WE’RE GOING MINUTE-by-minute as the sport of kings presents its finest fare.
13.04 – Good afternoon and welcome to Cheltenham’s second day. It’s ladies day, don’t you know… maybe the fairer sex and their outrageous hats will bring us all better fortune than yesterday.
13.13 – Just under 20 minutes to go until the first race of the day so be sure to check out Mark Hobbs’ tips for the day in Mark your card and also our convenient office sweepstakes kit for the Queen mother Chase which is coming up later.
13.23 – Willie Mullins’ Allee Garde has been heavily tipped all week, he starts as 13/2 second favourite behind 5/1 shot Teaforthree.
Mullins also has a strong chance with Soll, who has Katie Walsh on board.
In a fairly open field with plenty of good value, Dermot Weld has entered Daffern Seal (20/1).
13.29 – Once again, we’re running our tipsters mini-league (you can still join in and pit your wits against us if you dare).
Both sport and the grown-up side of the newsroom have picked Willie Mullins chances.
The Journal have go for Soll and The Score, after a good thorough look at the hooves, like the cut of Allee Garde’s jib.
Remember, it’s four points for a winning nag, two for the runner-up and one for any other place.
Let’s get it on!
Once again, our man in the Gloucestershire is Niall Kelly. You’ll be hearing more from him through today.
The first race is underway.
13.55 – Onwards.
Next up is the 2.05, the Neptune Investment Novice hurdle.
Simonsig is a big favourite here, trained by Noel Henderson, he’ll go off at around 9/4 with Barry Geraghty in the saddle.
Noel meade and Willie Mullins train the second and third priced runners. Respectively, they are Monksland (5/1) and Sous Les Cieux (11/2)
Quevega aside, it’s been a pretty disastrous meeting so far for Mullins. He’ll be hoping that Ruby Walsh can take this one to the front to get his festival into full swing.
Mullins also has Davy Russell in the saddle on Make Your Mark and Paul Townend on Felix Younger, an outside bet at 16/1.
14.09 – Filulin, an 80/1 outsider is leading a tightly bunched field which included Simonsig.
14.25 – OK, the hotly anticipated RSA chase is upon us.
Grand Crus, who came close to registering for the Gold Cup is a heavy favourite here at 5/4.
But as he’s led to the paddock, the Channel four presenter was none-to-impressed with his languid demeanour.
“Grand Crus walking with all the urgency of an overweight labrador.”
I’ll have you know, some of my best friends are overweight labradors.
14.30 – They say Mouse Morris ignores 361 days of the year, his sole focus is on the four at Cheltenham.
His entry here is First Lieutenant, a 5/1 shot which The Score has picked to win.
The Journal like Grand Crus, but can the big fat labrador turn on the style?
14.33 – Those two aside, the leading trainer Nicky Henderson has Barry Geraghty on Bobs Worth.
Ruby Walsh is on, the Paul Nicholls trained, Join Together (7/1). Willie Mullins has two outsiders; Call the Police (18/1) and Lambro (25/1)
14.46 – At the halfway point the pace has been upped. Bobs Worth and first Lieutenant still lead the way, stalked by Grand Crus.
This will be close.
14.52 – Grands Crus looked well placed coming into the final turn but found no extra gear and was badly beaten into fourth.
Barry Geraghty on Bobs Worth says “He just keeps winning” we could say the same about you, Baz.
14.58 – So, how is that tipster mini-league looking, eh?
Well, well, well, what have we here?
A winner and a place for The Score already today. And The Journal have (1,2,3..) no points for the day.
All of which means the standings currently look a little like this:
The Score: 16
The Journal: 8
15.03 – Next up is the big one, The Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Sizing Europe, Big Zeb, that sort of thing.
15.13 – Sizing Europe is many peoples dead-cert for the week, but will probability allow another favourite to win? Henry de Bromhead’s horse is currently 5/6.
Barry Geraghty’s form has taken the odds on Finians Rainbow down to second favourite 9/2. Big Zeb (6/1) is strongly favoured, but is he past his best?
If you reckon Ruby Walsh is overdue a win, he is on Kauto Stone, a 14/1 outsider for Paul Nicholls. he finished second to Sizing Europe already this season.
