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Cheltenham Festival - Day one as it happened


To get involved, e-mail (with 'For Oliver Brett' in the subject), use 606 or text us your views on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide) with "RACING" as the first word. (Not all comments can be used. Messages will be charged at your standard operator rate)

By Oliver Brett

1654: Thanks for joining me today, and let's hope some more fancied horses come home tomorrow. I think Master Minded will do it on cruise control. Famous last words...

Honest Frank
1650: Honest Frank on Twitter: "Champion Hurdle 4th Celestial Halo to go chasing next season. 'Who knows he might win a Champion Chase one day,' says trainer Paul Nicholls."

1646: David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle:
1. Quevega 6-4F
2. Carole's Legacy 20-1
3. Voler La Vedette 9-4

Bookie woe
1645: Quevega is the winner for Ireland and finally the bookies have to empty their satchels. They've had a grand day, mind.

1644: Still a decent lead for Sam Waley-Cohen on the leader, but among those steadily catching up is the favourite Quevega.

Sunny weather
1643: And they're off in beautiful evening sunshine, with Stravinsky Dance leading them all on a, well, merry dance at the moment at least.

1638: They're down at the start for today's final race...

1635: I think the auto-refresh function has stopped working. We'll struggle on until this race is over, with you lot pressing F5 and so on, and at that point we'll wrap things up here and make sure we can get the auto-refresh thing firing on all cylinders tomorrow!

1634: We are going to have an entire day without a favourite winning unless Quevega can put Ruby Walsh on a winning streak in today's final race. It's the two-and-a-half-mile David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle and the Willie Mullins-trained Quevega can also give the Irish a third success of the day, which will partially make up for the disappointment of both Dunguib and Go Native.

1629: That was jockey Adrian Heskin's first Cheltenham ride and here's what he has to say: "He was just brilliant, absolutely brilliant. He travelled great throughout the race and the one time he met a fence wrong, he put himself right."

606 graphic
1622: From JB_TheMessiah on 606 message-boards: "Congratulations Binocular! To come from injury and do that its worth a legendary status"

1618: A reminder to check our industry-leading results service, from time to time, while if you want results all the way down, go to the Racing Post's online service - though I should add this takes considerably longer to come through.

Bookie joy
1614: Glenfarclas Handicap Chase:
1. A New Story 25-1
2. L'Ami 4-1
3. Lacdoudal 28-1
4. Another Jewel 16-1

1609: Adrian Heskin, a seven-pound claimer, keeps this race in Ireland with a lovely ride on the Michael Hourigan-trained 12-year-old with a nice low weight. He is returned at 25-1.

1608: A New Story is the winner, another big-priced winner at that.

1607: Garde Champetre makes a bad mistake at the "Aintree" fence as Lacdoudal leads.

1605: Monkerhostin is one of the few not really travelling well. A number have chances.

1603: With 19 fences still to jump, they go over the water and approach the "Cheese Wedges" with Heads Onthe Ground the leader.

1601: Silver Birch, a former Grand National winner, is among the early leaders approaching the ninth fence.

1600: They're off in the cross-country. Almost too early, not quite!

1558: I am getting all sorts of e-mails and texts asking "who came fourth in this race, who came fifth in that?" Official SP results only give places as paid out by most bookmakers, others take longer to arrive. Bear with me!

1556: To the person texting with a question about what happened to Celestial Halo... Well the answer is he just ran out of gas up the hill, and finished fourth or fifth.

1554: Jockey Andrew Thornton with some interesting thoughts about Denman on Thursday: "At this time of year, people know the weather's been bright, it's perked up, it's lighter in the morning and it's no different for horses. It's that little bit warmer, we all feel better for ourselves if we get a bit of sun on our backs, and it's the same with horses."

1549: E-mail from Graham Davison: "Isn't there a case to investigate the trainer of Binocular for his statement that the horse wouldn't run?" I don't think so, Graham, but I would love to see the official line from the British Horseracing Authority.

1546: And now, as some bloke in Monty Python once said, now for something completely different. The Glenfarclas Handicap Chase at 1600 is a three-and-a-half mile cross-country chase where they jump some unusual-shaped fences and twist and turn this way and that on a bespoke course with banks and ditches aplenty. Nina Carberry rides favourite Garde Champetre who loves this course and won here last year. He has to saddle top weight of 11st 12lbs though.

1542: It is, of course, not unheard of for a horse to win a big race after being ruled out of it. Kicking King won the Gold Cup in 2005 in the same way, while I am sure there was a fairly recent Epsom Derby winner who was also written off by his trainer at some point.

1537: Just to explain that Betfair statistic: Six people backed Binocular at 999-1 when the trainer declared he "would not run". That means that one or two people also lost a lot of money as Betfair is not a bookmaker, just people betting against each other.

