The greatest show on turf
THE Greatest show on turf is well under way, and as we reach the half way stage we look forward to more great racing in the shape of the Ryanair Chase and the World Hurdle today and the Gold Cup and the Triumph Hurdle tomorrow.
As I mentioned in my Festival picks last week, I think Tidal Bay is great value for the Ryanair Chase if he runs. Kasbah Bliss is my selection for the World Hurdle. Trainer Francois Doumen has trained the horse for this race again after losing out to Inglis Drever in last year's contest.
On Friday, I fancy Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty to get it right with Zaynar in the Triumph Hurdle, although it would be wonderful if Ebadiyan won for the colourful Irish trainer Oliver Brady. He has been plagued with ill health for some time and a big festival win would be just the tonic - mind you, I doubt Cheltenham is ready for Brady's celebrations if Ebadiyan does win.
I fancy Kauto Star to regain the Gold Cup, although anything could happen in this year's renewal, with Neptune Collonges winning well at Leopardstown and Denman supposedly turning the corner, possibly another 1-2-3 for Nicholls on the cards, although maybe in a different order.
Read next week for all the reactions and results from the Festival.
IN between studying the form and watching racing on the TV on Sunday, I had a flick through the official Festival magazine which came free with the Racing Post and found it to be quite an interesting and informative read. Some of the statistics, which crop up from a huge event such as the Cheltenham Festival are unbelievable.
Did you know that around 30,000 bottles of wine, 20,000 bottles of champagne, 220,000 pints of Guinness, 240,000 bottles of beer and 10,000 gallons of tea and coffee will be consumed this week!
There will be 3,960,000 hoof prints trodden on to the hallowed turf by 450 horses over the four days. I would not like the job of compiling that stat!
Over 45,000 mobile phones are being used per day, meaning that networks have boosted their signals for the week and a staggering 1.3m will be withdrawn from cash-points around the course.
One statistic which is spot on is that I am one of 230,000 punters enjoying the Festival this year and I plan to have more than one of the 220,000 pints of Guinness!
Ayr gets Cheltenham ball rolling
AYR got the Festival ball rolling at the weekend with a two-day pre-Cheltenham meeting at the Craigie Track.
Friday was the La Barrique Fine Wines Race-day and the feature race was the Bulliet Bourbon Handicap Chase run over 3m 1f.
Only four runners started the race and the 6/4f Silver by Nature made all the running for the first four flights before exiting at the fifth. Commercial Flyer took up the running after Silver By Nature's fall and a nice pace continued until the paddock bend with a circuit to go when the rider-less faller ran across the track, hampering all the remaining runners. Panama at Once took up the lead and kept galloping all the way to the line although almost came a cropper at the last, but held on to beat Sammy Spiderman by six lengths.
There was drama elsewhere on Friday in the first race on the card, when five of the first six were disqualified for taking the wrong course. Only two horses managed to stay within the two dolls after the middle hurdle had to be ommited due to Sirkeel falling earlier on in the contest. After a Steward's enquiry, Seraphin, who passed the line in fifth place was awarded the race with Grand Opera who finished in 7th awarded second. Stewards also handed out bans to all jockeys involved in the mix-up.
Saturday was Irish race-day at Ayr and although it was a cold damp affair, it did not hinder the healthy crowd who attended.
The feature race was the Victor Chandler.com handicap chase and it was the Irish raider, Selection Box trained by Colm McBratney who took the plaudits. He improved at every fence and Brian Harding rode him out to the line taking no chances, although Ormello, in second place for Lucinda Russell, was never any threat.
Elsewhere on the card, the in-form James Ewart got another winner on the board with his impressive Turbo Island in the bumper.
With two wins from two starts in bumpers, the 4yr old gelding by Island Path is one for the note-book and should go well as a novice hurdler next season.
Ayr race again on Thursday 19th March, one of Ayr Racecourse's new Value Days where punters can gain access to the Grandstand for only 5! (Tickets must be booked and paid for 7 days in advance).
Seven races, decent prizemoney and hopefully a touch of spring. Almost 45,000 is up for grabs and that should ensure decent quality fields.
Feature race is The Call Victor Chandler 08000 78 78 78 Handicap Chase over two miles at 5pm and the first race, The Victor Chandler Handicap Chase is due off at 2.20pm.
To book your tickets please call us on 0870 850 5666 or book online by logging on to www.ayr-racecourse.com
Leinster National cancelled
Sunday's meeting at Naas, featuring the Lucan Racing Leinster National, was cancelled due to unexpected snowfall.
General manager Tom Ryan said: "At 10.20am we were OK, but then there was a freak snow shower and we were not fit for racing. We didn't think it would be clear in time or if any more snow would fall, so we were trying to be fair to everyone. We made a quick decision and unfortunately we had to cancel."
Ryan is hopeful the fixture will be rearranged at a later date.
"We are talking to Horse Racing Ireland and we hope to know very quickly when the fixture will take place," he added.
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Weather for Girvan
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 8 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west