Cheltenham Festival 2018: Day One

The Champion Hurdle takes centre stage on opening day at a soaking wet Prestbury Park

Patrick Madden Tue, Mar 13
LIVE: Cheltenham Festival 2018: Day One

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  • 12:07

    Good afternoon!
    Welcome to our coverage of the opening day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.
    Dreams are yet to be dashed, spirits yet to be broken and optimism abounds as the clock creeps towards 1.30.
    For the first time since 1982 - almost two generations - the Festival opens up on heavy ground.
    But while the going might be heavy, hearts are not - as ever, a thrilling four days lie in store.
    And whether you're on track, in the office or at the pub, we'll be bringing you every race - from the first roar through to the last.
    Here's to a good one, and best of luck.
    Come on!!!

  • 12:08

    Today's card...

    1.30 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
    2.10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy
    2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase
    3.30 Unibet Champion Hurdle
    4.10 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle
    4.50 National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase
    5.30 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase

  • 12:14
  • 12:21

    Much of the talk in the build-up to the Festival has surrounded the ground, with pretty much anyone under the age of 40 having been weaned on a diet of good to soft.

    But after the Beast from the East was followed by plenty of rain in south west England, the going is officially heavy, soft in places. It's the first day of heavy going at the Festival since 1989. Mud larks, come out to play.

  • 12:27

    Today's feature comes at 3.30, with Buveur D'Air looking fairly invincible in the Champion Hurdle - Nicky Henderson's hot pot is 8-13 in most places.

    But Willie Mullins is typically mob-handed, with Yorkhill, Wicklow Brave, Melon and Faugheen (more on the Machine later) all looking to take down the defending champ.

    Brian O'Connor is our man at Prestbury Park this week, and you can read his Champion Hurdle preview HERE.

  • 12:31

    And with an hour until the Supreme (1.30) here's some more reading to get you in the mood.

    Brian O'Connor has assessed Ireland's various Grade One hopefuls (of which there are a bucketful) across the week, which you can read HERE.  

    You can brush up on all you need to know about the Cheltenham Festival HERE.

    And there's a first day preview HERE.

  • 12:37

    Willie Mullins has the favourite in the curtain-raising Supreme, with Getabird drifting slightly but comfortably retaining favouritism at 2-1. Both he and Ruby Walsh could quickly follow up in the Arkle (2.10), with Footpad many people's Irish banker of the week.

    Gordon Elliott - last year's top trainer - has the magnificent mare Apple's Jade in the Maress Hurdle (4.10), and it's hard to see past her defending her crown, albeit at a prohibitive 8-13.

  • 12:39

    Prices for top trainer in 2018:

    6-4 Willie Mullins
    5-2 Gordon Elliott
    11-4 Nicky Henderson
    50-1 the rest

    Mullins trails Henderson's haul of 58 Festival winners by four.

  • 12:43

    Ruby Walsh returned from injury at Thurles last Thursday - with Lareena giving him his first win of 2018 at the first time of asking. He's got a typically mouth-watering book of rides this week and is an odds-on favourite to win the top jockey crown for the sixth successive year.

    Prices for top jockey:

    Ruby Walsh 10-11
    Barry Geraghty 11-2
    Jack Kennedy 6-1
    Davy Russell 10-1
    Nico De Boinville 12-1
    The rest 16-1

  • 12:51
    Bit of good news this morning ahead of tomorrow - Altior has been declared sound and fit to run in the Champion Chase. Nicky Henderson had reported him lame yesterday but he's good to go, meaning we get the clash we all want to see - Douvan v Altior (providing there's no more Ryanair-related jiggery-pokery from Rich Ricci).
  • 12:52

    Tony Keenan is back again this year with three tips for each day's racing - he landed Sizing John in the big one last year.

    You can read his day one tips HERE.

