The second day of The Festival™ presented by Magners, tomorrow, Wednesday, March 13, could be under threat due to wind speeds of around 50 miles per hour which might affect temporary structures at the racecourse.
Clerk of the Course Simon Claisse said at 12:40pm: "We wanted to give everyone an early insight into conditions for tomorrow as the forecast is looking challenging, with strong gusting winds throughout the day.
"We are continually monitoring the situation and will keep racegoers informed as the conditions present themselves."
DONOGHUE READY TO HEAR TIGER ROAR
Horse Racing Ireland hosted a press conference at Cheltenham this morning with jockeys Keith Donoghue, Jonathan Burke and Danny Mullins looking ahead to The Festival™ presented by Magners.
Donoghue tasted success at last year's meeting aboard Tiger Roll, who bids for a fourth win at The Festival in tomorrow's Glenfarclas Chase (4.10pm), which he won last year. Gordon Elliott's charge went on to land the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree in April under Davy Russell, but Donoghue has been delighted with the nine-year-old son of Authorized's preparation ahead of the unique contest over the Cross Country fences. Tiger Roll was an impressive victor of the Boyne Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs on his latest start and the jockey is relishing the prospect of recording another success at The Festival™ presented by Magners.
He said: "Tiger Roll is in great form and I'm looking to riding him tomorrow. This is the place where you want to be riding and it's exciting. You want to be coming to Cheltenham on a horse which has a live chance.
"If we get a nice run around like we did last year and a bit of luck, then hopefully he can win again. You could arguably say he is a better horse this year, having won a Grand National and now a Boyne Hurdle.
"It was a brilliant day last year and it meant a lot to win that event."
Donoghue also rides out G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle hope Apple's Jade every day and he was bullish about her chances in this afternoon's two-mile hurdling championship.
He continued: "Apple's Jade is biting and kicking and when she is like that, she is on a going day. When she goes to kick you in the morning, then you know she is on a going day.
"The more she is on her toes then the better she is. I think she's good enough to win a Champion Hurdle and her form this year has been superb."
The rider also added that Delta Work, trained by Gordon Elliott, is his biggest fancy of the week in tomorrow's G1 RSA Insurance Novices' Chase.
Jonathan Burke has a live hope this afternoon in the shape of the Mick Channon-trained Glen Forsa, who is currently shading favouritism in the two-mile G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase (2.10pm). The seven-year-old son of Mahler is unbeaten in three starts over fences and he recorded a bloodless success in the G2 Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Sandown Park on his latest start.
Burke commented: "I do think Glen Forsa could win the Arkle. He won well at Chepstow in November and then backed it up at Kempton over Christmas, and was then very impressive in the Kingmaker at Sandown.
"He has got better with every run and he enjoyed the drop back in trip last time out. Visually, his most impressive performance was at Sandown last time.
"Glen Forsa is a very straightforward ride, is not keen and we know that he stays. Soft ground will also suit him, so he has a lot of positives - it would be unbelievable to have a winner at Cheltenham."
Danny Mullins is aboard Scarpeta (Willie Mullins) in tomorrow's G3 Coral Cup, who would have "an each-way chance" according to Mullins. The jockey also said Benie Des Dieux is the Irish banker of the week in today's G1 OLBG Mares' Hurdle.
Looking ahead to Friday and Jump Racing's Blue Riband event, the £625,000 G1 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.30pm), both Burke & Donoghue are keen on the chances of Pat Kelly's Presenting Percy. Mullins is sweet on recent Irish Gold Cup winner Bellshill.
JUST CHAMPION FOR THE PRESS
Buveur D'Air and a pair of mares give the racing press its opening-day angle when The Festival™ presented by Magners opens at Cheltenham racecourse this afternoon.
The apparent three-way thrash for the £450,000 G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle - which involves a total of 10 runners - sees the race's dual-winning gelding Buveur D'Air face feminine opposition from Apple's Jade and Laurina, plus his own female stablemate Verdana Blue. It is as if today's G1 OLBG Mares' Hurdle had yet to be invented.
'Ready for the Roarrr?' is the Daily Mirror's way of igniting its coverage of The Festival - although you would have to stand among the crowd just before today's first race to understand which roar is being referred to - and the paper's Newsboy leans towards Buveur D'Air in a column headlined 'D'Air Force'. Jon Freeman of i is another who tips Buveur D'Air.
