Altior ground out a hard-fought success in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase - re-live all the Cheltenham Festival action from Wednesday.
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1738: Gamble landed
The late money for Envoi Allen hasn't been left behind as Godon Elliott finds his second winner of the week.
Envoi Allen has a lot going for him but he has guts to spare and in Jamie Codd he's ridden by an amateur rider of the highest order. Phenomenal stuff as he claims a ninth Festival winner of his career.
RESULT 5.30 Cheltenham – Weatherbys Champion Bumper
1st ENVOI ALLEN (2/1)
2nd Blue Sari (7/2)
3rd Thyme Hill (20/1)
The Weatherbys Champion Bumper brings the Wednesday card to a close and we've got a very strong favourite in Willie Mullins' four-year-old Blue Sari who was snapped up by JP McManus following his impressive debut win.
It's a big ask for a young horse to win this brutal race but he's clearly thought to be an exciting talent.
Ask For Glory was dead impressive at Chepstow over Christmas and, having seen him on 'Millionaire's row' at Paul Nicholls' yard prior to the Festival, he looks a very good prospect. Probably one more for three miles and fences in time, but it's exciting to see how he gets on here.
Our team have also been busy wrapping up the day's action and looking ahead to Thursday with the latest Cheltenham Festival Daily Podcast...
1700: Value Bet
It's 5pm so that means Value Bet and Ben Linfoot is back with four recommended bets for Thursday's action at the Festival...
RESULT 4.50 Cheltenham – Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
1st BAND OF OUTLAWS (7/2)
2nd Coko Beach (14/1)
3rd Ciel De Neige (17/2)
4th King D'Argent (25/1)
Keith Donoghue, rider of Tiger Roll, said: "He's definitely a legend in my eyes. Some horse, some performance. He tanked up the whole way and kept going.
"He he has the heart of a lion."
Gordon Elliott said: "Unbelievable. Tiger is something else and it's great for Keith.
"He got us out of trouble. We're having a rough week. He's class."
1630: Elliot's first win
Relief for Gordon Elliot, as Tiger Roll chalks up his first win of the Festival - doing it in fine style. Certainly worth the wait, as David Ord explains....
1620: Four-star Roll!
Just sensational stuff as Tiger Roll demolishes his rivals in the cross country. It's a fourth Festival win for the great horse and an important first winner of the week for Gordon Elliott.
RESULT 4.10 Cheltenham – Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
1st TIGER ROLL (5/4)
2nd Josies Orders
3rd Urgent De Gregaine
1610: If you're punting on the Cross Country then best of luck but it could just be another 'watch and admire' moment as Tiger Roll looks to follow in Altior's steps and claim a fourth Cheltenham Festival victory.
He's simply a freak of nature and extremely versatile.
If you are looking to throw stones at him then earlier in his career it was thought that good ground was important to him. He did dispel that theory with wins here and in the Grand National during last year's wet spring, so there's no much help for the others really.
One horse who could just be ridden for a place and remains capable of snatching one despite his advancing years is the 14-year-old Bless The Wings. He knows the course well and is ridden by Davy Russell for the first time since last year's race when he fell when leading.
Reaction from the man himself, Nicky Henderson speaking to Racing TV: "He's a better horse on better ground and it was tacky for him out there.
"We thought 'we are in trouble' but when Nico asks him for what's needed he is brilliant. He's a hugely talented horse but it's that he's a very brave one as well. He gets his head down and says 'I'm the best', and he is.
"Nico was worried that Saint Calvados wasn't going to go on but he did.
"I didn't see what he did at the water jump but otherwise his jumping was professional as ever.
"I think popular opinion is going to force us into thinking about it (going up in distance next season) and I suspect we'll seriously think about it. I think it's seriously on the agenda."
1555: Wider implications
Altior's win gives Nicky Henderson a third winner of the week and a 63rd all-time Festival success. Which brings him back level with Willie Mullins who popped in a Tuesday double to go in front in that particular mini-battle.
1540: Diminishing margins
A length and three-quarters is the least impressive winning margin for Altior since his half-length defeat of Maputo at Cheltenham in the Supreme trial in November 2015.
You just wonder if he'll be seen again this season, while next year it has to be a move up in distance, especially given some of the young two mile talent coming through.
Nico De Boinville has paid tribute to the champion, saying on ITV Racing: "He is an absolute warrior. I thought they were coming for me at the end. This ground was not ideal for him and he found it hard work but what an absolute monster to fight back to win it.