  • 12:59
    Right then, on to the Supreme...
  • 12:59

    1.30 Supreme Novices' Hurdle

    Getabird 2-1 (Oddschecker)
    Kalashnikov 6-1
    Summerville Boy 8-1
    First Flow 14-1
    Paloma Blue 16-1
    Mengli Khan 16-1
    Sharjah 20-1
    Claimantkinforgan 22-1
    Slate House 22-1
    Western Ryder 33-1
    Us And Them 33-1
    Debuchet 33-1
    BAR 66-1

  • 13:07
  • 13:12

    The Supreme produced a real shock last year as Gordon Elliott's Labaik - the grey who was normally not for moving - stormed up the hill to win at 33-1 ahead of Willie Mullins' Melon.

    2016 saw Altior hack up ahead of Min - but prior to that Mullins won the race with Douvan (2015), Vautour (2014) and Champagne Fever (2013).

    He has the favourite again today in the form of Getabird, who won impressively at Punchestown last time out, thrashing Mengli Khan on heavy ground.

    Of the home challenge, Kalashnikov would be a popular winner for Amy Murphy. Tom George's Summerville Boy beat Kalashnikov at Sandown on hevay ground last time out, but is available at a bigger price.

  • 13:16
    Ruby Walsh rides Getabird in the first, he said to the Racing Post: "He's more of a Champagne Fever, Noland or Al Ferof type of horse than a Vautour or Douvan, but if he's as good as any of those he'll go very close."
  • 13:20
    Rich Ricci has just confirmed Douvan is set for tomorrow's Champion Chase.
  • 13:21
    10 minutes to go!
  • 13:26
  • 13:27
    Get in touch to let us know where you're watching and who you fancy!
  • 13:29
    The runners are out on the track.
  • 13:30
    Getabird looking lively at the start as they mooch their way up.
  • 13:32
    They're off in the Supreme!
  • 13:32
    Debuchet takes an early lead with Getabird upside and very keen.
  • 13:34
    Getabird tanking along in these embryonic stages, First Flow inside on the rail as they pass the stands.
  • 13:34
    Kalashnikov in third over the third, Getabird and First Flow lead the way.
  • 13:35
    Four to jump as they turn up the hill, First Flow pushing Getabird up front while  Kalashnikov gets a little niggle in thrid.
  • 13:35
    First Flow hangs right and Getabird nearly diverts onto the wrong course but the two remain in front.
  • 13:35
    Poor jump from Getabird over the third last. Plenty in with a chance here.
  • 13:36
    Kalashnikov moves into the lead heading into the straight.
  • 13:36
    Kalashnikov leading up the hill from Mengli Khan.
  • 13:36
    Summerville Boy getting up.
  • 13:36
  • 13:38

    1 Summerville Boy (9-1)
    2 Kalashnikov (5-1)
    3 Mengli Khan (14-1)


  • 13:41
    Brilliant performance from Summerville Boy who stayed on brilliantly up the hill to edge out  Kalashnikov. Getabird was prominent but faded badly after a poor jump three out.
  • 13:43
  • 13:46

    Summerville Boy nearly came down at the second last there and lost all momentum - did brilliantly to get up.

    "I must have lost five or six lengths," says winning jockey Fehily.

  • 13:50
    Right then, on to the Arkle.
  • 13:55

    2.10 Arkle Chase (1m 7f)
    Footpad (W Mullins, R Walsh) EVS
    Saint Calvados (H Whittington, A Coleman) 10-3
    Petit Mouchoir (H De Bromhead, D Russell) 9-2
    Brain Power (N Henderson, N de Boinville) 16-1
    Robinshill (N Twiston-Davies, S Twiston-Davies) 100-1