The front cover of the Racing Post tees up today's big race under the headline 'D'Air to dream', and while Verdana Blue beat Buveur D'Air by a short head in Kempton's G1 Unibet Christmas Hurdle, their trainer, Nicky Henderson, is quoted by the paper as saying: "You'd be a bit wild not to expect the places to be reversed." Barry Geraghty, quoted by Marcus Townend in the Daily Mail, says of Buveur D'Air: "This fella is the best hurdler I have ridden," but that does not sway Captain Wessex, the Western Daily Press's tipster, who sides with Apple's Jade. The Western Daily Press gives fulsome coverage to The Festival, and wanders down memory lane to record victories by such giants as Desert Orchid, Brave Inca and Viking Flagship.
'Look to Laurina', is the Daily Express's suggestion, and the Racing Post's guest columnist, Willie Mullins, who trains that mare, admits: "It will be a stiff ask stepping into the big league for the first time." The same paper quotes a typically pithy Ruby Walsh saying: "It's impossible to know how good she might be."
Walsh has surpassed all others to become the 'face of Cheltenham', at least in the eyes of his sponsors and sections of the press. Today's Daily Star gives him a Prince [as in the pop star] makeover for a two-page spread of rock 'n roll text and pictures. The same paper, which raced ahead of the curve to produce a cracking 24-page racing pull-out on Monday, follows up with a 16-pager that leads with a shot of Apple's Jade and the headline 'Apples n D'Airs'.
Walsh, 40 in May, also features in an interview with the Daily Mirror's David Yates, in which he ponders retirement, but says: "You're living the dream, so you keep chasing the dream."
The appeal of women's input to the sport continues to produce column inches. Rachael Blackmore could well become the star of this year's Festival, but until then it is the ebullient Bryony Frost to whom the press turn to for a quote. Paul Hayward interviews Frost for The Daily Telegraph and The Irish Independent, claiming: "This is an interview not with a woman jockey but a top National Hunt rider . . . gender is incidental to what Frost brings to Jump racing."
ITV Racing presenter Francesca Cumani smells a female takeover, and in a column in The Times she writes: "I think it could be all about the girls." The Times also produces an interesting series of photographs under the headline, 'Art meets science: how a horse jumps'.
Frost's jockey colleague at Paul Nicholls' Somerset yard, Harry Cobden, is interviewed by Donald McRae in The Guardian. On the indecipherable subject of falls, and why Jump jockeys apparently face them with such cool philosophy, Cobden says: "The more falls you have the more you cope with pain. When I was 16 it hurt every time I hit the deck. Now I just try to brush it off."
Cobden cannot be missed in the news pages of the Daily Star, where he can be found sitting astride his Magners Gold Cup hope Clan Des Obeaux, who is partly-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson. 'Bookies fear Fergie's Time . . .' runs the headline.
The Daily Telegraph's Alan Tyers chats to Richard Hoiles, ITV's lead commentator, and clearly someone who has observed others of his ilk. He tells Tyers: "You have to communicate the atmosphere, but there is nothing worse that just being told how wonderful everything is." He adds: "That is the crux, to always leave yourself somewhere else to go [when commentating]."
No doubt Rupert Bell, who commentates for Talksport, and is the subject of an interview in The Sun, would concur. The Sun, which published a 16-page racing pull-out 24 hours before The Festival commenced, leaves it to tipster Steve Jones to solve the Unibet Champion Hurdle - he is another Apple's Jade fan.
A WALK IN THE PARK FOR LAVELLE AND GEMMELL?
The biggest field since 2006 will line up for the Grade One Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle on Thursday (March 14) - and the 18-runner race could provide the most emotional story of The Festival™ presented by Magners 2019.
The Emma Lavelle-trained Paisley Park, who took the G2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January, is owned by ardent racing fan Andrew Gemmell, who has been blind since birth and developed his love of the sport by listening to race commentaries as a schoolboy.
Although Lavelle has trained two winners at The Festival - Crack Away Jack, 2008 Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Handicap Hurdle and Pause And Clause, 2010 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle - she has not yet managed a winner of one of the meeting's championship contests. Paisley Park, who overcome a severe bout of colic two years ago, is currently favourite to achieve that goal. He will be ridden by Aidan Coleman.
Willie Mullins, victorious in this race last year with Penhill, sends out a strong team of four for the three-mile contest, headed by 10-time Grade One winner Faugheen (Ruby Walsh). The 11-year-old is now in the twilight of a brilliant career, but if he can capture some of the old magic he could still be a serious threat to Paisley Park. Mullins' remaining trio are Bacardys - a G1 winner over two miles four furlongs as a novice - Bapaume, second to Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy last time out, and Coquin Mans. Patrick Mullins, Paul Townend and David Mullins will be in the saddle respectively.
