many thanks to Sara W says: "Morning Dave. History tells us the bankers don't always win. Cheltenham form is invaluable at the speed they will all go during theFestival, so I'm taking on the Sprinter with Al Ferof - PN is very bullish about him too. But I do think the Hurricane will Fly in. Interesting stat about fallers - I hope that doesn't include fallers at home!
"For in-running punters, Doug Costello made a telling point in his 'Irish Field' column: that you can't win at the Festival going round the inside, as there is only one short stretch you can pass other horses. Good luck all."
SW also reported Venetia Williams felt the ground was good to firm having walked the track yesterday - be interesting to see what the jockeys say after the first. Wouldn't mind even money the winning rider labelling it "beautiful".
1103: Ah the great Rich Lynn says: "Well, it's Christmas and Birthday rolled into one time again!!! Sadly only there on Friday this year but it's in a bookie's (VC) tent so should be a great day. Down for Thursday and Friday nights in town too to get amongst it. MUCH prefer today racing wise - always my favourite day - probably as I ALWAYS call the Gold Cup wrong - think Master Oats was my last winner!! I back Kauto when he falls and leave him when he wins - it's uncanny. Onto the racing it's all about the big 3 for me today. On Sacre, Hurricane and Vega - acca'd up with Big Buck's at fancy prices. Happy they've all got here in one piece - just need to do the business now!!! Enjoy your week mate :)"
And you RL. Lots of those accas running today.
1102: Mark asks: "I was wondering what your thoughts are on Gallileo's Choice in the Supreme Novices , he seems to have good form , was a decent performer in his Flat days , 3rd behind Fame and Glory a few years back. Has also won a couple and the good ground could suit."
High on the shortlist M - although I'm with Cinders And Ashes and Montbazon in there. He has a touch of class and will be a different proposition on this ground today.
1100: A three-piece band on a bicycle are producing a rousing rendition of The Proclaimers classic '500 Miles'. There's not a set of toes that aren't a tapping.
1055: The Stumpster writes: "Morning Dave, I am as excited as a fat kid in a sweet shop for what i believe will be an exceptional Cheltenham Festival 2012.
"There are no excuses on the table in relation to poor going or bad weather. The weather is fine and the going is spot on.
"I am also sitting on a nice ante post bet, although it was only put on some three weeks ago. I have had great start with Zarkander winning the Betfair Hurdle, i have added Grand Crus (2/1 rsa), Hurricane Fly (8/11 champion hurdle), Quevega (8/11 david nicholson), Sizing Europe (11/10 queen mother), and big Big Bucks (4/7 world hurdle). I decided to leave Sprinter Sacre out with that bet but it has been added to the Cheltenham selections in a seperate acca.
"My other fancies on today are 1.30 Steps to Freedom, 2.40 Hold on Julio, 4.0 Garde Chempetre, 5.15 Hunt Ball
"Hurricane Fly and Quevega are my banker double today but I am most looking forward to see the vastly improved Hunt Ball carrying 12st to victory in the last. The trainer would deserve an OBE if this can shoulder that welter burden against some very decent opposition.
"Best of luck to every punter out there but please let my Accas come in as i deserve a nice holiday this year."
You do Stumps - and an all-inclusive one at that.
1040: Rash writes: "The only thing that could make me more excited about the start of The Fez, is if I had just been informed that I had landed the job of Beyonce's thong adjuster.
"Sadly, the chances of that delightful avenue ( no pun intended) happening are extremely remote. So like countless others both at home and abroad, I will prepare myself for 4 days of sheer pleasure. As a casual punter these next few days are what sets racing apart from most other sports. Those with a minimal amount of knowledge seem to get interested in the game at this time of year. Good luck to each and everyone of you and for what it's worth here are my selections for today -: Montbazon, Sprinter, OurMick, The Fly, Balthazar King, Quevega, Whute Star Line.
"One final thought Dave, considering your current disposition , and location in the press box, it might be wise to lay of the mutton vindaloo tonight ."
Very wise words R - and if you need an understudy for your dream job I am always available!
1038: The great Dan Nicol is with us and says: "Got that Tuesday Chelts feeling of confidence. My selections are world beaters and will win at a canter. Even got the £1million pound alert from Betfair suggesting I can't win more than that in a day!!
"Colour Squadron - nailed on. Beat the better fancied Montbazon previously and looked to be doing the same when fell last time although too early to confirm. Banker bet!
"Terre Du Vent - in the Mares - running a very nicely until toppled over in the race won by Grumeti.
