Cheltenham Festival: Champion Hurdle Day

It's the opening day of the greatest show on turf where the Champion Hurdle takes centre stage

Malachy Clerkin Tue, Mar 14
LIVE: Cheltenham Festival: Champion Hurdle Day

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  • 12:04

    Oh happy day. Not a bet lost yet, not a storyline nixed, not a horse on the floor, not a jockey hurt, not an argument solved. Cheltenham Tuesday is upon us and at least for another hour and half until the roar goes up for the Supreme, all is well with the world.

  • 12:04
    Welcome to Day One of The Irish Times' Cheltenham liveblog. Malachy Clerkin here, taking you through to teatime.
  • 12:13
    So here we are. Tuesday at Cheltenham has, for the past few years anyway, been all about one trainer and one jockey. But life and events and training fees have got in the way for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh in 2017 and they're not just the sure thing they've otherwise been.

    Our Top Man In A Trilby Brian O'Connor sets the scene...

  • 12:15
    Brian O'Connor has never, to my knowledge, worn a trilby, by the by. He'd be more likely to make you eat it if you suggested as much.
  • 12:23
  • 12:28
  • 12:31
    And we've signed up the inestimable Tony Keenan as guest tipster for the week.

    He has three selections across the card...
  • 12:51
    Three-qurters of an hour to the tapes going up. The Supreme revolves around Melon, of course, the talking horse to end all talking horses. Ruby Walsh was interesting on Off The Ball last night talking about why he picked him given Bunk Off Early has better form on the track. "In his homework, he does things easier alongside better horses and older horses. That's basically it. We think a lot of him."
  • 13:05
  • 13:09
    Away from the top of the market in the Supreme, it's worth tipping the hat very quickly to Rachael Blackmore who will be riding Magna Cartor in the first. You can have any price you want on her but just to be there is a huge acheivement for a rider that has been in phenomenal form this season.
  • 13:16

    An oddscheck for the Supreme, 15 minutes to the off...

    Melon 3/1
    Ballyandy 10/3
    Bunk Off Early 7/1
    River Wylde 8/1
    Crack Mome 12/1
    Bar 20/1


  • 13:25
    Joint favourites now, Melon and Ballyandy both at 11/4. It's five years since anything won the Supreme at a double-figure price - is there another Cinders And Ashes in here?
  • 13:25
  • 13:29
    Down to the start...
  • 13:29
    Out onto the track...
  • 13:31

    And they're away!

  • 13:31
    Good news for  backers of Gordon Elliot's Labaik - it actually jumped off for once. Anyone holding a 28/1 docket will be relieved.
  • 13:33
    Ciliaos Emery leading the way past the stands and down the back, Pingshou and Beyond Conceit. Melon going well in behind. Ballyandy having a rough go of it so far.
  • 13:33
    Three to jump and Melon looks poined in behind Cilaos Emery and Beyond Conceit.
  • 13:34
    Starting to string out. Ciliaos Emery jumps the second last in front
  • 13:34
    Labaik comes from the clouds!
  • 13:35
    The horse who never wants to start gets up at the finish for Gordon Elliot and Jack Kennedy!
  • 13:36
    What a ride by Jack Kennedy. The 17-year-old kid from Dingle skips up the hill ahead of Ruby Wlash on Melon.
  • 13:36
  • 13:39
    That's some story. This horse was actually suspended from racing earlier in the season after not jumping off at Layton and Navan. There was always a feeling that if and when he eventually ran, he could run and run. But a Sumpreme winner? Bonkers.
  • 13:39
  • 13:39
  • 13:44
    Labaik's race history...
    Left at start  
    Left at start
    Left at start  
    6th (Reluctant to start)
    1st (Supreme Novices' Winner)
  • 13:47
    Well now. That's an incredible start to the meeting.  
  • 13:48
    Righto. Onto the Arkle. Can't imagine there'll be anything like that drama here but let's see. Latest odds...