"We are all lucky to be in an age of racing when he is here and performing like this. As a sport we should just celebrate him.
"At the water jump there wasn’t a stride. We mis-communicated and I call it bad riding. To come right back to win from that is incredible and shows his cool and class.
“He is right up there with the great champions. We made hard work of it today and he is tired but he pulled it out when needed again. What a horse."
1538: Champion digs in
Hardly the smooth success we were hoping for, but Altior just keeps getting the job done in Grade One company and you can't take that incredible winning spirit away from him.
Sceau Royal seemed to have him in trouble, Politologue lunged late, but Nicky Henderson's star just ground out the victory under a strong Nico De Boinville drive.
RESULT 3.30 Cheltenham – Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
1st ALTIOR (4/11)
3rd Sceau Royal
1528: What finishes second?
Politologue looks to have taken the preliminaries better than yesterday when he was spooked and broke the parade, losing all chance. He went on to beat Min at Aintree last April so could just be the value play to follow the favourite home.
1518: Wow moment
Altior has been a sensational winner since his novice hurdle days but as a neutral you just want him to produce something special again today. Nicky Henderson and one or two people close to the horse were seemingly a touch irked by the fact Cyrname was given a higher official rating following his Ascot Chase win, so the ball is now back in Altior's court to produce a performance that sees him creep above a mark of 178.
It's not hard to see Nico De Boinville really trying to make a statement in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase - that's up next and due off at 3.30.
1515: The Tank II?
Paul Nicholls knows a thing or two about staying chasers and he's been speaking about Topofthegame in glowing terms: "He might well be my new Denman, he is pretty much rated the same.
"Denman was a grinder, but this horse has got plenty of boot."
Next up, Altior aims to equal Big Buck's’ record of 18 successive wins and a second Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
We spoke to trainer Nicky Henderson regarding the champion two-mile chaser.
1500: Late stunner!
What a brilliant race the Coral Cup is. Just brilliant. It has just about everything and when you get a finish like that then it's the cherry on the top.
William Henry, kept in training after pulling up on his only start this season at Wincanton, returns after a wind operation and goes three places better than last March when fourth to Bleu Berry in this very race.
Heartbreak for backers of Wicklow Brave who must have traded at long odds-on in running when hitting the front coming to the last. Brio Conti also travelled like a demon before weakening late on into fourth.
Winning rider Nico de Boinville, speaking on ITV Racing, said: "I just thought wherever Rudy goes then I’ll sit behind him as he doesn’t get much wrong. So I put myself in a good position to attack at the right moment. On this ground you are never out of it and you just have to bide your time and go at the right moment."
RESULT 2.50 Cheltenham – Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle
1st WILLIAM HENRY (28/1)
2nd Wicklow Brave (28/1)
3rd Ballyandy (14/1)
4th Brio Conti (10/1)
6th Apple's Shakira
1435: Cup cracker
Coral Cup up next - just the most competitive 25-runner handicap hurdle of the entire jumps season. In a bid to help out just a little bit, Sky Bet are offering five places.
At the prices, Cracking Smart could be of interest. You can see why the Elliott horses are easy in the market but he'll have a winner alright, it's just a matter of time. Perhaps the time is now and this horse was among the leading novices last season. It didn't quite work out but he's had two quiet spins in Graded company this year and now gets to run in a handicap for the first time off a mark identical to that of his Irish mark.
1430: Road winner!
Followers of Lydia Hislop's Road to Cheltenham in clover after she recommended backing him at 16/1 straight after the Kauto Star on Boxing Day.
1428: Golden promise
Sky Bet were suitably impressed by the winner of the RSA Chase and make Topofthegame 10/1 for next year's Cheltenham Gold Cup. Santini is 12/1 in the same mark.
I wonder what David Ord thought of the race...
1424: Beat from the West (Country)
Winning jockey Harry Cobden told ITV Racing: "He is a beast and he just galloped up that hill. I got two good jumps in at the end and then I felt we had it. We have a lot of good horses back home coming through and it is great for the owners that I could get this win for them. We’ve learnt from the past and that showed with the way we ran this one and how we finished. It’s just brilliant."
1420: Vintage renewal
A brilliant race for the RSA Chase as the big three deliver a fantastic finish. It's victory for Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden with Kauto Star Novices' Chase runner-up Topofthegame, who opens his account over fences on the day that matters.
Jumping, as ever, wins the day as Delta Work just made too many errors along the way, while gallant second Santini was staying on again having hit the front coming to the last.