"If we ignore the underlying trait around the above two's inability to negotiate hurdles, they're going to bolt up - fingers crossed Make sure you locate the Fruit Bar today - keep hydrated."
1035: Harvey could be in for a big day and writes: "Greetings from a grey and gloomy Scotland! I think today is my best chance of making a profit this week. The bookies early offer of NR/no bet has set me up with some nice prices in the first four races of the meeting. I'm on Darlan and Montbazon in the first. I'm confident that both will run well but just a little concerned that Darlan won't find much when he comes under pressure.
"I'm on Sprinter Sacre and Al Ferof in the Arkle and will be amazed if one of them doesn't win! The Paddy Power offer of money back if Sprinter Sacre wins is a gift for anyone who strongly fancies Al Ferof. Hold on Julio could emerge as a serious Grand National horse if he wins today whilst Quantitativeeasing will run well despite his big weight.
"I've been with Zarkandar all season in the Champion and believe he is much better than his Betfair win. Don't forget he was carrying an infection and was flat to the boards half a mile out. I also respect his stable companion Rock On Ruby so have covered him each-way. If I have any money left after that lot I'll be supporting Sizing Australia, Swincombe Flame (e/w) and Hunt Ball. If I don't have at least one winner today it is going to be a very long week!"
1032: Sam Chipperfield has them sorted and writes: "Morning All, Day 1 Has Arrived, I Feel A McCoy Mcmanus Winner, Darlan In The Opener And Binocular To Make The Hurricane Work For His Win, Also Wouldnt Be Suprised If Sprinter Sacre And Quevega Win On The Bridle."
1030: Jacob Schofield is now joining the team as dietician. He writes: "In office today but got the video ready to record, its going to be tough to not look at the internet from 12.30 onwards, montbazon, al ferof, Mossley, fly, Scots Irish, quevega, and Owen glendower are carrying all of last years fez winnings. If they come in there will be no office for weds, Thurs, Fri!
"Juicy watermelon is your hydration issue solved!"
If only they sold them here JS - bet they do in the panoramic restaurant.
1027: I've just appointed Chris In Warrington as my new lifestyle guru. He says: "Beer and wine, nothing wrong with mxing the two, Dave - it's the order in which you have them that's crucial: Beer before wine - that's fine Wine before beer - oh dear!
"And maintaining the food and drink theme - it's got to be Gone to Lunch in the Cross Country - thrown in at the weights and Jeremy Scott has saved him for this."
Would love to see GTL run a big one Chris. Did he a favour or two in his younger days.
1025: Ian From Birmingham writes: "Supreme anticipation for a great 4 days. Huge Donald McCain fan and I have backed Cinders and Ashes to win and Overturn who is a huge price considering its form with the other runners each way. I am very confident."
No other way to be Ian - good luck sir.
1020: Hill's pushed Darlan out to 7-1 for the opener overnight but have since cut him to 11-2. A stat for you number crunchers. Of the last 53 horses to come to Cheltenham on the back of a fall - none have won. I thank you.
1015: Alex McLeod has his priorities right. He writes: "Greetings from Room 14, where I am teaching Geography to a bunch of 6th formers. Would rather be at Prestbury, but have got the Sky+ set, and have the beers in the fridge for when I get home.
"I am planning to watch, starting at 5pm, so will be turning all mobile comms off at 1.30... The winners today look like: The almighty antepost treble of QUEVEGA 6/4, THE FLY 9/4 and SPRINTER SACRE 9/4. If that comes in then I am set for the week... The rest of the card looks devislishly tricky, but TETLAMI can place in the Supreme, THE PACKAGE should run well, and watch out for the Henderson second string OWEN GLENDOWER in the last... All the best to you Dave, and to all fellow punters."
You need to suggest a field trip to the Cotswolds next year AM. Some lovely hills for the students to assess in these parts.
1010: Nice upbeat bulletin from Dave Lawlor who says: "It seems all the greats are called Dave...
"First, Get a pint of beer, down it in under a minute and u'll be right as rain again.
"Secondly, As an Irish man, I love to hear about festival bankers been among others The Fly, Quevega, Seizing Europe etc etc, But for me Sprinter Sacre is a shoe in. I really do think he is and will be something special. Put him in a treble with The Fly and Quevega. 3/1, Miserly odds from Ladbrokes but I really need to hit the ground running today.What u reckon????"
A popular treble DL and one I couldn't put you off.