  • 13:56
    Footpad is many pople's banker of the day here. He was beaten by Petit Mouchoir over hurdles but has comfortably reversed the form since going chasing and looks hard to beat. Just the five runners here.
  • 13:59
  • 14:04
    Petit Mouchoir out to 9-2 now. Brain Power a dark horse here is a recent wind-op, while Saint Calvados will like the going.
  • 14:04
  • 14:10
    The runners are down at the start.
  • 14:11
    They're coming forward.
  • 14:11
    They're off in the Arkle!
  • 14:12
    Petit Mouchoir and  Saint Calvados making the early running and going at a decent clip.
  • 14:12
    Footpad and Ruby in third about 5L off the leaders.
  • 14:13
    Saint Calvados and Petit Mouchoir going toe to toe up front.
  • 14:13
    The front two are stretching it, Footpad 10L off and makes a bad mistake with seven to go.
  • 14:14
    Saint Calvados and Petit Mouchoir have a 15L lead over Footpad with four to jump. Lot of ground to make up.
  • 14:14
    Petit Mouchoir jumps the fourth last like a dream. Footpad closing though.
  • 14:14
    Three to jump and Footpad is stalking Petit Mouchoir.
  • 14:15
    Ruby still sitting on Footpad, he's looming up on the outside.
  • 14:15
    Two to jump and Footpad takes the lead.
  • 14:15
    Footpad storming up the hill.
  • 14:15
    Footpad pops the last.
  • 14:15
  • 14:17

    1 Footpad 5-6
    2 Brain Power 14-1
    3 Petit Mouchoir 4-1

  • 14:17
    "It'll send the hairs up on the back of your neck," says Ruby after his 57th Cheltenahm win. A masterclass in patience and delivery - aided by a superb animal in Footpad.
  • 14:19
    PetitMouchoir was travelling beautifully up front and Footpad made one bad mistake on the back. The way he cruised upsides and scampered up the hill was a pleasure to watch.
  • 14:20

    "When he made that bad mistake I thought, ohh that's it over," says Willie Mullins, before praising Ruby's experience. Never in doubt...

    Footpad a Gold Cup horse? Willie reckons so.

  • 14:28
    Right then, onto the first of the handicaps - the Ultima.
  • 14:33

    2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 3m)
    Coo Star Sivola 5-1
    Singlefarmpayment 8-1
    Vintage Clouds 8-1
    Gold Present 10-1
    Ramses De Teilee 10-1
    Yala Enki 12-1
    Shantou Flyer 14-1
    Beware The Bear 14-1
    Cogry 14-1
    Minella Daddy 16-1
    Vicente 16-1
    0 0 Seven 20-1
    Wakanda 20-1
    Casse Tete 20-1
    BAR 25-1

  • 14:33
    No Irish runners in this one - open goal for the home team.
  • 14:40
    Coo Star Sivola the favourite here under Lizzie Kelly. There's an 18lb gap between top weight Gold Present and bottom weight Eamon An Cnoic.
  • 14:48

    Here come the 18-strong field - expect this to get nicely messy.

  • 14:50
    They're edging forward.
  • 14:50
    They're off in the Ultima!
  • 14:51
    Everybody over the first two fences - Vintage Clouds and Yala Enki in an early lead.
  • 14:51
    16 to jump and the whole field are over. Vicente hanging out of the back.
  • 14:52
    Vintage Clouds from Yala Enki and Coo Star Sivola. Whole field fairly bunched.
  • 14:52
    12 to jump and we have a full field - steady pace.
  • 14:53
    Yala Enki leads the way from Vintage Clouds. 11 to go and you'd say most have a chance.
  • 14:54
    Back past the stands and nine to jump, mistakes from Vicente and Singlefarmpayment.
  • 14:55
    Vintage Clouds leads the way with seven to jump.
  • 14:55
    Bottom weight  Eamon An Cnoic tanking along.
  • 14:55
    Eamon An Cnoicleads the way with four to go. Coo Star Sivola looming.
  • 14:56
    Eamon An Cnoic leads with three to jump from Coo Star Sivola.
  • 14:56
    Lizzie Kelly and Coo Star Sivola jump into the lead with two to go.
  • 14:56
    Coo Star Sivola pings the second last.
  • 14:57
    Coo Star Sivola plodding up the hill, Shantou Flyer staying on.
  • 14:57
  • 14:59
    1 Coo Star Sivola 5-1
    2 Shantou Flyer   14-1
    3 Vintage Clouds 7-1
    4 Beware the Bear 14-1
    5 Singlefarmpayment 8-1
  • 14:59
    Brilliant ride from Lizzie Kelly. He was idling a bit up the hill but dug in to see off the game challenge of Shantou Flyer.
  • 15:03
    Right, all eyes on the Champion Hurdle...
  • 15:12
    Last time a favourite won the Ultima was 2009, when AP McCoy won on Wichita Lineman.
  • 15:15