All three emerge from it with credit but the classy Topofthegame is proven over shorter and has no shown that staying is his forte too.
RESULT 2.10 Cheltenham – RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase
1st TOPOFTHEGAME (4/1)
3rd Delta Work
1352: Delta to deliver?
Gordon Elliott is still seeking his first winner of the week at Cheltenham and despite the disappointing run for Battleoverdoyen in the opener, his Delta Work is now strong in the betting for the RSA Chase.
Santini is 3/1 with Topofthegame at 7/2. On The Blind Side is oddly short in the market at 12s with The Worlds End, Mister Malarky and Mortal all 20/1.
Moral was going to give Delta Work a good race before a mistake at the last at Leopardstown over Christmas and he looks over priced on that running.
Sky Bet's live Price Boost is either Delta Work OR Santini to win - was 4/5, NOW 10/11. Click here for all the live odds and offers.
1350: Bell hopes to strike...
1348: Ballymore reaction
Mark Walsh speaking on ITV said: "It’s been a great two days and I’m pinching myself after that. This is a good horse and he still doesn’t know how good he can be. Even at the end we didn’t have our stride fully right, so there’s more to come from him."
Trainer Martin Brassil, enjoying his first Festival success, said: “It’s been a long time coming to get a winner here, but you need to have a good horse to bring here to win and we’ve found one now. It is his first time in a graded race and we needed to get the horse to believe in himself. He’s just done that and he pleases every time and improves in every race and it’s great to show it here. It is great to have a festival winner. It is wonderful."
Sky Bet make the winner 20/1 for the Champion Hurdle.
1345: Antepost joy
Matt Brocklebank - our resident antepost expert - got off to a flyer with Roksana (tipped at 11/1) winning the Mares' Hurdle yesterday, and he can be credited for tipping City Island at 20/1 for the Ballymore back on February 4.
1340: Name was on the trophy?
City Island - whose owners sponsor the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle - lands another blow for Ireland in the opening day on day two.
Trained by Grand National-winning handler Martin Brassil, City Island has come of age after a relatively quiet campaign away from the heat of Grade One battle.
Jumping was key to this success and Mark Walsh really played a huge part when squeezing through a gap coming down the hill.
Champ did little wrong in second - but it's now 0-17 when it comes to Challow Hurdle winners looking to follow up in this event.
Bright Forecast stayed on bravely to nick third from Brewin'Upastorm.
The big disappointment was Battleoverdoyen, who was badly outpaced soon after halfway.
RESULT 1.30 Cheltenham – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
1st CITY ISLAND (8/1)
3rd Bright Forecast
1320: Strength in depth
So we're just a few minutes away from what looks a really strong Ballymore Novices' Hurdle. It was interesting to hear Ruby Walsh say that Klassical Dream was sent down the Sky Bet Supreme route as the likes of Al Dancer and Angels Breath looked well worth taking on.
You just wonder if there's a strong view in Ireland that the unbeaten Battleoverdoyen could be a special talent for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown.
He'll need to be to win impressively in this field, but he's a solid joint-favourite with Champ, who does look quite head-strong in the preliminaries.
Meanwhile, Ben Linfoot's Value Bet pick - Easy Game - is a monster gamble under Walsh and he's now 7/1 third in.
1305: Champ by name...
And in the interest of fairness, here's the main home hope, Champ.
1300 Pre-parade pic
Here's the well-fancied Ballymore contender Battleoverdoyen ahead of the day's opener, courtesy of our moles at the track. He looks a beast of a horse.
1250: Still waiting
Given everything that Willie Mullins has achieved in the National Hunt racing game, it is remarkable that he's still seeking a first victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He's come close on several occasions, of course, but he's yet to get one over the line.
This Friday the champion Irish trainer fires four bullets at the race and Ruby Walsh has opted to ride Irish Gold Cup winner Bellshill. He's a 10/1 shot at the time of writing and will surely be very popular between now and 3.30 on Friday if the Mullins team continue to fire as they did yesterday.
Click on the image below for Sky Bet's latest Gold Cup odds...
1235: Holt, who goes there?
Cracking start to Le Fez for long-standing columnist Simon Holt, who managed to unearth 100/1 shot Silver Streak each-way in the Champion Hurdle and Roksana at 10/1 in the Mares' Hurdle.
His day two selections can be found by clicking on the image below...
1230: Godolphin blow
Away from the heat of the battle of Cheltenham, a blow to Godolphin as leading 2000 Guineas contender Quorto has been ruled out of the first Classic of the 2019 season. More on that here.