1005: Ben Burridge writes: "The greatest sporting event in the world is finally upon us with hotpots galore and I for one cannot wait! 3 sure things today or so you'd think but surely one will fail. My money's on 'Big Al' Ferof to upset the Sprinter. Got my house on Riverside Theatre for The Ryanair on Thursday but today my 2 fave bets are Colour Squadron and Baile Anrai both at a nice each way price. Will then hopefully sit back and watch The Fly and Quevega reconfirm their legendary status! Re. radiator seat, I suspect foul play ..... any chance your room mate had a whisper in somebody's ear?"
That wouldn't surprise me BB. The upside of the seat is there's a shelf to my right which I can rest drinks and pastries on. Every cloud and all that.
1003: Tilly is a man of action and says: "How the devil are you? The sun is threatening to burst through here in Yorkshire and all almost right with the world. I say almost right as I'm still trying to recover from my efforts in the St Helens 10k on Sunday. Course knowledge is a good thing. They told me there was only one tough hill. They lied. There were four! And the last one almost did for me!
"It may be the same for Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle. If he doesn't get far enough away from Al Ferof, the climb may find him out. I'm with the latter in a race I have good record in finding winners. I go each way on Prospect Wells in the opener while The Package looks set to give the Pipe yard victory. I think his trainer has been cute by not racing him to keep his mark down. In the Champion I go with Binocular to calm the Hurricane. On top form I reckon he's the better horse and I'm fingers crossed his trainer has him right.
"Stay off the red wine mate.Until Thursday at least! Enjoy."
Well done with the 10K Mr T. I couldn't complete that in a car and advice taken re the red wine.
1000: Another stroll round, mist lifting and fake fur coats costs £59 are my two updates.
0945: Beginning to feel better now. Dry mouth persists though. Water the only cure.
0942: Our man in Kazakhstan is with is. Simon Adams says: "only myself in the office. But im excited enough for everyone else. very much looking forward to listening to the festival later. Trickey opener and handicaps so opted for the trusty 2 pronged win and e/w attack. Arkle is far from one sided and Cue Card and Al Ferof aren't scared by the hill. Im not convinced Cue Card stays 2 and a half cause he wasn't staying on last year and bobs worth form isn't what it looked at the time.
"The other horse form looks solid. But the sway is with Sprinter but at the price ill be leaving it to the brave! Hurricane, Quevega and Scotsirish will be Mullins winners and the 14/1 on Alan king as top trainer is too big...I think he could have 7 winners...issue though might be that Mullins might have 10! So answers that...! So the tips to go to war with today are: Montbazon and Midnight game, SPRINTER SACRE, Hold On Julio, THE HURRICANE, Scotsirish & Fortification, Quevega, Bless the Wings and Going Wrong. Have a great day and enjoy the tweed. I rocked the Paul Nicholls tweed jacket, blue checked white shirt and yellow tie combo last year and it's a bone-fide winner for men of our stature...a lesson for next year. "
0940: Dear me John Sandys means business today. He writes: "Down the gym at 7am this morning, couldn't sleep. Awoke in a panic to find no presents, no tree and no smell of Turkey roasting, for some reason thought it was Christmas morning!!
"A little out of the box thinking, but if over his excursions at Haydock, Pentiffic could give you a good run for your money in the JLT at a nice price! Hope you had a good evening, sorting through the form for today, or did you have a late night looking for a "midnight mass" ha ha."
Sadly it was a late evening JS - and my typing is suffering as a result. This is increasingly becoming a young man's game.
0935: Peter Gordon has my sympathy. He says: "Am stuck in Doha, Qatar missing the festival again for the second time running (been there for the previous 10) so reliant on you and my pals to recreate the buzz that this magic week brings. Gallileo's Choice e/w for me in the first!"
I'd like to say this place has gone downhill PG...cut can't..
0933: Carl Kelly writes: "In the office for the first two days of the festival, just wondering if you have ever seen a Cheltenham festival with so many (so called) nailed on odds on favourite's for the big races. This year I did quite a few ante post 4 folds and 5 folds in September time. Big bucks at 11/10, Hurricane Fly 9/4, Long run 9/2 and Quevega 6/4 (been very nervous this last week) Do you think that 6 very short odds in the top races can win? Selections today Cinders & Ashes, Al ferof, Hold on Julio, Hurricane Fly, Garde Champetre (In Love with Nina Carberry), Quevega and Carrickboy.
"See what my friend Sam Barnard has to say, As no doubt he will be contacting you soon with his controversial opinions."
I fear SB has had his work email blocked! One of the good guys lost there...I don't think all six of the shorties will win, history at least says they won't. Mind you finding one to beat them isn't easy.
0930: Little update from Simon Claisse who says: "There is no rain forecast this week but it is not going to be as warm as originally forecast at around 13 or 14 degrees.
