IRELAND IN CHARGE IN THE BETBRIGHT CUP
Ireland leads Great Britain by eight wins to six at the half-way stage in the BetBright Cup - the team competition between the two nations during The Festival.
Irish team captain and television personality Hector Ó hEochagáin had a broad smile on his face as he said this morning: "It's been a fantastic couple of days for the Irish, and we are confident today.
"But what a day ahead we have - can Willie Mullins start again today? Will Yorkhill win? It's an intriguing game of chess."
Former cricketer Phil Tufnell, who is captaining the GB team, said: "We need a better day today - but a football game is never won at half time.
"I have had a fabulous time. I've seen lots of mates from the sporting world, and there are still two days to go!"
Tufnell tipped Top Notch, who represents Nicky Henderson in the JLT Novices' Chase, as his best British hope of the day. Top Notch won the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown on his last outing and is a 4/1 chance for the race.
The BetBright Cup is in its third year. In 2015 Great Britain scored a narrow victory, and last year it ended in a dead-heat - although the subsequent disqualification of Any Currency belatedly awarded the competition to Ireland.
Team GB was the 1/3 favourite ahead of The Festival with the sponsors, with Ireland priced at 9/2.
The odds up until the commencement of racing today are: GB 5/4, Ireland 11/8, and a draw 7/2.
SALE OF RACEHORSES AFTER RACING
A sale of young racehorses will take place in the winner's enclosure after racing on day three of The Festival, St Patrick's Thursday, at Cheltenham.
First held in 2014, and now staged by Tattersalls Ireland, the sale (due to start at 6pm) comprises a catalogue of 27 horses, the majority having shown form in one or two runs in Irish point-to-points, although also on offer are a few pointers who have run in Britain plus some bumper horses.
Minella Rocco came from the Irish point-to-point field when he was offered for sale at this auction in 2014 and was knocked down to Kieran McManus for £260,000. Sent into training with Jonjo O'Neill, he repaid that faith when winning last year's National Hunt Chase at The Festival, and is among the field for tomorrow's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Some horses to note early in this year's catalogue are Gallahers Cross (Lot 4), an easy winner of a point-to-point at Punchestown for Sandra Hughes' stable - he is by an exciting young sire in Getaway - the Ed Walker-trained Santini (Lot 7), a runaway winner under British champion Will Biddick at Didmarton in Gloucestershire, and Western Honour (Lot 13), who made a winning debut at Farmaclaffley for Stuart Crawford's stable, and is from the family of Black Jack Ketchum.
Mr Whipped (Lot 14), a son of a six-time winning mare, won at Lingstown on Sunday for Sean Doyle's Monbeg Stables, while Palmers Hill (Lot 18) scored earlier this month for Denis Murphy's yard. That was his second start; on debut he was third to Flemenshill, who then came to Cheltenham for Tattersalls Ireland's January Sale and made £480,000 - he will run next season from Colin Tizzard's stable.
Doyle also offers Speak Easy (Lot 21), the son of a nine-time winning mare, and successful on debut at Lingstown on Sunday, while Tom Lacey's Herefordshire yard sends Sky Pirate (Lot 23), a son of Midnight Legend and a Larkhill winner on his sole start.
With racing opportunities for mares having been widened, Maire Banrigh (Lot 25) will appeal. A winner at Lingstown at the weekend, she is by champion sire King's Theatre out of a mare from the family of highly talented Banjaxed Girl.
The Dellercheckout (Lot 26) is also from a family of quality, in his case the Champion Hurdle winners Morley Street and Granville Again. Cormac Doyle's horse won at Lismore the weekend before last, while Present In Court (Lot 28) showed his rivals a clean pair of heels at Bangor on Sunday under trainer Ed Glassonbury.
PAPERS CELEBRATE THE FIRST NOEL
Jockey Noel Fehily is on the cusp of racing history - and all over today's racing press - after winning yesterday's Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at The Cheltenham Festival.
That victory followed up his success on Buveur D'Air in the Stan James Champion Hurdle and means he is close to becoming the first jockey to ride the treble of those two races plus today's Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle - he rides hot favourite Unowhatimeanharry. 'Harry's Game' is a cover headline on the Racing Plus and The Sun,referring to Unowhatimeanharry's trainer Harry Fry, while 'Special won' in the Daily Mail and The Sun's 'The Special One' are headlines that convey Fehily's Tiara triumph.
Yet the intriguing Fehily hat-trick possibility, a gift for the racing press, has to share column inches with post-mortems on defeat for Douvan, who cut a forlorn figure behind free-wheeling Special Tiara. The Racing Post's Alastair Down describes Douvan's downfall as "unravelling like some huge ball of string", while The Daily Telegraph proclaims 'Shock of the century' - it is amazing how quickly Leicester's Premier League win has been forgotten.
Rarely can seventh place in a race justify a two-page spread in The Guardian. Racing correspondent Greg Wood quotes Mullins saying: "I am well used to dealing with the frustrations of racing, if not quite at this level with this type of horse." Paul Hayward of The Daily Telegraph, sums up Mullins' winless first two days by writing: "This Festival is determined to torment him."
Capturing the aftermath, The Times' Mark Souster says Mullins, "Rich Ricci, the owner, and Ruby Walsh, his jockey, had the glazed look of men who did not quite know what had hit them". No doubt the punter who put £500,000 on Douvan - a person described by Kevin Garside in I as a "cocky punter" and "Billy Big Boots" - felt similarly. Marcus Townend of the Daily Mail asks: "Who would have thought that Mullins [15 winners in two years] would still be seeking his first success after two days this year?" 'Tiara's crown as Van stalls' is the Daily Mirror's summary
'Noel's gem ride' is the Daily Star's tribute, while 'Fehily crowns Special double' is a headline on the Gloucestershire Echo's back page. The same paper enjoys reporting on yesterday's win for Cotswolds trainer Ben Pauling with Willoughby Court in the Neptune Investment Management Hurdle. 'Pauling pumped after first Festival win' is the headline above a shot of the young trainer punching the air. Marcus Armytage's look back at Ladies Day in The Daily Telegraph focuses on the RSA Chase, and Might Bite's win of "mind-blowing drama".
Looking ahead to St Patrick's Thursday, the Racing Post headline 'It could be U' is a reference to the chances of Unowhatimeanharry and Ryanair Chase hopefuls Un De Sceaux and Uxizandre. Rob Wright of The Times takes a look at the fairytale that is Tobefair, a runner in today's Pertemps Hurdle, and owned by 17 regulars at the Cresselly Arms in Carmarthenshire. Wright quotes part-owner Alan Parnell saying: "It's just about this community getting together." Chris Goulding of the Daily Express also delves into the story alongside the headline 'The pub team who made it to the big league'. The Racing Post's Lee Mottershead writes: "Tobefair has landed seven consecutive races since joining [trainer] Debra Hamer . . . every one a handicap . . . [and his rating has] climbed from 81 to 143."
Rumours that God is a woman gained further credence yesterday when sunshine bathed the racecourse for Ladies Day. Hats and outfits sparkled, and photographers were given golden opportunities to vent their creative capabilities. Alan Crowhurst's shot in The Guardian is a tribute to quality camera work and hat presentation, while Eddie Mulholland's shot in The Daily Telegraph is distinctive for the gaze of one female racegoer glancing into his camera's lens. 'Feathered trends' is the caption, while 'Tip-top titfer!' is the Daily Express's tribute to a broad-brimmed hat worn yesterday by The Duchess of Cornwall. 'Good to firm on Ladies Day' is a headline in The Sun owing much to a sub-editor's imagination.