    3.30 Champion Hurdle (2m 1/2f)
    BuveurD'Air (N Henderson, B Geraghty) 8-13
    Faugheen (W Mullins, R Walsh) 5-1
    Elgin (A King, W Hutchinson) 12-1
    Melon (W Mullins, P Townend) 12-1
    Wicklow Brave (W Mullins, P Mullins) 14-1
    Yorkhill (W Mullins, D Mullins) 14-1
    Mick Jazz (G Elliott, D Russell) 25-1

  • 15:20

    Can Buveu D'Air be beaten? Nicky Henderson looks set to win this race for the seventh time.

    But - Willie Mullins has four up here. If Faugheen - the Machine - can roll back the years it would arguably go down as Mullin's finest training performance. He glowed on his return in the Morgiana Hurdle but has disappointed twice since.

    Yorkhill began this season being campaigned at the Gold Cup, but two poor performances over fences have seen him rock up in the Champion Hurdle. He's unquestionably talented, but this is a big ask.

  • 15:20
  • 15:25
    Patrick Mullins could be the first amateur to win this race since 1982 on Wicklow Brave.
  • 15:26
    They're down having a nose at the practice fence.  Buveur D'Air is glowing.
  • 15:28
    They're mooching down the start. Can the Machine roll back the clock?
  • 15:28
    Money coming in for Melon - he's into 8s.
  • 15:30
    Here we go...
  • 15:30
    They're off in the Champion Hurdle!
  • 15:31
    Faugheen shows early and jumps the first nicely.
  • 15:32
    Buveur D'Air in fourth in these early stages, Charli Parcs up front with Faugheen, Identity Thief in behind them.
  • 15:32
    Faugheen leads past the stands.
  • 15:32
    Charli parcs takes it up,  Buveur D'Air has gone with Faugheen.
  • 15:33
    Charli parcs stretches 5L clear, four to jump.
  • 15:33
    Charli Parcs with a healthy lead now, Faugheen and  Buveur D'Air following.
  • 15:34
    Ruby gives Faugheen a nudge,  Buveur D'Air travelling well.
  • 15:34
    Melon travelling smoothly up the inside.
  • 15:34
    Faugheen is struggling two out.
  • 15:34
    Melon and  Buveur D'Air head to head.
  • 15:34
    Buveur D'Air hard ridden, Melon giving it to him up the hill.
  • 15:35
    They're nose to nose!
  • 15:35
  • 15:35
    That was so, so close. As gutsy as you like from  Buveur D'Air, just edging out Melon by a neck.
  • 15:36

    1  Buveur D'Air 4-6
    2 Melon 7-1
    3 Mick Jazz 25-1

  • 15:38

    Melon ran a stormer there, but  Buveur D'Air's class shone through in the end. He had to dig very, very deep.

    Faugheen dropped off pretty quickly as they turned for home. Yorkhill miles off the pace.

  • 15:38
  • 15:46

    3-1 to England in the Prestbury Cup...

    But Ireland can claw one back now with the wondermare.

  • 15:46
    Apple's Jade is next up.
  • 15:54

    4.10 Mares' Hurdle (2m 4f)
    Apple's Jade (G Elliott, J Kennedy) 8-13
    Benie Des Dieux (W Mullins, R Walsh) 9-2
    La Bague Au Roi (W Greatrex, R Johnson) 7-1
    Jers Girl (G Cromwell, B Geraghty) 12-1
    Kayf Grace (N Henderson, N De Boinville) 33-1
    Midnight Tour (A King, D Russell) 66-1
    BAR 100-1

  • 15:56
    Apple's Jade was fantastic as she won this race last year - showing serious guts to hold of Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini. She's Gordon Elliott's main Grade One hope and should get him on the board here. The main challenge will come from Benie Des Dieux, who has been spoken about in glowing terms by Ruby & Willie.
  • 16:01
  • 16:06

    Apple's Jade would have been seriously competitive in a number of races, including Thursday's Stayer's Hurdle.  