"I don't think we will have to water for tomorrow - there's a lot of moisture in the ground which can hold for two days. We expect to be watering on Wednesday evening and overnight as we swap onto the New Course for racing on Thursday and Friday."
0920: Hammo says: "Top of the morning to you Dave. Whilst most of us will be drawn to the gods of fly, sprinter and quevega there is nothing like digging out two big priced winners to turn the pints of guiness into pints of champagne. And I think I have dug out two. First up which 2011 festival winner is currently trading at 33-1.? Answer what a charm in the mares hurdle. Yes there is quevega but hey we get 8-1 the place...
"And a ferdy murphy runner at 33-1? Yes please... and I rate riguez dancer in jlt as a good thing to join hot weld and you're special into the ferdy murphy 33-1 winners at fez hall of fame.
"Yes hurricane will probably win at evens but these will deliver 66 x more excitement."
That's the spirit H. I can't believe how unprepared I feel for today's card. Lot of work to do.
0915: Matthew Taylor writes: "Hope the head's starting to clear ahead of day 1. Finding today the trickiest of the four so no massively strong feelings about anything. Of the jollies I'm with the Fly and Quevega, and against Sprinter - my motto is never to back anything shorter than 2s at Chelt to do something it hasn't done before. Fully prepared that Sacre could be a monster though. Taking a bit of a chance that Menorah jumps better at speed and will have race set up for him with SS and Cue Card doing battle out front.
"Supreme looks tricky but have sided with Montbazon in the end while Scotsirish looks the one for the X-Country. Final race looks a nightmare but Ackertac has pull at the weights with the favourite so will take him. Main fancy for the day is in the JLT Chase though - Mossley really interesting at 16/1. If you can forgive him his last run and remember his 2nd behind Bobs Worth in the Albert Bartlett last year then he could be on a nice mark. It's a good race for novices so he'll be thereabouts if his jumping holds up."
I've looked and looked at Mossley MT and he is potentially nicely treated but I do worry about his fencing.
0913: J Silkcut has a one-track mind this week, no it isn't that. He says: "Just having a spot of breakfast ....had to turn the morning line off ..doing my head in! this week is all about New Years Eve tomorrow.. mrs silkcut will be shoplifting later in the week if he forgets the script."
Warn her against it JS, learn from the likes of Anthony Worral-Thompson is my desperate plea.
0910: Great to have David Birch with us. He says: "Good morning Dave! I've been awaiting your arrival with rather concerning levels of excitement since I awoke at 06:30 this morning; that may not sound like such a long time, but the time is currently 18:50 in Brisbane. There's only one place I want to be right now and, as I look out the window, I fail to see the Arkle Bar in sight.
"However, I am armed with Sky Racing, a laptop, beer, sausages, bacon, cookies and jam lamingtons. I'm hopeful that that little lot coupled with a rare Dermot Weld winner in the 1st will be enough to get me through 'day' 1. All the best to you and everyone lucky enough to be attending the finest sporting event of them all this week."
And to you DB. I nearly moved to Brisbane three years ago but in the end stayed in Blighty to concentrate on the things I'm good at. Growing beards and gaining weight.
0905: Just been for a stroll. Still murky down here but the catering staff are arriving. One gentlemen either had very bad circulation or he was carrying five courgettes.
0900: The tweed jacket debuts tomorrow and my eye has been taken by one of the trade stands here. Holland Cooper Clothing boast "quintessentially British tweed for him and her with an urban reincarnation and a lux glamorous edge". That screams Ord.
0852: Great to have Hussein with us again. He writes: "Hello and good morning Dave! The Cheltenham poster at my local train station sums it up "Magnificent, magic, mad". What a four days in store. I hope it is your day because I have Montbazon e/w at a nice price. Also I love this Triolo D'Alene in the last. The most important questions for me though: Will the Insider be at Cheltenham? This mystery person has a a great ante-post book (have followed on a few tips myself). How does this man/woman dress? Could they have given you a few wardrobe pointers? Anyway, don't forget - if you win party- If you lose party harder! Good luck to you and everyone else, cheers Hussein."
The Insider will be here on Thursday and Friday H but beyond that I can say little more - other than he dresses like a country and western star and has a dry skin problem.
0847: My mute room-mate (day-glow boob tube) is an Alan King fanatic and Jas The Race is also expecting fireworks from the master of Barbury Castle. He says: "This week is my Christmas and just like when I was a kid I was wide awake at 4.20 this morning. Unlike your good self I did not partake in alcohol or scallops last night, but did keep the fishy theme and had a light meal of a fish finger sandwich.
