The second day of the Cheltenham Festival will go ahead as planned today after a change in the severity of the forecast winds that had prompted contingency plans to be made for a switch to today’s card to Saturday.
“We’re delighted the weather conditions have changed from the initial forecasts and the prospects of higher wind speeds and gusts have receded.,” said Clerk of the Course Simon Claisse.
The thoughts of switching the racing itself would have been a nightmare but for all the support services including catering to have an additional day for up to 70,000 fans going head to head with Guinness Six Nations games at Twickenham and Cardiff would have presented the mother and father of all challenges.
Anyway, the plans can go back in the box now thanks to a kind change of pace from nature and Storm Gareth.
The feature race today is another to be sponsored by a bookmaker with Betway branding being swapped in for yesterday’s Unibet.
Neither brand existed the last time a horse bid to win three in a row Champion Hurdles, an indication of the massive change that has taken place in the industry with the adveny of online betting.
Irish trained Espoir D’Allen was the surprise winner of the Champion Hurlde, depriving Buveur D’Air of that elusive hat trick.
The colours were the same with both horse owned by JP McManus but the performance was way ahead of any expectation and meant a bonanza for the betting companies with all three of the supposed favourites finishing outside the first three home.
Winning trainer Gavin Cromwell has his base just outside Navan in County Meath and this is the biggest success in his career. A Farrier by trade he has around 50 horse in training and yesterday’s hero is one of three that he looks after for JP McManus.
He has a sponsorship deal with Dublin based betting exchange BETDAQ which paid off handsomely yesterday. The stable lass Nikki Walsh was pictured on TV wearing a Betdaq gilet while interviews with Cromwell himself were undertaken with him wearing a branded beanie hat.
It was like being back to the days of Brian O’Driscoll and his Powerade baseball cap all over again.
It was a winning day overall for the Irish with Willie mullins landing a double, the Champion Hurdle heading back across the irish sea and rising star Rachael Blackmore winning her first Festival race on board A Plus Tard.
Each day we will cast our eye over the crystal ball at Sport for Business HQ and divine three horses that we think will give a good run for their money.
Yesterday’s trio produced a fourth, a second and a faller when going well so no return on our modest ‘investment but with racing on for sure we will go again witha few selections only to be backed for fun…
Altior is a true Champion in the main feature race of the day and it is hard to see anything but a repeat of last year’s win with Willie Mullin’s Min the most likely to chase him home.
Topofthegame is well named and has been well prepared by Paul Nicholls for the RSA Novices Chase at 2.50. We will finish off with two Irish winners in the last two races of the Day. Star Max can give rachael Blackmore another great run at double figure odds while Blue Sari looks a worthy favourite for Willie mullins in the Weatherbys Festival Bumper at 5-30.
Join us again tomorrow when we look back on day two and at the work done by an Irish agency in promoting one of the major bookmakers for whom Cheltenham is such a key part of the business year…
Live coverage of the races can be seen throughout the four days on Virgin Media One, taking the coverage broadcast across England by ITV and featuring legendary jockey AP McCoy.
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