    Three favourites have landed in a row - the bookies will be praying she doesn't defend her title.

  • 16:10
    Gordon Elliott: "She's in good form..."
  • 16:10
    They're off in the Mares'!
  • 16:11
    Early lead for Apple's Jade.
  • 16:11
    Apple's Jade leads by a couple of lengths, she has  La Bague Au Roi tracking her.  Benie Des Dieux towards the rear.
  • 16:12
    Three jumped and the favourite cruises along nicely under Jack Kennedy.
  • 16:13
    Apple's Jade just moved right into one, flirting with the run-in, but she quickly pops over and straightens up. Steady pace.
  • 16:13
    Apple's Jade leading with six to jump with  La Bague Au Roi shadowing her.
  • 16:13
    Kayf Grace is down.
  • 16:14
    La Bague Au Roi pops the fifth last nicely and takes it up ahead of Apple's Jade.
  • 16:14
    Three to go and  La Bague Au Roi has a 3L lead with Apple's Jade tracking. The field is fairly bunched.
  • 16:14
    Apple's Jade looming on the outside of  La Bague Au Roi.
  • 16:15
    Three from home and Apple's Jade moves ahead.
  • 16:15
    La Bague Au Roi trying to stretch Apple's Jade round the turn.
  • 16:15
    Midnight Tour moves into the lead!
  • 16:15
    Apple's Jade is in trouble!
  • 16:16
  • 16:19
    1  Benie Des Dieux 9-2
    2 Midnight Tour 33-1
    3 Apple's Jade 8-13
  • 16:19
    La Bague Au Roi dropped off quickly and Midnight Tour swooped up with  Benie Des Dieux on the outside. She was made to work hard but stayed on gamely as Apple's Jade threatened to get back up on the inside.  
  • 16:22

    Apple's Jade jumped right quite badly there and it looks to have cost her.  Benie Des Dieux has justified the hype.

    Two wins from Ruby, a 9-1 winner on the day. Welcome back.

  • 16:25
  • 16:26
    "Footpad was much easier," says Ruby as he puffs his cheeks out. Cracking ride.
  • 16:27
    Two races left to go - and they're not on ITV or TV3, so I'm your eyes and ears.
  • 16:28

    Now onto the four-miler, the NH Chase.

  • 16:31

    4.50 National Hunt Chase (4m)
    Rathvinden 11-2
    Mossback 6-1
    Jury Duty 13-2
    Ms Parfois 15-1
    Sizing Tennessee 17-2
    No Comment 10-1
    Duel At Dawn 14-1
    Pylonthrpressure 18-1
    Shades Of Midnight 20-1
    Keeper Hill 20-1
    Impulsive Star 25-1
    BAR 28-1

  • 16:38

    After Getabird failed to find his wings in the first it's turned into a good day for Willie and he's now got the favourite in the next in the form of Rathvinden. Elliott has a strong hand though, with Jury Duty second favourite under Jamie Codd.  

    However, Lisa O'Neill produced Tiger Roll brilliantly to win this race last year, she's on Mossback today who looks to have a very live chance as third fav.

  • 16:46
    The runners are on their way out onto the track.
  • 16:49
  • 16:49
    The runners are down at the start.
  • 16:50
    They're off in the National Hunt chase!
  • 16:51
    All the runners safely over the first two fences.
  • 16:51
    Ms Parfois leads, Jury Duty being ridden towards the back.
  • 16:52
    Ms Parfois and Sizing Tennessee leadnig, whole field still intact.
  • 16:52
    Keeper Hill is down.
  • 16:53
    Jury Duty gets in close to one at the rear of the field but survives. Two circuits to go.
  • 16:54
    Nine of 25 fences down, Pylonthepressure makes a bad mistake but Katie Walsh sits tight.
  • 16:54
    Tizzard's Sizing Tennessee looking good up front - still a long way to go.
  • 16:55
    Sizing Tennessee still leads from Ms Parfois and Impulsive Star, Mossback in foruth.
  • 16:55
    Jury Duty covered up in the back of midfield. Just over a circuit to go.
  • 16:56
    Sizing Tennessee leads as they sweep past the stands for the final time.
  • 16:56
    Impulsive Star joins Sizing Tennessee. Mossback is down.
  • 16:57
    Sizing Tenness still leads, the jumping is getting tired back in the field.
  • 16:57
    Jury Dity and Rathvinden looking ready to mount a challenge four out.
  • 16:58
    Top of the hill Sizing Tennessee leads from Impulsive Star and Ms Parfois.
  • 16:58
    Third last Sizing Tennessee leads.
  • 16:58
    Jury Duty getting into it on the outside.
  • 16:58
    Sizing Tennessee challenged by Ms Parfois.
  • 16:59
    Rathvinden running a huge race.
  • 16:59
    Ms Parfois and Rathvinden head to head.
  • 16:59
  • 17:00