    Altior 2/7
    Royal Caviar 12/1
    Charbel 12/1
    Cloudy Dream 20/1
    Forest Bihan 22/1
    Some Plan 28/1  
  • 13:52
  • 13:58
    No matter what happens the rest of the week, don't listen to a bar of any bookies crying. They were yakking on all week - and longer - about how Melon was their biggest loser. So they're out the gap now.  
  • 14:01
  • 14:04
    The Arkle has become an annual procession - four of the last five years, the winner has been the odds-on favourite. Altior is the same price as Douvan last year and it's hard for anyone to see a different outcome. He's a fence clear of these lot.
  • 14:07
    Down to the start...
  • 14:11
    And they're away!
  • 14:12
    Everyone over the first but Three Stars has been pulled up early. Charbel out in front, Altior and Ordinary World following.
  • 14:13
    Altior sitting in second, not a bother on him. Nico De Boinville be delighted that Charbel is cantering away on the front for him.
  • 14:13
    Three to jump - Charbel in front, Altior on his heels. Royal Caviar, Cloudy Dream and Ordinary World in behind
  • 14:14
    Charbel putting it up to Altior. The favourite is being shaken up!
  • 14:14

    Charbel down at the second last!

  • 14:15
    Altior jumps the last in front and streaks away up the hill. Cloudy Dream second, Ordinary World third.
  • 14:15
    Oooh. That could have been a race without the fall.  
  • 14:17
    Charbel was always going to bounce out and serve it up to Altior but not many people thought he'd have him in trouble coming to the second last. Both horses were in more or less the same positions coming to the business end of the Supreme last year as well and Charbel ended up in fourth so who's to say it would have been any different? But the fall robbed us of a finish.
  • 14:19
  • 14:22
    Fair play to Nico De Boinville, incidentally. He was off for a long time with injury and the plumb ride on Altior wasn't always certain to stay his. There was pressure on him coming back after Noel Fehily had guided him through the winter and he saw it out.  
  • 14:22
    A sixth Arkle win for Nicky Henderson, by the by. That's a record for the race.
  • 14:25
    The fall was a killer for David Bass, Charbel's jockey. He missed a chunk of the winter after a multi-horse pile-up at Ascot left him with a busted cheekbone after a horse thood on his face. To be coming ot the second last at Cheltenham in the Arkle with the favourite in his rearview mirror would have sustained him through some rough days. Tough old game, this.
  • 14:35
    The first handicap of the week is up next. A big dirty old handicap chase full of familiar festival warriors. Here's the betting...

    Singlefarmpayment 11/2
    The Druids Nephew 9/1
    Noble Endeavor 10/1
    Henri Parry Morgan 12/1
    Ibis Du Rheu 12/1
    Holywell 12/1
    Bar 16/1
  • 14:37
    Bets of luck to you if you can pick the winner of this. The preview night circuit has been full of hosannas to Singlefarmpayment, trained by Tom George and ridden by Adrian Heskin. But horses like The Druids Nephew, Holywell, Un Temps Pour Tout and Noble Endeavor have all run well at the festival before and must be on or near the top of anyone's list.
  • 14:39
    But sure look, in a world where a horse that won't run can win the Supreme, who's to say dear old Buywise - an equally frustrating horse to follow over the years - can't have his day, finally?
  • 14:41
  • 14:42
  • 14:47
    Great line from Godron Elliot earlier - said he nearly took Labaik to Naas on Sunday instead of Chltenham on Tuesday, on the gorunds that it wouldn't have been as embarrassing if he refused at Naas. "I don't care if he never jumps off again!"
  • 14:47
    Five minutes to the Ultima, horses heading down to the start.
  • 14:50
    And they're away!
  • 14:51
    Caid Du Berlais down at the first
  • 14:52
    Goign a fair gallop here, even with 16 to jump. Annacotty leading, Go Conquer next, Henri Parry Morgan next. Holywell struggling a bit, in keeping with his form this season.
  • 14:53
    Singlefarmpayment is in mid-division, Noble Endeavour alongside.
  • 14:54
    Coming around to finish the first circtui, the pace has dropped a little and the field has bunched. Annacotty and Go Conquer have kicked on a bit, six lengths clear of the field.
  • 14:55
    Un Temps Pour Tout bridging the gap.
  • 14:56
    Go conquer has strung the field out significantly now. Un Temps Pour Tout and Vic De Touzain closing up. Henri Parry Morgan on the retreat.
  • 14:56
    Go COnquer and Aidan Coleman leading over the third last
  • 14:56
    About eight with chances with two left to jump.
  • 14:57
    Singlefarmpayment jumps the last ahead! Here's Un Temps Pour TYout!
  • 14:57
    Un Temps Pour Tout in a photo!
  • 14:57
    OOf! What a finish!
  • 14:59
    Un Temps Pour Tout wins for the second year in a row. With Tom Scudamore, the David Pipe horse carries top weight in a stunning finish. It looked for all the world like  Singlefarmpayment was coming to win the race at the back of the last but Un Temps Pour Tout clawed and grabbed all the way up the hill to win at 12/1.
  • 15:00
    Noble Endeavour finished third for Davy Russell and Henry De Bromhead - Davy's second third of the day so far.
  • 15:01
    Ha! And DOB (Dear Old Buywise) plugged on for fourth.
  • 15:02
  • 15:04
  • 15:06
    Tom Scudamore is a jockey who, to put it politely, "has his critics". But that was a hell of a way to win. Delivered his mount at just the right time and grabbed victory on the line. He came into Cheltenham having lost Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack a few short weeks out but this will fairly ease the pain.
  • 15:14
    And now to the Champion Hurdle.