1536: Winning jockey Tony McCoy: "When I schooled him last week it was the first time he has hurdled like we know Binocular can - like a champion hurdler. He didn't have a good build-up this year. He has not been hurdling all year, he's just done something funny every time. I'm so happy for JP [McManus, owner]. This is better than any feeling I have had from the horse. It's hard to win here and this is everything."

Honest Frank
1533: Honest Frank on Twitter: "A total of £26 was spent on backing Binocular at the maximum price on the internet betting exchange. One bet of £10 netting nearly £10,000"

1530: Champion Hurdle
1. Binocular 9-1
2. Khyber Kim 7-1
3. Zaynar 15-2

It's a British-trained winner
1526: That's a third Champion Hurdle for McCoy, and a fourth for trainer Nicky Henderson - a 9-1 winner representing another fairly decent result for the bookies, though the crowd are giving McCoy and Binocular a huge cheer.

1525: Binocular wins by about four lengths with Tony McCoy given an armchair ride by a horse who at one stage was officially withdrawn!

1523: Binocular and Go Native are looking very good.

1522: Punjabi and Medermit are the ones beginning to catch up with the two pace-setters.

1521: Celestial Halo and Zaynar are miles ahead of the rest soon after the start. Interesting.

1520: Honest Frank on Twitter "Nobber. It's a place in Co Meath, Ireland, where Go Native groom Alan McElroy lives. If he wins Champion Hurdle, he will be £100k richer." And with that, they're off in the Champion Hurdle.

Form pointer
1519: Solwhit and Zaynar are the horses being backed on the course, along with the favourite, Go Native. Punjabi, on the other hand, is "taking a walk" in the betting market. Will probably win seeing how things have gone for the punters thus far.

1515: Go Native's trainer Noel Meade on 5 live: "Everything's gone good. We've done everything we wanted to do with him and the weather's good. He travelled over well. I haven't really thought about the money (this horse stands to win £1m in bonus money). It adds a little bit of spice to it but winning the Champion Hurdle in its own right is a huge thing. Given a clear run and if everything goes right he should be OK."

1513: A correction on the identity of the fatality from the last race. It was in fact Casey Jones who has been put down, not Knowhere. I have also corrected the original entry. Apologies.

1512: Trainer Nicky Henderson: "Punjabi lacks that bit of sex appeal. If I painted him pink he would probably be everybody's favourite."

1507: OK, we're 13 minutes away from the scheduled start of the Champion Hurdle. Go Native remains a fairly clear favourite. He'll be bidding to be the first favourite of the Festival to win and finally take some wind out of the bookies' sails. With Paul Carberry on board, he has an excellent pilot.

1505: Richard Johnson picks up a four-day ban for his riding on the winner in the first. And Casey Jones has, very sadly, been put down while jockey Tom Scudamore has hurt his collarbone in falling from Knowhere. It might be a break.

606 graphic
1503: Just seen a shot of trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies looking alarmingly like Piers Morgan. Must be hallucinating already. Anyone fancy Twisters' Khyber Kim in the next? OneBeeInLondon does, telling us on 606: "I think Khyber Kim will run a big race today possible place at least".

1501: Winning jockey Paddy Aspell: "He battled and it's all down to the horse. Jimmy said if he got in behind horses, he would look after number one but I've asked him questions I shouldn't have been asking him and he's proved it. Apart from this, I think my biggest win was something daft like the Scottish County Hurdle. I'm a journeyman but days like these, words just can't get it over."

1457: Cumbria-based trainer Moffatt reminds us he once rode a winner at the Festival 15 years ago, but as I suspected this is his first Festival success as a trainer.

1452: I would have to question the ride Timmy Murphy gave to The Package, who would have surely won had he been produced a few seconds earlier, but take nothing away from Paddy Aspell, the jockey of the winner, and trainer James Moffatt.

Bookie joy
1448: William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase
1. Chief Dan George 33-1
2. The Package 9-2F
3. Ogee 8-1
4. Offshore Account 33-1

1447: Officially it's a photo-finish, but Chief Dan George has surely won it. Yes he has.

1446: Bensalem falls at a critical stage and Chief Dan George wins, beating a very fast-finishing The Package by a whisker.

1445: Niche Market could be the one here, well-timed run from him.

1444: Razor Royale and Ogee are beginning to get into the race now but Comply or Die still leads.

1443: With a circuit to go, Bensalem is about ninth or 10th with Comply or Die and Joe Lively still ahead of the rest.

1442: Knowhere, Casey Jones and Exmoor Ranger all fall at the open ditch. Offshore Account is handy.

1441: Joe Lively sets the pace from Comply or Die in the early stages of the William Hill Trophy Handicap.

