Constitution Hill. Honeysuckle. A meteor in full flight. A star with her last swing. Hello, champion. Goodbye, champion. Two races. Two legends. One day. One hour. Cheltenham, the sport, at its breathtaking best.
That was yesterday, a day that will live forever in pubs and parishes.
As for today…
Race 1. 9:30. The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Registered as the Baring Bingham. Grade 1. $162,000. 2 5/8 miles.
Paul Townend had a choice here. Champ Kiely, Gaelic Warrior or Impaire Et Passe. The Willie Mullins trio are 15/2, 5/1 and 15/8, respectively. Emphasize respect. Champ Kiely is 3-for-4 over hurdles. Gaelic Warrior is 3-for-3 this season, he broke his maiden by 86 lengths. Impaire Et Passe is 2-for-2 this season. The stable’s number one chose Impaire Et Passe.
Beyond them, Barry Connell said to back Marine Nationale. He duly obliged, upsetting Facile Vega in the Supreme yesterday. The owner/trainer is just as bullish on Good Land here.
For the home team, The Real Whacker is no slouch and Thyme Hill rumbled in Grade 1 hurdle events before switching codes where he’s won two of three.
The Picks: Impaire Et Passe, Good Land, Gaelic Warrior.
Race 2. 10:10. The Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. Registered as the Broadway Novices’ Chase. Grade 1. $217,500. 3 miles, 80 yards.
Gerri Colombe rides an undefeated record into this. The French-bred pocketed back-to-back Grade 1 scores at Limerick and Sandown.
Sir Gerhard, a two-time winner at the Festival, makes his second chasing start. The 8-year-old made a mistake early in his debut. He’s got the engine, but, wow what a driving test.
The Picks: Gerri Colombe, The Real Whacker, Thyme Hill.
Race 3. 10:50. The Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle. $120,000. 2 5/8 miles.
I’ve written it before, there is nothing like a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham. Twenty-six strong. If you like a horse, it’s your time, there is value everywhere. Now, do you like a horse?
I’m throwing darts.
The Picks: Camprond, Langer Dan, Sa Fureur.
Race 4. 11:30. The Betway Queen Mother. Grade 1. $480,000. 2 miles.
I’ll miss standing by the third-to-last as they come down the hill for my favorite race. Altior, Special Tiara, Sprinter Sacre, Master Minded, Moscow Flyer…the speed, the silence, the stride…
The best 2 miles in sports.
Energumene won it last year, lost to Editeur Du Gite and Edwardstone in his most recent start in the Clarence House in January. This is the rematch. A tactical gem.
The Picks: Energumene, Edwardstone, Captain Guinness.
Race 5. 12:10. The Glenfarclas Chase. Cross country. $90,000. 3 ¼ miles.
Watch Davy Russell cajole and coddle Galvin…surely, it’s Russell’s final Festival.
The Picks: Galvin, Delta Work, Back On The Lash.
Race 6. 12:50. Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup. $150,000. 2 miles.
Final Orders rides a five-race win streak, climbing from a 120 rating to 150, not ideal for a Cheltenham handicap. Elixir De Nutz is tough. J. P. McManus has the scale covered from the top with Andy Dufresne to the middle with A Wave Of The Sea and the bottom with Dinoblue.
Dart meet board.
The Picks: Dinoblue, Final Orders, Sizing Pottsie.
Race 7. 1:30. The Weatherbys Champion Bumper. Grade 1. $96,000. 2 miles.
No bet here. I’ll root for Queens Gamble for one of the good guys, Oliver Sherwood.
The Picks: Fact To File, It’s For Me, A Dream To Share.