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2013 Cheltenham Festival Day One: Champion Hurdle kicks off the carnival

March 12, 2013

The Cheltenham Festival, the holy grail of National Hunt racing in the UK and Ireland, is scheduled to begin tonight – although, at the moment, there remains a query over whether racing will take place today as parts of the Cheltenham course are frozen!

For those more familiar with flat racing in the United Kingdom, Cheltenham is jumps racing’s equivalent to Royal Ascot.

Run at the picturesque racecourse about an hour from Bristol, an hour and a half from Cardiff and Birmingham and two hours from London, it brings together the best jumpers in 26 races over four days.

The fourth and final day features the most prestigious race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup over three miles and two and a half furlongs (approximately 5331m), but each day has a number of Grade 1 races with one “championship” race the highlight.

Today sees the Champion Hurdle for two mile hurdlers, tomorrow sees the Queen Mother Champion Chase for two mile chasers, while Thursday features the World Hurdle for the staying hurdlers.

The Champion Hurdle features a stirring battle between Simonsig, who was a top novice hurdler last year, and Overturn, who was a handy galloper on the flat and has been in good form this season.

But perhaps the greatest achievement could be seen in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, where Quevega is going for her fifth win at the Cheltenham Festival. Quite a feat!

However, more than anything, today’s highlight is the roar as the tapes release for the first race, the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (2m 110y – approximately 3300m).

The famous Cheltenham roar is spine-tingling, even watching on television.

I was lucky enough to get to the final day last year, but I wish I had been there for day one to experience the roar. Alas, I only heard it on television. Still, hearing it on a television in a pub in Ireland  was an experience in itself!

If you’ve never had the opportunity to watch the Cheltenham Festival before, I strongly encourage you to watch the first race tonight (well, I’d encourage you to watch all of them!) – the first race is at 12:30am ADST.

Here are my selections for tonight’s meeting:

Race 1 – GRADE 1 WILLIAM HILL SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE (2m 110y – a3300m)

10 – PUFFIN BILLY
4 – DODGING BULLETS
2 – CHAMPAGNE FEVER
6 – JEZKI

Race 2 – GRADE 1 RACING POST ARKLE CHALLENGE TROPHY CHASE (2m – a3200m)

5 – OVERTURN
6 – SIMONSIG
1 – ARVIKA LIGEONNIERE
4 – MAJALA

Race 3 – GRADE 3 JLT SPECIALTY HANDICAP CHASE (3m 110y – a4900m)

7 – OUR MICK
11 – TOUR DES CHAMPS
16 – PETE THE FEAT
17 – LOCH BA

Race 4 – GRADE 1 STAN JAMES CHAMPION HURDLE (2m 110y – a3300m)

2 – BINOCULAR
6 – HURRICANE FLY
9 – ZARKANDER
8 – ROCK ON RUBY

Race 5 – GLENFARCLAS CROSS COUNTRY HANDICAP CHASE (3m 7f – a6200m)

9 – A NEW STORY
11 – FRENEYS WELL
5 – ARABELLA BOY
4 – SIZING AUSTRALIA

Race 6 – GRADE 2 OLBG MARES’ HURDLE (2m 4f – a4000m)

4 – QUEVEGA
8 – UNE ARTISTE
6 – SHE RANKS ME
12 – KENTFORD GREY LADY

Race 7 – LISTED REWARDS4RACING NOVICES´ HANDICAP CHASE (2m 4f 110y – a4100m)

8 – SHANGANI
1 – RAJDHANI EXPRESS
9 – FOURJACKS
7 – CARLITO BRIGANTE

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