Jockey Ruby Walsh and the Irish are set to dominate on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival 2014
Ruby Walsh looks to have a dream book of rides for the first day of the Festival. In the curtain raiser Ruby is to partner the highly regarded Vautour who was so impressive in his last victory. Owner Rich Ricci and trainer Willie Mullins will provide Walsh with his second booking too in the shape of the dual Festival winning grey Champagne Fever. Trainer and Jockey pair up again with Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle, who will seek to capture a third victory in the race. With Quevega looking to take a fifth Mares Hurdle with Walsh on board, the jockey could not ask for a better start to the week.
If the rumours from across the sea are right, Ruby’s sister Katie will ride one of the bankers of the meeting – Foxrock. Leading owner Barry O’Connell has given his novice chaser as his nap of the week. The progressive horse looks to be head and shoulders above the rest of the National Hunt Chase field.
In the last on the card the improving Irish raider King Vuvuzela may sign off a perfect day for the Irish with Paul Carberry up. The danger in the Rewards4Racing Novice Handicap to Nolan’s charge may come from Ohio Gold for the Tizzards, who was placed here twelve months ago.
The master planner Tony Martin may just pull off across the card victories for the Irish on day one with the well-weighted Wrong Turn in the second race. However, Martin’s horse will face stiff opposition in Jonjo O’Neill’s spring horse Alfie Sherrin and the classy Hadrian’s Approach.
For a full horse by horse analysis of the Stan James Champion Hurdle (see Stan James Champion Hurdle: Crockford’s Verdict)
Crockford’s Dead Cert – Hurricane Fly (Champion Hurdle 3.20)
The talk from the Mullins camp all season is that the Fly continues to improve and is in the form of his life. His preparation up to the Festival this year has been perfect with him having beaten the cream of Ireland on two occasions already. Mullins’ champion was last defeated in the race in 2012 when not at his awesome best; this time he will not be.
Crockford’s Whisper – King Vuvuzela e/w (Rewards4Racing 5.15)
This consistent Irish challenger has crept in at the bottom of the weights for the last contest on the opening day of the Festival. A winner at both Punchestown and Leopardstown this season (when up against good opposition), he was not far away in a Grade A chase at Leopardstown last time out. Coming back from a break expect this horse to creep into at least a place with the masterful Carberry booked to ride.
Crockford’s Gambles on Champion Day:
Supreme (1.30) – Vautour, The Liquidator e/w and Sgt Reckless e/w
Arkle (2.05) – Champagne Fever
Baylis & Harding (2.40) – Alfie Sherrin e/w, Hadrian’s Approach e/w and Wrong Turn e/w
Champion Hurdle (3.20) – Hurricane Fly, Our Conor e/w and Melodic Rendezvous e/w
Mares Hurdle (4.00) – Cockney Sparrow e/w, Highland Retreat e/w and Hidden Identity e/w
National Hunt (4.40) – Foxrock
Rewards4Racing (5.15) – King Vuvuzela e/w and Ohio Gold e/w
(Featured Photograph – “Welcome To Cheltenham” by Stuart Rice)