15.20 – Lot of odds changing rapidly, Realt Dubh’s odds are tumbling. Big Zeb is drifting out, but nobody can see far past Sizing Europe.
Here comes the big race of the day, the Queen Mother Champion Chase is under way.
15.30 – A controversial finish to that one as the last jump was cordoned off at the last minute because of Wishful Thinking’s fall.
Sizing got caught between two stools and had to force his way out, clashed with Finians Rainbow, but Geraghty kept up the pace and pulled away by a head in the end.
“I thought he had it to do it.” Said Geraghty after his third win of the day. “He’s turned a corner since Ascot.”
15.36 – So, barring a (completely unfair) stewards enquiry The Score net four points from that win and The Journal, beaten into second, grab two.
This truly is the sport of kings.
The Score: 20
The Journal: 10
16.16 – I hope The Journal didn’t see that finish, victory looked to be all-but theirs, but Balgarry (who led all the way) just could not last the pace.
No change in our tipster mini-league standings, so.
16.28 – Next up is the Fred Winter Handicap hurdle in 15 short minutes.
Vendor (7/2) is by far the favourite with Tony Scudamore on Kazilan now the second favourite at 7/1.
The form of Willie Mullins has pushed Gorgeous Sixty out to nines. With Ruby Walsh on board, that looks like decent value.
There’s no doubt about who the winning combination of the festival so far, Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson’s entry is the 20/1 shot Soliwery – who has finished second on his last two outings.
16.37 – This race is wide open if you have any doubts about Vendor.
We here at The Score have pinned the tail on Ruby Walsh’s donkey. It’s about time he and Willie Mullins combine to win and Gorgeous Sixty is the one to do it, we say.
The Journal, meanwhile will go with Ulck Du Lin, Paul Nicholls’ 12/1 shot.
But with over 20 runners, anything could happen.
16.43 – The Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle is at the post and we are almost ready to go, and… they false start.
BANG! They get away at the second time of asking.
Nine Irish runners here, can we up the ratio a bit?
Fred Winter Handicap hurdle result: 1st Une Artiste. 2nd Edeymi. 3rd Vendor.
16.54 – There you have it, the bookies keep clawing back after a good early start for the favourites. Une Artiste was a 40/1 shot and there won’t be much change for anyone who backed the favourite, Vendor, who came in third.
With one race to go on day two, Cheltenham 2012 is not looking like a vintage Irish year.
Nicky Henderson, rejoice.
17.04 – And lo, the final race of day two cometh.
The grade 1 Champion Bumper has Barry Geraghty looking for his fourth winner of the day atop New Years Eve, which looks set to go out at 9/2.
Ruby Walsh is on Mullins’ Pique Sous, but neither have hit good form (yet).
A horse who is in good form is Moscow Mannon (7/1), having won his last three outings. This, however, is a step up in class.
17.15 – This one is wide open. The Journal have scribbled their initials beside Pique Sous and there is a barely legible TS next to Royal Guardsman, trained and jockeyed by that crafty Tizzard family, who did so well with Cue Card yesterday.
Champion Bumper result: 1st Champagne Fever. 2nd New Years Eve. 3rd Pique Sous. 4th Moscow Mannon.
17.28 – So yet another win for Ireland in the Champion Bumper, it’s Willie Mullins’ 16/1 shot.
Pique Sous was another Mullins horse, backed by The Journal, who took third. So they effectively grab a crucial goal at half time.
Will that swing momentum their way?
Here’s how the the tipster mini-league looks after day two of Cheltenham.
The Score: 20
The Journal: 11
17.36 – Well, that’s it from me for the day. Thanks for joining in and I hope you backed Barry Geraghty not once, not twice, but thrice.
Be Sure to join us before lunchtime again tomorrow.
The show-piece events of the day will be the Ryanair Chase (where Geraghty is now the 5/1 favourite on Riverside Theatre) and if Ruby Walsh can’t win the World Hurdle on Big Bucks (8/13) then he can forget about Kauto Star in the Gold Cup.
Well, that will all play out in due course.
Good luck and safe home.