Two other top Irish trainers are represented in the Sun Racing Stayer's Hurdle - Jessica Harrington runs Supasundae (Robbie Power), runner-up to Penhill in the race last year and winner of the Coral Cup at the 2017 Festival, while Henry de Bromhead steps up Petit Mouchoir (Rachael Blackmore), third behind Apple's Jade in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last month, to three miles for the first time.
Tom George trains just a few miles away from Cheltenham, and Black Op (Noel Fehily) would be a popular local winner. The eight-year-old was third behind Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle in January and a G1 winner over two miles four furlongs at Aintree last spring.
Another local trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, trained Wholestone to take third place in this race in 2018, and the eight-year-old will be ridden this year by Nigel's son Sam, who won on him at Aintree in November.
Nicky Henderson may have 60 Festival winners to his name, but he hasn't taken the Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle since Bacchanal's victory in 2000. Top Notch, a good winner over fences last time out at Kempton but only third behind Paisley Park in the G1 JLT Hurdle at Ascot in December, is his representative this year under Daryl Jacob.
Colin Tizzard, successful in this race with Thistlecrack in 2016, sends forward both Kilbricken Storm (Harry Cobden), winner of the G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle over course and distance at The Festival 2018, and West Approach (Tom Scudamore), runner-up to Paisley Park on both of his most recent outings.
The Alan King-trained Yanworth was second here in the G1 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle in 2016, and won a G1 hurdle over three miles at Aintree in 2017, but only finished sixth in this race last year and pulled up on his only outing of this season. He will be ridden by Barry Geraghty.
Nick Gifford's The Mighty Don (Leighton Aspell) won over course and distance in October, but was beaten 53 lengths into 10th place behind Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle in January.
Sam Spinner started this contest as favourite in 2018 after a three-mile G1 win but finished fifth for trainer Jedd O'Keeffe. His three runs this winter have included two unseatings of jockey Joe Colliver.
Cole Harden gave trainer Warren Greatrex a Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle triumph in 2015 and Greatrex returns this year with Keeper Hill, a winner over three miles and a furlong at Warwick in January. Champion jockey Richard Johnson will ride him.
Sophie Leech is looking for a first Festival training success courtesy of outsider Man Of Plenty (Thomas Dowson), as is Philip Kirby (Nautical Nitwit, Jonathan Burke).
FOOTPAD FACES TWO PREVIOUS WINNERS OF THE RACE IN A NOTABLY STRONG RYANAIR CHASE
Four-times G1-winning novice Footpad has two previous winners of the race among his 11 rivals when he bids to follow up last year's G1 Racing Post Arkle Chase win in what looks a particularly strong G1 Ryanair Chase on day three of The Festival™ presented by Magners. He will be ridden by Ruby Walsh.
Willie Mullins' top-class seven-year-old had Tuesday's G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase as an option at the start of the week, but instead he takes on his stable-mate Un De Sceaux, who won the 2017 Ryanair, and Balko Des Flos, who beat Un De Sceaux in the race 12 months ago.
Footpad has had an interrupted second season over fences and the Ryanair, which carries total prize money of £350,000, will be only his third start. He incurred an overreach and looked in trouble when falling at the last at Naas in November, and he was narrowly beaten by Simply Ned at Leopardstown at the end of December, but on his novice form he is arguably the one to beat.
Paul Townend rides Un De Sceaux, who is making his fifth successive appearance at the meeting, having won the Arkle in 2015 and been second to Sprinter Sacre in the following year's Queen Mother. He too has had a limited campaign, having not been out since his reappearance second to Altior in the G1 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in December, but the softer ground should suit him ideally.
The Henry De Bromhead-trained Balko Des Flos has not won since last year's Ryanair and is among the outsiders this time, punters much preferring his stable-mate Monalee, who was second to Presenting Percy in last year's G1 RSA Chase and successfully dropped back to the Ryanair's shorter trip when ridden by Rachael Blackmore for the first time in a G3 chase at Gowran Park last month. De Bromhead also saddles Sub Lieutenant, who has been in the frame in the last two Ryanairs.
Noel Meade's Road To Respect, fourth in last year's G1 Gold Cup, is yet another strong challenger from Ireland.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon, who was winning for a fourth time at Cheltenham and a fourth time for Bryony Frost when beating Elegant Escape in the G2 BetBright Trial Chase on Festival Trials Day, January 26, is the shortest-priced British challenger. Nicholls is bidding for a third win in the Ryanair but was last successful in 2007 with Taranis.
Nicky Henderson is represented by Terrefort, who like Footpad races for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.