    Another shout for Brian O'Connor's preview
  • 15:17
    Oddscheck, 15 minutes to the start...

    Yanworth 9/4
    Buveur D'Air 5/1
    Brain Power 7/1
    Petit Mouchoir 7/1
    The New One 9/1
    Moon Racer 9/1
    Footpad 14/1
    16/1 Bar
  • 15:24
    It's a completely open race this year. No Annie Power, no Faugheen. Yanworth has the best racecourse form, Moon Racer has potential, The New One and My Tent Or Yours have had cracks at this before but lost out when there were stars in the field. We don't know if there's a star this year so let's find out...
  • 15:26
    What sort of race will it be? Chances are The New One will make the pace and Petit Mouchoir will slot in alongside or close up. Yanworth will be going at the end, it's just a matter of who will be going with him...
  • 15:27
  • 15:29
    Horses down at the start...
  • 15:30
    And they're away...
  • 15:31
    Petit Mouchoir out front, The New One in behind. Wicklow Brave slow to get away.
  • 15:31
    A rattling gallop.
  • 15:32
    Yanworth is on the inside rail in third with Brain Power on his outside.
  • 15:33
    Petit Mouchoir has steadied the pace in front. The New in sceond, Brain Power third, Moon racer out wide battling for fourth with Yanworth. Four to jump.
  • 15:33
    Petit Mouchoir isn't going to die wondering anyway. Pushing along with The New One behind and Brain Power next. Buveaur D'Air passes yanworth.
  • 15:33
    Yanworth off the bridle
  • 15:34
    Petit Mouchoir over the second last in front. Buveaur D'Air hits the front.
  • 15:34
    Buveur D'air over the last in front. My tent Or Yours coming back at him but doesn't get there! Buveur D'Air wins.
  • 15:35
    Buveur D'Air wins for Nicky Henderson, JP McManus and Noel Fehily.
  • 15:37
    We knew it already but last year's Supreme was some race. Altior won and followed up with the 2017 Arkle. Buveur D'Air came third and followed up with the 2017 Champion Hurdle.  
  • 15:39
  • 15:39
    Buveur D'Air wasn't even supposed to be hurdling this season. Nicky Henderson only announced he was switching over from chasing on January 31st.
  • 15:40
    That makes it six Champion Hurdles for Nicky Henderson to add to his six Arkles.
  • 15:42
    And second for My Tent Or Yours - that's three Champion Hurdles he's been runner-up in. Henderson was adamant in the build-up that he'd be bang there at the final hurdle and whatever happened after that would happen. He got beaten but what a run.
  • 15:50
    Petit Mouchoir couldn't have done a whole lot more. Bryan Cooper put it up to everyone and made it a true-run race, just got outstayed up the hill by Noel Fehily's horse.  
  • 15:55
  • 15:58
    That's a sixth Champion Hurdle for JP McManus as well - three for Istabraq and one each for Binocular, Jezki and now Buveur D'Air.
  • 16:04

    And onto the Mares' Hurdle. Willie Mullins has won it eight of its nine runnings and he has the two at the top of the market here.

