So (as everyone seems to start their sentences these days), it’s on.
After all the hand-wringing, and the hand-washing, the Cheltenham Festival has been given the go-ahead.
Coronavirus has been declared a non-runner (for now), and we are set fair for the 2020 renewal of one of the world’s great sporting institutions.
Four days of top-quality Jumps action and 28 captivating races, all lapped up by a total of 270,000 spectators transforming a quiet corner of the Cotswolds into a cauldron of spectacular theatre..
The showpiece race, the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup looks fascinating. The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase could throw up a classic. The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle promises a duel to remember. And the return of old favourites adds extra spice to the occasion. Expect the house to be brought down if the likes of TIGER ROLL, ALTIOR, FAUGHEEN, PAISLEY PARK and FRODON win again.
It’s odds-on that the week will be enjoyed by all, but it will be enjoyed even more if we can find plenty of winners.
As usual, I have come up with my ideas for each of the races. A main selection, with viable alternatives, plus a predicted 1-2-3 for the five headline contests.
Frustratingly, the weather forecast for Cheltenham is changing by the day. But it looks as if the meeting will start on Softish ground that will dry up as the week progresses.
To take into account any changes in the ground, non-runners and switches in running plans, selections for Thursday and Friday will be updated on Wednesday evening once the final declarations for those two days are known.
DAY ONE (Tuesday) FINAL SELECTIONS
1.30 (2m Supreme Novices’ Hurdle)
ABACADABRAS (Allart, Fiddlerontheroof)
2.10 (2m Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase)
ESPRIT DU LARGE (Rouge Vif, Put The Kettle On)
2.50 (3m1f Ultima Handicap Chase)
DISCORAMA (The Conditional, Townshend)
3.30 (2m Unibet Champion Hurdle)
1 EPATANTE, 2 Cilaos Emery, 3 Pentland Hills
4.10 (2m4f Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle)
HONEYSUCKLE (Lady Buttons)
4.50 (2m4f Northern Trust Novices’ Handicap Chase)
IMPERIAL AURA (Champagne Mystery, Espoir De Guye, Whatmore)
5.30 (3m6f National Hunt Novices’ Chase)
CAREFULLY SELECTED (The Hollow Ginge, Smoking Gun)
DAY TWO (Wednesday) FINAL SELECTIONS
1.30 (2m5f Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle)
ENVOI ALLEN (Sporting John, The Big Breakaway, Easywork)
2.10 (3m RSA Novices’ Chase)
CHAMP (Minella Indo)
2.50 (2m5f Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle)
DAME DE COMPAGNIE (Bold Plan, Champagne Well, Bachasson)
3.30 (2m Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase)
1 DEFI DU SEUIL, 2 Altior, 3 Chacun Pour Soi
4.10 (3m6f Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase)
4.50 (2m Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle)
NIGHT EDITION (Tronador, Saint D’Oroux, Mick Pastor)
5.30 (2m Weatherbys Champion Bumper)
APPRECIATE IT (Third Time Lucki, Ferny Hollow, Darling Daughter)
DAY THREE (Thursday)
1.30 (2m4f Marsh Novices’ Chase)
MISTER FISHER (Itchy Feet)
2.10 (3m Pertemps Handicap Hurdle)
THIRD WIND (The Storyteller, Phoenix Way, Kilbricken Storm)
2.50 (2m5f Ryanair Novices’ Chase)
1 RIDERS ONTHE STORM, 2 A Plus Tard, 3 Min
3.30 (3m Stayers’ Hurdle)
1 PAISLEY PARK, 2 Emitom, 3 Summerville Boy
4.10 (2m5f Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase)
SPIRITOFTHEGAMES (Happy Diva, Gold Present, Not Another Muddle)
4.50 (2m1f Daylesford Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle)
FLORESSA (Midnights’ Gift, Emmas Joy)
5.30 (3m2f Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase)
CLOTH CAP (Plan Of Attack, Kilfilum Cross)
DAY FOUR (Friday)
1.30 (2m1f) JCB Triumph Juvenile Hurdle)
2.10 (2m1f Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle)
CIEL DE NEIGE (Lust For Glory, Sir Valentine)
2.50 (3m Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle)
MONKFISH (Cobbler’s Way, Latest Exhibition, Harry Senior)
3.30 (3m2f Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase)
1 DELTA WORK, 2 Santini, 3 Lostintranslation
4.10 (3m2f St James’s Place Foxhunters’ Chase)
STAKER WALLACE (Billaway)
4.50 (2m Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase)
CASTLEGRACE PADDY (Not Another Muddle, Paloma Blue, Not That Fuisse)
5.30 (2m5f Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle)
FIVE O’CLOCK (Espoir De Romay, Pileon)