1440: They're off...

1438: Circling ahead of the start in the third race...

Form pointer
1436: Some final betting news ahead of the William Hill Trophy: The Package and Ogee are the hot orders in the betting ring, with Bensalem a negative.

1435: Somebody was after the fourth-placed horse in the Festival opener. This one has finally come through on the full results service: Oscar Whisky (11-1).

1431: Comply or Die, the 2008 Grand National winner, is an interesting contender in this race as well, though I am not sure he will feature among the top places.

1428: But the Champion Hurdle is, of course, still the best part of an hour away. Next up is the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase. It's the first handicap of the Festival, it has a huge number of runners in it (24 in fact) and it's over three miles. And no, I'm afraid I don't know who'll win it. It's an exceptionally "trappy" contest as they say. Character Building represents some decent each-way value though.

1424: "Just spoken to a nervous Noel Meade, trainer of Champion Hurdle favourite Go Native. Says drying ground should suit his speed." That just in from our very own Honest Frank with some nice insight on Twitter. Cheers, Frank.

1422: I have a very authoritative e-mail from Freddy, a travel agent in Lancashire: "For the record, Punjabi is being overbacked and is nowhere near value for money on the 6/1 odds being labelled around in my local. Anyone who has backed Punjabi is doing it because everyone else is, it WILL NOT win, mark my words."

1419: I have to reveal quite a few colleagues in the office were on Sizing Europe. I must say I was keen myself but after a number of ante-post bets on other races I regrettably "kept my powder dry" as they say. Oh well...

1415: Winning jockey Andrew Lynch: "He was a bit keen early on there. He was good over hurdles but he was always going to be a chaser. The last day at Leopardstown, he didn't really jump the last but he jumped super today."

1410: That's a 6-1 winner for Ireland, but another success for the dastardly bookies after Captain Cee Bee, with Tony McCoy on board, never really got into a racing rhythm. Somersby was second at 4-1, with Osana (14-1) third.

1409:Sizing Europe wins the Arkle Chase after travelling smoothly throughout under Andrew Lynch.

Sunny weather
1403: A reminder that actor James Nesbit has a share in Riverside Theatre, which is a lively outside for the Arkle. The second race is off in a minute or two. The sun is still out by the way.

1401: E-mail from Robert in Leicester: This text commentary is the only saving grace of a painful graveyard shift in the office! Got so many bets on I've lost count, just know if Bensalem and Punjabi win I'm in the money! Good luck everyone.

John Inverdale
Bookie joy
1358: Before we concentrate exclusively on the Arkle, 5 Live's John Inverdale has unearthed this stat: the bookies made about £6m from Dunguib's defeat just now, not to mention all the accumulators that have been sunk already, so I'm afraid I have to put up the "happy bookie" graphic once again.

1357: We are ridiculously close to the Arkle now, off at 1405, the annual championship for first-season chasers. A fairly open race this year, with Captain Cee Bee hoping to get the Irish challenge up and running.

1355: E-mail from Sameer: "Great tip by Honest Frank for the first. In Cairns, Australia, doing some study and put a couple of bucks e/w on Menorah for nice collect. Bloody ripper."

1353: Live BBC commentary switches from 5 live Sports Extra to 5 live itself, so refresh your page to get the correct audio feed on your web page.

1350: Winning jockey Richard Johnson: "On a couple of days this year it didn't work out for him, but today it has done and it's great to have it. "It was a false-run race [at Ascot last time] but I always thought Cheltenham would be ideal for him with a true-run race."

1346: Ben in Exeter, text message "Off to the bookies at lunch to bet on Celestial Halo. Nicholls and Walsh to clean up this week. Hope the boss doesn't catch me watching the 3:20!"

1342: You can access all the SPs and results from our industry-leading results service, so check out the full details from the first race at your leisure.

1338: The last hurdle is significantly nearer the winning line than in previous years, so once Menorah, a 12-1 winner of this, jumped it in front, there simply wasn't time for the two fancied horses to pass him on the run-in.

Bookie joy
1336: Dunguib travelled along the outside, but never jumped particularly well, and had a bit too much to do up the hill, finishing third in the end. Tony McCoy kept Get Me Out of Here handy throughout and came up with a big run to take second and almost closed in on the winner, the Philip Hobbs-trained Menorah, who was expertly ridden by Richard Johnson.

1334: Menorah wins the opener at Cheltenham.

1330: The Cheltenham roar rings across the Cotswolds as the Supreme Novices' Hurdle gets under way. THEY'RE OFF!

Cornelius Lysaght
1329: BBC's Cornelius Lysaght on Twitter: "Irish insisting Dunguib even bigger cert than earlier, number of race cards running low."