    Limini 13/8
    Vroum Vroum Mag 5/2
    Apple's Jade 7/2  
    Jers Girl 14/1
    16/1 Bar

  • 16:06
  • 16:11
    Down to the start in the mares' hurdle. Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins haven't gone without a winner on a Cheltenham Tuesday since 2008 so they'll be feeling it a little here...
  • 16:12
    And away they go...
  • 16:13
    Pass the time out front for Tom Scudamore after the first three hurdles. Apple's Jade in third, Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag back in mid-div...
  • 16:13
    Just for clarity, Vroum Vroum Mag is Paul Townend's ride, Limini has Ruby on board
  • 16:14
    The pace is pedestrian enough coming round in front of the stands. Bryan Cooper has pushed Apple's Jade on into the lead. The two Mullins horses are a fair bit back but travelling well.
  • 16:15
    Apple's Jade is a good 15 lengths ahead of the two Mullins horses with a heap of horses in between.
  • 16:15
    Cooper filling Apple's Jade with air before the final assault. Field bunched up behind him. Three to jump.
  • 16:16
    Vroum Vroum Mag in fifth, Limini in fourth.
  • 16:16
    Pace rising.
  • 16:16
    Jer's Girl down!
  • 16:16
    Apples Jade leads over second last, Vroum Vroum Mag ranges up on his outside, Limini in third.
  • 16:16
    The three of them across the last together
  • 16:17
    Apple's Jade gets her nose in front!
  • 16:17
    Apples' Jade wins!
  • 16:18
    A second winner for Gordon Elliott - on a horse that was in Willie Mullins's yard at the start of the season.  
  • 16:19
    What a cracking ride from Cooper there - pushed and pushed on the first circuit, slowed it down for a bit down the back and then pressed the button going to the last, streaking away up the hill after jumping it. Beautiful ride.  
  • 16:21
    Vroum Vroum Mag was second, Limini was third. Any chance Limini had went at the last with a slight mistake. She might not have beaten Apple's Jade up the hill but her chance disappeared there at any rate.
  • 16:21
  • 16:23
    "I haven't had a winner on a Tuesaday before now. Now I know how Willie Mullins feels!"
    Michael O'Leary on getting a winner (with an ex-Willie Mullins horse).  
  • 16:31
    Two races to go. Next up, the four-miler - or to give it its official name, The National Hunt Chase. In a race for amateur jockeys, it often pays to look at the riders here as much as the horses.
  • 16:34
    This race is named in honour of JT McNamara for the first time this year. ITV ran a lovely tribute to the late Limerick rider earlier on, well worth watching.
  • 16:34
  • 16:41
    The four-miler roll of honour for the past few years...
    2016 Derek O'Connor
    2015 Jamie Codd
    2014 Joshua Newman
    2013 Patrick Mullins
    2012 JT McNamara
    2011 Derek O'Connor
    2010 Katie Walsh
    2009 Sam Whaley-Cohen

    Those are the names to follow, folks.  
  • 16:45
    For what it's worth, then, here's who they ride today

    Jamie Codd - A Genie In A Bottle (9/2)
    Sam Whaley-Cohen - Beware The Bear (5/1)
    Derek O'Connor - Edwulf (11/2)
    Katie Walsh - Arbre De Vie (12/1)
    Patrick Mullins - Haymount (25/1)
    Joshua Newman -  Kerrow (33/1)
  • 16:49
    Horses down at the start...
  • 16:51
    And they're away...
  • 16:51
    Flintham heads off out in front. Champers ON Ice has been left out the back a bit early on.
  • 16:53
    Big mistake for Beware The Bear out the back, almost down and Sam Whaley-Cohen lost his irons. Still going but that has to hurt his chance, albeit there's a couple of circuits to go.
  • 16:54
    Toiger Roll racing nicely in third here - Gordon Elliott couldn't have a third winner on the day, could he?
  • 16:55
    Flintham scooting along in front, MIssed Approach with him for company. Martello Tower going nicely in third, Arpege Dalene going well too. Nobody is out of this.
  • 16:56
    Arbre De Vie, Beware The Bear, A Genie In A Bottle and Edwulf are all at the back. Nobody panicking yet.
  • 16:56
    Oh, Martello Tower pulled up. That's a shame - he was travelling well.
  • 16:56
    Out for the second circuit, Flintham still in front.
  • 16:57
    Strating to string out, over a mile to go. Flintham makes a mistake and is passed by Missed Approach. Tiger Roll comes up on the rail. Still no sign of the principles.
  • 16:58
    Derek O'Connor creeps into it on Edwulf, three to jump...
  • 16:58
    Tiger Roll tanks through to take the lead two out. Edwulf looms up behind him.
  • 16:59
    Tiger Roll jumps the second last better and he's away!  
  • 16:59
    Missed Approach comes second, Edwulf pulled up on the run in and that looks like the horse could be in trouble.
  • 17:01
    Three wins for Gordon Elliott today! And a first festival winner for Dublin jockey Lisa O'Neill.
  • 17:02
    You won't see a four-miler won with such total ease as that. Tiger Roll even clouted a fence on the first circuit and it didn't matter in the slightest. Brilliant ride from Lisa O'Neill.
  • 17:04
    Desperate luck for Edwulf, who was coming to give the winner a serious race jumping the last. Derek O'Connor had to pull him up coming up the straight and prospects must be bad for him.
  • 17:06
    Another winner for MIchael O'leary, which we're all delighted about, I'm sure.
  • 17:08
  • 17:17
    Onwards, then to the last race of the day, the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap
  • 17:18

