THE MACHINE BACK IN WORKING ORDER?
One of Jump racing's superstars graces Prestbury Park this afternoon when Faugheen bids to record a third success at The Festival™ presented by Magners in the £325,000 G1 Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle (3.30pm).
Winner of the G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (2014) and the G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle (2015), the 11-year-old son of Germany is targeting a 10th G1 victory in today's three-mile event.
Faugheen was an emphatic winner of the Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown in April and was travelling powerfully when falling at the second-last in the Christmas Hurdle, won by Apple's Jade, over three miles at Leopardstown in December.
"The Machine" will be partnered by Ruby Walsh this afternoon and the jockey reported on ITV's The Opening Show this morning: "We're delighted with Faugheen.
"He was travelling very well when falling behind Apple's Jade at Leopardstown. He has recovered from his fall and we're looking forward to it.
"The team at home are pleased with him and that fall is all in the past.
"Faugheen is an 11-year-old but doesn't have many miles on the clock due to injury and being well-minded - we're looking forward to running this afternoon."
Faugheen, who has been successful on 14 of his 20 starts, is the general 9/2 second favourite behind Emma Lavelle's impressive Cleeve Hurdle scorer Paisley Park, who is the 7/4 market leader for the three-mile hurdling championship.
No horse has ever won both the G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle and the G1 Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle. Faugheen would also take his earnings past the £1-million mark with victory this afternoon.
BLACKMORE & FROST LOOKING TO SOAR IN RYANAIR
Female jockeys Rachael Blackmore and Bryony Frost are both relishing the prospect of capturing G1 honours in the £350,000 Ryanair Chase (2.50pm) at Cheltenham this afternoon on day three, St Patrick's Thursday, of The Festival™ presented by Magners.
Blackmore, who recorded a first success at The Festival on Tuesday aboard A Plus Tard in the Listed Close Brothers Novices' Chase, partners the Henry de Bromhead-trained Monalee.
The eight-year-old son of Milan returned to winning ways with a comfortable two-length success in the G2 Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park in February over two miles and four furlongs, having previously chased home Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup hope Kemboy in the three-mile G1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown in December.
Monalee has finished second over three miles in both the G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (2017) and the G1 RSA Insurance Novices' Chase (2018) at The Festival™ presented by Magners and connections have decided to drop back in trip this time around for the two mile and five furlong G1 event.
Looking ahead to the ride, Blackmore, who has yet to capture a G1, said: "Monalee feels really well in himself and we're looking forward to this afternoon.
"He has a good record around here without winning, but fingers crossed he can win today.
"We decided to run in the Ryanair after taking the soft ground into consideration and think he has a very good chance in this event."
Before The Festival 2019, no female rider had more than five rides at a single Festival. However, Blackmore is scheduled to have 17 rides over the four days this week.
Bryony Frost has struck up an excellent rapport with the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon and the pair are targeting a fourth victory from five starts this term. The seven-year-old son of Nickname was a gutsy winner of the G2 Cotswold Chase over an extended three miles and one furlong at Cheltenham in January, but drops back in trip for this afternoon's two miles and five furlong event.
Frodon also tasted success with Frost aboard at Cheltenham this season in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, on the New Course, which is being used today, and a very similar distance, in December.
Frost, who has already captured a G1 prize in her burgeoning career with Black Corton, also trained by Nicholls, in the 2017 renewal of the G1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton Park, said: "You have to believe in fairytales and Frodon is my fairytale.
"He is in great heart. The Ryanair looks a hot race and there are some talented Irish horses in the race this time around. We are flying the flag for Britain and the one thing I know for sure is that he will give 110% for me.
"Frodon loves to try and he loves to be competitive. Cheltenham is the heartbeat, it is the Olympics for equine athletes to come and show their supreme levels of ability and it's brilliant to say I have a horse which I can ride in Frodon - he is my partner and we'll just keep kicking and see what happens."
ALTIOR STILL BEHIND CYRNAME ON THE FIGURES SAYS
Altior stirred the hearts of almost everyone who watched his battling defeat of Politologue and Sceau Royal in Wednesday's G1 Queen Mother Champion Chase, but BHA handicapper Chris Nash was unmoved.
The dual Queen Mother winner's mark is likely to remain the same when the new figures are published on Tuesday, which means that he will still be rated behind Cyrname, who misses The Festival.
Nash explained: "Some eyebrows were raised when Cyrname was given a rating of 178 after his Ascot Chase win, which had him higher than Altior, and for all this was an admirable performance, the bare bones of the form is unlikely to be enough to get him any higher than his current rating of 175."
Colleague Martin Greenwood was satisfied that this year's running of the earlier G1 RSA Chase was well up to standard, but he is unlikely to rate Topofthegame quite as high as 2018 winner Presenting Percy, who ended last season on a mark of 165.
Greenwood said: "The 2019 renewal of the RSA may not match up with Presenting Percy's victory last year, but it almost certainly was up to an overall standard. The market suggested it was a three-race horse, which was largely backed up by the pre-race ratings, and that's how it panned out.
"With the trio rated between 153 and 155 (beforehand), you could argue they have almost replicated those ratings, but given they finished so far clear, ratings around the 160+ mark would seem appropriate and all three look good prospects for next season."
Andrew Mealor assessed the G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, and he came to a similar conclusion. He said: "A provisional reading of the result suggests the unbeaten City Island hasn't quite reached the level of past winners Samcro and The New One (both 157), achieving a figure in the mid-to-low 150s, but it still looks a well up-to-scratch renewal and his winning figure is likely to be on or above the recent average for the race. Both he and Champ are clearly good prospects going forward."
Espoir D'Allen won Tuesday's G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle by a record margin and he will be rated an above-average winner of the race.
David Dickinson, who assessed the race for the BHA, was impressed and said: "The race itself asked many questions and Espoir D'Allen was a surprise winner, but his wide-margin win should not be underestimated. In beating last year's runner up Melon so decisively, he established himself as an above average winner of the race."
Duc De Genievres, an impressive winner of a G1 Racing Post Arkle Chase in which several of the principals failed to complete, is likely to be rated somewhere close to the race's average for the winner of 162. Similarly Roksana, the lucky winner of the G1 OLBG Mares' Hurdle will be rated close to the five-year average for the race's winners of 148.
The BHA has not yet released a preliminary assessment of G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' winner Klassical Dream's impressive performance.
RECORD ATTENDANCE FOR SECOND SUCCESSIVE DAY
Yesterday's attendance of 59,209 was a new record for the second day of The Festival since the meeting switched to a four-day format in 2005.
Last year's total on Ladies Day came to 58,959.
There was a record crowd on the opening day of The Festival 2019, with 67,934 attending Champion Day.
Last year's attendance on the Tuesday came to 66,632, with the previous record for the day being 67,770 in 2016.