    1 Rathvinden 9-2
    2 Ms Parfois 11-2
    3 Sizing Tennessee 8-1

  • 17:01
    4 Impulsive Star 25-1
  • 17:04
    That's a hat-trick up for Willie Mullins. Absolute thriller, with Rathvinden just getting up to deny the gutsy Ms Parfois.
  • 17:09
  • 17:09
    The day is coming to a close - just one race to go.
  • 17:13

    5.30 Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase (2m 41/2f)
    Any Second Now 11-2
    Mister Whitaker 13-2
    De Plotting Shed 8-1
    Barney Dwan 10-1
    Rather Be 11-1
    Testify 11-1
    Livelaughlove 14-1
    Report To Base 16-1
    Le Rocher 16-1
    Tycoon Prince 16-1
    Demi Sang 18-1
    Ballyhill 22-1
    BAR 25-1

  • 17:16
    A predictably tricky puzzle to solve in the final race. The favourite here, Ted Walsh's Any Second Now, is 0-4 over fences but has been running in some very good company. An 11L second to Footpad in a Grade One at Leopardstown on Stephen's Day looks like very good form indeed after today.
  • 17:18
    Elliott's Mossback suffered a fatal fracture when falling in the last.
  • 17:30
    The 19 runners are down at the start, just a couple of minutes to go. Any Second Now carrying the 11-10 top weight along with Testify. Ted Walsh seems quietly confident about Any Second Now's chances.
  • 17:30
    They're off in the Close Brothers!
  • 17:31
    Ballyhill and Ibis Du Rheu show first, the whole field over the first two fences.
  • 17:31
    All over the third safely.
  • 17:33
    Rocklander leads over the fifth. Testify moving nicely alongside him. Livelovelaugh is down - no hat-trick for Ruby.
  • 17:33
    Markov pulled up.
  • 17:34
    Rocklander and Testify lead over the ninth. Le Rocher and Report To Base down.
  • 17:34
    Any Second Now looming on the outside with five to go. Rocklander leads from Testify and Barney Dwan.
  • 17:35
    Three to go, Rocklander still leads from Barney Dwan and Rather Be.
  • 17:35
    Rocklander from Ibis Du Rheu.
  • 17:36
    Round the home turn, still Rocklander.
  • 17:36
    Rather Be joins Rocklander over the last.
  • 17:36
    Mr Whitaker coming with a good run.
  • 17:37
  • 17:38
    1 Mister Whitaker 13-2  
    2 Rather Be 12-1
    3 Rocklander 25-1
    4 Barney Dwan 15-2
  • 17:39
    Another excellent finish there, Brian Hughes delivered Mr Whitaker very, very late but he picked up well to deny Rather Be in a photo.
  • 17:46
    Prestbury Cup scores: Ireland 3 UK 4
  • 17:48

    Battle for the trainer's title:

    Willie Mullins 3
    Nicky Henderson 1
    Tom George 1
    Nick Williams 1
    Mick Channon 1

  • 17:49

    Jockey's table:

    Ruby Walsh 2
    Lizzie Kelly 2
    Noel Fehily 1
    Barry Geraghty 1
    Patrick Mullins 1
    Brian Hughes 1

  • 17:52

    Right, thanks for joining today.

    I'll be back tomorrow from 12ish, as the mighty Douvan (hopefully) takes on the mighty Altior.