"I'm in the office at 6.00 for the rest of the week and finishing at 12.30. So it'll be straight to the boozer and hopefully some Double Dark Stout if there's any left after my Sunday lunchtime sesh!! I fancy Choc to have a nice little eachway patent up today on Montbazon, Hold On Julio and Bless the Wings."
A fish finger sandwich is a magnificent choice J. Must be served with crisp iceberg lettuce and tartare sauce though. I can see myself backing those three of King's too (already one down, will back Bless The Wings and choosing between Hold On Julio and Quantitativeeasing in the JLT. The fact Julio is easier to spell could swing it his way.
0845: Falbrav is a very wise man. He writes: "Tis a glorious day in Switzerland for the opening salvos of the Fez. I have been saving my pennies hard and played supermarket sweep in Lidl on Saturday. Obviously, we don't get ale over here but Finkbrau lager was on special offer at the equivalent of less than 20p for a large can, so I am suitably stocked up. I can't escape the notion that Oscars Well is going to run a huge one in the CH and I don't agree with those that say last year was a vintage renewal. Menorah clearly didn't run up to his best, Peddlers Cross is running in a 2m 5 Novice chase tomorrow and Oscar Whisky is running in the World hurdle on Wednesday so I hardly think they put up a speed test for HF last year.
"I'm against the Ditcheat runners but I believe Oscars and a back-to-form Binocular will give HF a much sterner test than last year. Lay the jolly! Really looking forward to Vulcanite in the opener. Nothing wrong with debut run behind Tetlami and Mr Longsdon said he wasn't right at Newbury when stable were going through a quiet spell. Rated 103 on the flat, he's going to love the ground and has enough stamina in his profile to get up the hill. Big player at a surprisingly big price.
"Obviously, I've had a dabble at everything but there isn't really anything else I feel strongly about. Stay off the red wine, old friend, you have hours to get your fill of ale down you so you're not in need of an accelerant!"
The last drop of claret has passed my lips this week F - and that is a vow. Some other very good judges sweet on Vulcanite too in the opener. The ground will be in his favour too.
0842: A very good morning to Charlie who says: "Good Morning Dave and a good morning to your Bloggers, Sorry to hear about your room mate, well lets get down to matters: Does not the first day give you the tingles!! Been up all night studying, and here are my recommendations through the card. Tetlami, Sprinter Sacre, Quantitatveassng, Hurricane Fly, Scotsrish, Quevega, Bless The Wings. Good Luck and a fantastic week."
And to you C. I think you could have six winners there too - which must be of concern.
0840: First email of the day is titled 'Sweden Calling'. Wish it was. Nicklas Bergendorff writes: "Stuck in the office, but will be watching the races with great interest. I envy you, who are at the races, have a good one Dave. Must throw in a winner as well, and if Sprinter Sacre does not come out on top, I will eat my .............bag of crisps and a snickers."
Aah the lunch of champions NB. I won't be looking to take Sprinter Sacre on and hope we see something special from him this afternoon.
0835: Despite the catalogue of setbacks I've managed to find time to back Montbazon (8s) and Cinders And Ashes (11s) for the opener. If either obliges I'll be scalloping up again.
0830: This really isn't going to be my day. I've tried to delay moving to the radiator seat and was alone in the press room when in walked Martin Dixon. And guess where he was to be seated? Desk 40, exactly where I'd set up camp. So now I've moved to the sauna, the jacket is off and MD is able to sit back, relax and enjoy the panoramic views of desk 40.
0820: I've found coffee. I'm on a roll. Oh for rashers now.
0815: Bad news on the seat allocation front. I'm drawn 59 in the press room which is bang next to the radiator. I'm dehydrated already and dread to think what the back sweat repercussions will be.
0800: Good morning. Well it's morning anyway. Despite the best intentions last night turned into an excessive bout of eating and drinking. The scallops and rib-eye steak were magnificent but the red wine with it a mistake. It hasn't sat well with the Donnington Best Bitter anyway and as a result I was wide awake at 5am. It was at that point my room-mate went for a lavatory visit only to walk straight into a table. He hit the deck, I laughed out loud and as a result we're now not talking. As I left the converted barn he was going for a jog, limping heavily, wearing a day-glow boob tube. And you thought this Fez lark was a doddle.
Backing winners today is though isn't it? We start on good, good to soft in places ground (good to firm for the cross country) and the reservoir must have been emptied to get it that way. It's a misty, murky morning, almost a pea-souper over Cleeve Hill but it will soon burn off. As ever your emails are craved at firstname.lastname@example.org. Are you for or against the bankers? I need water and coffee.