Form pointer
1328: The cash is flying in for Dunguib now. Just what will his inexperienced jockey Bryan O'Connell be feeling right now? He turned pro last autumn and this is quite easily the biggest ride of his life.

1324: E-mail from Will in Kent: "I think Paul Nicholls' domination is a great thing for racing. Firstly it will force others to raise their game but secondly isn't it wonderful to keep seeing him turn out arguably some of the greatest racehorses of all time! Long may it continue!"

Clare Balding
1321: Clare Balding on 5 live Sports Extra: "I feel like a jiggy horse in the paddock. I was about to say I'm sweating."

1318: Jockeys coming out now to saddle up for the opener, with AP McCoy about to get the leg-up on Get Me Out of Here, viewed by many as the main danger to the favourite. So will the headlines be Dunguib! or Damp squib?

1314: Trainer Nicky Henderson, who has three runners in the Champion Hurdle - Binocular, last year's winner Punjabi and Zaynar: "They've got here, slightly wobbly paths to get here after a pretty difficult winter, but I'm very happy that they're here."

1311: Anonymous texter: "Up and coming trainer Thomas O'Leary from West Cork in Ireland brings two over for the Cross Country. Expecting a big run from Preist's Leap who was going well in the National last year before running out of steam"

1308: How many winners do people think Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh are going to pick up this week? They've got the hot favourites for all three remaining features as of tomorrow and there's a bit of a buzz about Celestial Halo today in the Champion Hurdle. Is the Nicholls domination a good or bad thing for racing?

Sam Thomas
1305: From Sam Thomas on BBC Radio 5 live Sports Extra "I broke the T1 vertebra at the top of my neck schooling Woolcombe Folly the other day. But he's none the worse for the fall and won't be making that error again." Sam, who rode Denman to victory in the 2008 Gold Cup, adds: "Whatever way you look at it Kauto Star is going to be very hard to beat this time. Two years ago Denman was able to gallop from the start to find out Kauto Star's flaws. He's going to need to come back 100% to deliver a blow this time and it's definitely not a two-horse race."

1301: From Tony Cottam on Twitter: "C'mon the Garde Champetre - Nina to save Cheltenham as usual!" A timely reminder that we have the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase over the cross-country fences at 1600 with the usual stack of Enda Bolger-trained entries, including past winner Garde Champetre.

1258: From Dan in Chiswick (text message): "After all the months of waiting, why do these final minutes drag?! Although I do feel for people that are living what they think is just another Tuesday."

1253:Jockey Davy Russell on riding Solwhit in the Champion Hurdle: "Tactics are going to be easy enough: Slot in, get into a rhythm and be close enough at important times." Go Native remains a clear favourite for today's big race, and his owners are in line for a £1m bonus for completing a hat-trick after Grade 1 wins at Newcastle and Kempton.

1251: Our first race is just 40 minutes away, and the punters are pouring into Prestbury Park. Some other key timings: The Arkle is at 1405, and the Champion Hurdle at 1520. And what a muddled set of form lines we have for that particular race - unlike, it must be said, the feature races for the other three days.

Honest Frank
1246: Honest Frank on Twitter: "Top Irish trainer Edward O'Grady says his 16-1 chance Osana could surprise some better fancied rivals in today's Arkle Chase".

1244: For the twitterati out there, you may want to catch up with some more gossip, news and tips from our own Honest Frank and 5 live racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght. And if you want to get your tweets mentioned here, you can also follow me. Just make sure you come back here from time to time.

1243: A quick reminder that this text commentary is a poor imitation of its true potential without plenty of involvement from you, whether via e-mail, text or on 606. Even on Twitter if you like.

1241: The weather's been glorious for the past two weeks after a miserable winter, and the ground is improving all the time. Here's the official going: Chase and hurdles courses - good to soft, good in places; cross-country course - good, good to soft in places.

606 graphic
1240: From CelestialHalo on 606: "I backed Celestial Halo at 22-1 a while ago and I think he has a cracking chance, better ground should really suit him!"

1235: So is today going to be a good one for the Irish? They have a number of fascinating contenders today, no more so than Dunguib, a very hot property for our first race at 1330, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Sunny weather
1230: A very good afternoon to the first day of what promises to be a spectacular Cheltenham Festival. The sun is shining at Prestbury Park and we will have text commentary of all four days building up to the box office smash on Friday which can only be termed Kauto Star v Denman, part III.

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see also
Cheltenham Festival photos
16 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Binocular lands Champion Hurdle
16 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Llewellyn eyes Imperial Commander
15 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Big Zeb lands Champion Chase win
17 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Imperial Commander lands Gold Cup
19 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Horse Racing results on your mobile
15 Feb 10 |  Horse Racing

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