1210: The experts
Forgive us for the one or two dated elements in the following video, but when you get Ed Chamberlin, Lydia Hislop, Mike Cattermole, Donn McClean, Simon Holt and Ben Linfoot all in the one room then you're obliged to milk it...
It's top stuff from the team and while Linfoot takes a bit of a kicking over his 66/1 outsider in the Champion Chase, there's some quality discussion and interesting selections across the day's racing.
It's been a pleasure to have Warren Greatrex on board this season and his insight into the likes of La Bague Au Roi and Emitom has been fantastic. They are a couple of genuine stars to look forward to at Aintree's big meeting next month but he's been known to go close with big-priced runners at Cheltenham in the past and he's particularly looking forward to running Western Ryder in the County Hurdle on Friday.
1155: The Tiger
What a magnificent creature Tiger Roll has been for Godon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud. He's a Festival legend already, of course, having won the Triumph Hurdle (2014), National Hunt Chase (2017) and the 2018 Cross Country Chase.
Remarkable to think he's still only a nine-year-old and on this season's evidence he's clearly as good if not better than ever.
With a current chase mark of 159, he genuinely wouldn't be out of place in this year's Gold Cup - there would be three lower-rated horses in the line-up - while based on his Grade Two Boyne Hurdle win last month, he'd probably give Paisley Park and co a race in the Stayers' Hurdle.
However, with a repeat Grand National bid at the forefront of connections' thinking, the Cross Country Chase looks the perfect prep again and if there's a banker on the day away from Altior then it's probably him.
Here's a reminder of his dramatic Aintree success last spring...
1150: NEW: Video - Cheltenham Daily Briefing
Rollover time... No winner of yesterday's ITV7 jackpot means the big prize stands at £200,000 today and you can play for absolutely free!
Just click on the picture below and, if you're not signed up already, sign up for absolutely free and place your selections in the seven specified races.
It could be you! I think someone has used that before, but I'm pretty sure we won't get sued.
1120: Live from the track...
1115: Pot of Gold...
The £182,567.80 collected from a single £2 bet on day one of The Festival™ supported by Magners made a once-a-year gambler the biggest winning on-course toteplacepot punter in the history of the bet.
The man, on an annual coach trip to the meeting with friends, selected just one horse in each race with the help of a friend who followed racing more closely and expected he might collect "a couple of hundred quid". However, the net pool of £958,481.10 was shared by just 10.50 winning units, producing a dividend of £91,283.10 to a £1 stake, only a few hundred pounds short of the biggest-ever dividend.
The winning punter said: "It wasn't until the second-last race that my friend said 'You're still in with a chance'. We came in a couple of times after the sixth race to cash it in. We thought it might be a couple of hundred quid or something like that but it wasn't ready, so we went out to bet on the last race. We were lucky enough win again on that!
"We came back in afterwards and handed over the ticket. The lady behind the counter... her face just dropped. I asked her how much and she very discreetly showed us. We still didn't really believe it."
He added: "I looked at the horses before racing and whatever took my fancy I put in my Placepot. My friend, who knows a bit about racing, advised me.
"We've been coming for years and the occasion is fantastic. We've been doing it this way for years and nothing's changed. We just do a Placepot and our individual bets and then enjoy the racing. The Tote staff are really good and friendly and welcoming and everyone has been great.
"My daughter is soon to go to university, so that will help, and my son is going on holiday so I think I will be upgrading him to first class."
Other on-course winners at Cheltenham included two customers who each collected £36,513.56 for a 40p share, having played in 10p unit stakes, while there were numerous 20p and 10p winners.
One of those celebrating was Emma Knight, in the Chez Roux restaurant as a treat for her 13th wedding anniversary. She collected over £18,000 and said: "We come every year to the Festival and I always have a Placepot, but usually go out in the last race! It's been an amazing day."
The selections of Tuesday's £182,567.80 winning toteplacepot ticket holder:
- Race 1 Klassical Dream - WON
- Race 2 Duc Des Genievres - WON
- Race 3 Beware The Bear - WON
- Race 4 Melon - 2nd
- Race 5 Stormy Ireland - 2nd
- Race 6 A Plus Tard - WON
1100: Today's Market Movers:
Plenty of money for Easy Game in the Ballymore with Sky Bet, one of Ben Linfoot's Value Bet selections, Bands Of Outlaws is solid in the Fred Winter, but the most popular horse of the day is Ask for Glory in the Bumper.
