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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cheltenham 2012, day one

It's hard to believe a year has passed but we are back at day one of Cheltenham. I love this morning - everyone still full of hope and excitement. By close of business on Friday, most of will be broken men and today's euphoria will seem very naive indeed!

I've an article in the Irish Independent each day which is great - it's a big week of the year for those of us who write about racing and I'm happy to be working flat out. I won't copy and past the whole lot but below is my quick race-by-race guide. My main bet of the day is on Al Ferof in the Arkle as Paddy Power are giving your money back if Sprinter wins.

PS, today's trades are at the bottom of the page.

Darlan has claims but this year’s renewal is competitive and 4/1 is short. Expect a big run from Steps To Freedom but with at least half a dozen horses in with a serious chance, the Festival curtain raiser is a race best watched.
Sprinter Sacre could be the real deal but I’m not willing to take 5/6 to find out. He’s very stylish and won the Game Spirit Chase with buckets in hand but he faces a stiffer task here and still has a bit to prove. Al Ferof will be finely tuned for today and could be the one to cause an upset.
A wide-open handicap in which the main players in the betting seem a little exposed. Don’t be afraid to take an each-way chance on an outsider and 40/1, Mount Oscar is as good as any of those at the longer end of the market. He’s getting on in years and isn’t always fluent but he’s not overly burdened in the weights and may just scrape a place.
Each year, we always get an Irish banker at the Festival and Hurricane Fly is already being compared favourably with the great Istabraq.  His win at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion Hurdle was breath-taking and even though he’s short at 4/5, I can’t find a single reason to oppose. If you’re looking to find a fly in the ointment, 2010 winner Binocular should be top of the list.
It’s interesting to see Maljimar up there in the betting again this year as there’s never been a British trained winner from 56 horses since this race began in 2005. Scotsirish and Uncle Junior are bound to be popular but an each-way chance is taken on 25/1 outsider, Dancing Tornado, which ran well in the Kerry National and could be suited to longer distances these days.
I’d love to find a reason to take on the Willie Mullins trained Quevega at odds of 1/2 but the lightly raced mare runs well fresh, has loads of class and has tonnes in hand on all known form.
Not a race for heavy punting.  At 12/1, Venetia Williams’ Carrickboy gets the token vote under a penalty following an impressive win in a class 3 handicap at Hereford last week. 

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