    Betting check...

    Foxtail Hill 8/1
    Two Taffs 8/1
    Tully East 10/1
    Itsafreebee 10/1
    12/1 Bar  

  • 17:22
    This one looks like a good old-fashioned lottery. The one thing that won't happen is Gordon Elliott notching a fourth win of the day as he has no runner.  
  • 17:22
    It won't be won by Willie Mullins or Ruby Walsh either, for that matter. Which means that for the first time since 2008, neither Mullins nor Walsh will register a win on a Cheltenham Tuesday.
  • 17:25
    Tully East seems to be fancied around the place for Alan Fleming and Denis O'Regan. Dan Skelton has two at the front of the field - Two Taffs and Its'afreebee. Foxtail Hill could go well for the Twiston -Davies team but after that, it's anyone's guess.
  • 17:27
    For what it's worth, there's been a big gamble on Zamdy Man for Venetia Williams - backed from 25/1 into 12/1
  • 17:29
    This race is going to be delayed a while - medics are still tending to Edwulf on the track. Horses haven't gone down to the start yet.
  • 17:32
    Start time has been moved to 5.40
  • 17:34
  • 17:35
    While we're waiting, a few stats from the day. The starting prices of the winners so far make it quite a day for the bookies. Only one favourite won - and it was in the race that most people probably didn't bet in because Altior was such a dead cert. Outside of him (1/4) the starting prices have been 25/1. 9/1, 5/1, 7/2 and 16/1. No matter what happens here, it's been a rough day for punters.
  • 17:39
    Horses down at the start...
  • 17:40
    Out onto the course...
  • 17:40
    And they're away...
  • 17:40
    Foxtail Hill leading over the first
  • 17:41
    Its'afreebee is in second over the third behind Foxtail Hill and it's a decent gallop as they head on to the final two miles.
  • 17:42
    Willie Twiston Davis is dictating a nice pace on the front with Foxtail Hill.  Its'afreebee is in behind, Temple HIlls and Deans Road going well in behind. Sizing Tennesee is in close touch. as they go out for the final circuit.
  • 17:43
    Foxtail Hill falls!
  • 17:43
    Burtson well is down, All hell Let Loose is pulled up.
  • 17:44
    Mmixboy lead Its'afreebee, Killiney Court in third as they wind up for the last four fences.
  • 17:44
    Its'afreebee gets pulled up - looked like Harry Skeltons' saddle slipped
  • 17:45
    Mixboy leading. Double Ws in behind, Tully East, Powersbomb - all in with a shout jumping the third last.
  • 17:45
    Killiney Court down at the second last!
  • 17:45
    Five in a line over the last
  • 17:45
    Tully East is away and gone up the run in!
  • 17:46
    Gold Present second, Bun Doran third.
  • 17:48
    What a ride from Denis O'Regan. Tully East was well fancied - and tipped up by Pricewise this morning. O'regan crept away into the race but never saw daylight until the final fence. Sped away from the last like he'd just joined in.
  • 17:49

    Scoreboard after Day One

    Gordon Elliott 3
    Nicky Henderson 2
    David Pipe 1
    Alan Fleming 1

    Nico De Boinville 1
    Bryan Cooper 1
    Noel Fehily 1
    Jack Kennedy 1
    Lisa O’Neill 1
    Tom Scudamore 1
    Denis O’Regan 1

    Prestbury Cup
    Great Britain 3 Ireland 4

  • 18:10
    Thanks for joining this afternoon, we'll be back to bring you all of the second day's action form Cheltenham - including the supreme Douvan in the Champion Chase.