Paul Nicholls has never won the Bumper, co-owner Paul Barber wasn't sure about running him in this race, but the rain has come and this expensive purchase, a point winner, a wide-margin winner of a Chepstow bumper, is now very well fancied.
13.30 Cheltenham- Easy Game 25/1 into 8/1
14.10 Cheltenham- The Worlds End 25/1 into 20/1
14.50 Cheltenham- Ballyandy 22/1 into 16/1
16.10 Cheltenham- Amazing Comedy 40/1 into 25/1
16.50 Cheltenham- Band Of Outlaws 13/2 into 5/1
17.30 Cheltenham- Ask For Glory 10/1 into 6/1
Jumps racing legend. 17 from 17 over obstacles. Eight Grade Ones. 12 from 12 over fences. Considering all of that, it's a bit of a surprise he's as big as 4/9 for today's Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Of course, there's the Cheltenham factor. The anything that can happen factor. Who would've thought the three big guns in the Champion Hurdle yesterday would all finish unplaced?
Strange things can happen in this theatre. Today we have wind - not strong enough to cancel the meeting, but strong enough to be considered a factor in the racing.
So what scenario could see Altior beaten? Apart from a fall, obviously. I'd imagine if they didn't go much of a gallop it wouldn't suit him, but that looks unlikely. Saint Calvados and Hell's Kitchen are in there, after all.
If he jumps to his left like he did at Ascot it wouldn't be ideal. But we're nitpicking aren't we? It's Altior. He just gets the job done. Let's hope the roof is raised because of an outstanding performance rather than a 50mph gust this afternoon.
It was a bad first day for Gordon Elliott.
He had the favourite for the Arkle and Champion Hurdle in Hardline and Apple's Jade, respectively, but the pair were beaten by a combined margin of 68 lengths.
His two darts at the Sky Bet Supreme finished fifth and ninth, while his Ultima horses were 10th and pulled up.
He had two others pulled up in other races, a faller in the four miler and his best result, in the Close Brothers, saw his runners finish third and sixth.
So, today is a big day.
He's got Battleoverdoyen in the Ballymore, a 4/1 shot. Delta Work, the 11/4 favourite for the RSA. Tiger Roll, going for his fourth Festival victory - an 11/10 shot in the Cross Country.
Add to those some interesting Coral Cup runners and there's a scenario where Gordon could have three or four winners.
He's 7/2 to be top trainer at the Cheltenham Festival for the third year running. I think this is where the kids would insert the glancing pair of eyes emoji.
0945: We've been busy
Our racing team of Ben Linfoot, Dave Ord and Matt Brocklebank have just recorded today's Daily Cheltenham Briefing and the video will be on site and in this very blog soon. Only one bothered to wear a jacket today - they'll be in vests and shorts by the end of the week.
If you didn't see this yesterday, you've missed out.
Today's tips from our team of experts... We drew a collective blank regarding the 'most popular' on Tuesday but there were some nice winners among the picks within the article.
The official going is unchanged from yesterday - Soft. But the Cross Country course, which comes into play today, is Soft, Heavy in places. Perhaps that goes some way to explaining why Tiger Roll is relatively easy to back this morning.
A lot to digest following yesterday's racing but, not wanting to take anything away from a blindingly impressive Champion Hurdle winner in Espoir D'Allen, the lasting memory will be of Benie Des Dieux falling at the final flight with the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at her mercy.
We've been here before, of course, with Annie Power, but there didn't appear to be any excuses regarding the shadows across the track this time, she just came down after slighting clipping the top of the hurdle.
Thankfully Ruby Walsh, who has been struggling to keep on top of his injuries throughout the whole season, got up and walked away. As far as we know, he's fine to take his rides today and they include warm Coral Cup favourite Uradel.
0820: WE'RE ON
Racing goes ahead on day two of the Cheltenham Festival, Clerk of the Course Simon Claisse saying a couple of hours ago: "We're delighted weather conditions have changed from the initial forecasts and the prospect of higher wind speeds and gusts have receded. We're looking forward to a fantastic day's racing."
Thank goodness for that. Spectator and animal safety is obviously paramount when it comes to these things but a Festival Wednesday to be staged on Saturday didn't sound particularly appealing to anyone, so we've avoided that at least.
Sadly, yesterday did take its toll with several fallers, in the National Hunt Chase especially, although Ballyward was the only reported casualty. Our thoughts are with his connections.