To extol the virtues of one of the greatest sporting shows on earth. To promote an event that combines top-quality racing, socialising and bonhomie in such a beguiling way that tens of thousands of us have turned the Festival into an annual pilgrimage.
But not any longer. There’s no need to shout from the Cotswolds rooftops. Instead Cheltenham in the second week of March has become so embedded in British sporting culture that everyone knows about it, everyone wants to be there.
Record-breaking numbers will flock to the track this week after last season’s meeting was forced behind closed doors by the Covid-19 pandemic. Millions more will watch on TV.
The Cheltenham Festival is, quite simply, an institution that will make all the front pages and home pages this week. It might even be a convenient, if temporary, distraction as we navigate this cruel world of invasions and infections.
Given the Festival’s modern-day standing, it seems incongruous to suggest it is approaching a tricky crossroads. But there is concern in the UK that the meeting is being dominated by Irish-trained horses, who won 23 of last year’s 28 races.
There is also consternation that field sizes are falling alarmingly, especially in the novice races, at a meeting that prides itself on its competitiveness. And there is controversy at the prospect of the Festival being extended from four days to five, possibly as soon as the year 2024.
However, these are debates for another day. Let’s focus on four thrilling days ahead of us.
Stars and potential stars abound. Old favourites are around, such as Honeysuckle, Shishkin, Frodon, Paisley Park and the dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll, who is likely to be retired after attempting his SIXTH Festival victory on Wednesday. It has all the makings of a vintage week.
Here are my eve-of-meeting selections. First choice, second choice and third choice for each race. They are based on the assumption that the going will be Good To Soft. Tuesday’s tips are taken from the final overnight declarations, while those for later in the week are taken from the five-day decs, so might well be subject to change. Good luck!
DAY ONE (Tuesday)
1.30 (2m Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle)
1 CONSTITUTION HILL, 2 Dysart Dynamo, 3 Mighty Potter
2.10 (2m Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase)
1 BLUE LORD, 2 Coeur Sublime, 3 Edwardstone
2.50 (3m1f Ultima Handicap Chase)
1 KILTEALY BRIGGS, 2 Fantastikas, 3 Grumpy Charley, 4 Our Power
3.30 (2m Unibet Champion Hurdle)
1 APPRECIATE IT, 2 Honeysuckle, 3 Tommy’s Oscar
4.10 (2m4f Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle)
1 QUEENS BROOK, 2 Burning Victory, 3 Martello Sky
4.50 (2m1f Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle)
1 HMS SEAHORSE, 2 The Tide Turns, 3 Ebasari, 4 Forever William
5.30 (3m6f Ukraine Appeal National Hunt Novices’ Chase)
1 RUN WILD FRED, 2 Pat’s Fancy, 3 Stattler
DAY TWO (Wednesday)
1.30 (2m5f Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle)
1 STAGE STAR, 2 Sir Gerhard, 3 Three Stripe Life
2.10 (3m Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase)
1 FURY ROAD, 2 Ahoy Senor, 3 Beacon Edge
2.50 (2m5f Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle)
1 GOWEL ROAD, 2 Drop The Anchor, 3 Camprond
3.30 (2m Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase)
1 CHACUN POUR SOI, 2 Shishkin, 3 Energumene
4.10 (3m6f Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase)
1 BRAHMA BULL, 2 Tiger Roll, 3 Diesel D’Allier
4.50 (2m Grand Annual Handicap Chase)
1 AMARILLO SKY, 2 Before Midnight, 3 Frero Banbou
5.30 (2m Weatherbys Champion Bumper)
1 AMERICAN MIKE, 2 Facile Vega, 3 Poetic Music
DAY THREE (Thursday)
1.30 (2m4f Turners Novices’ Chase)
1 GALOPIN DES CHAMPS, 2 L’Homme Presse, 3 Bob Olinger
2.10 (3m Pertemps Handicap Hurdle)
1 ALAPHILIPPE, 2 Dunboyne, 3 Winter Fog
2.50 (2m5f Ryanair Chase)
1 ALLAHO, 2 Asterion Forlonge, 3 Janidil
3.30 (3m Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle)
1 KLASSICAL DREAM, 2 Champ, 3 Royal Kahala
4.10 (2m5f Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase)
1 THE GLANCING QUEEN, 2 Palmers Hill, 3 Schiehallion Munro
4.50 (2m1f Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle)
1 DINOBLUE, 2 Party Central, 3 Nurse Susan, 4 Nina The Terrier
5.30 (3m2f Fulke Walwyn/Kim Muir Handicap Chase)
1 MISTER FOGPATCHES, 2 Mister Coffey, 3 Come On Teddy
DAY FOUR (Friday)
1.30 (2m1f JCB Triumph Hurdle)
1 PIED PIPER, 2 Porticello, 3 Knight Salute
2.10 (2m1f McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle)
1 CORMIER, 2 West Cork, 3 First Street, 4 Broomfield Burg
2.50 (3m Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle)
1 HILLCREST, 2 Minella Cocooner, 3 Ginto
3.30 (3m2f Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup)
1 GALVIN, 2 Protektorat, 3 A Plus Tard
4.10 (3m2f St James’s Place Hunters’ Chase)
1 COUSIN PASCAL, 2 Winged Leader, 3 Dubai Quest
4.50 (2m4f Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase)
1 ELIMAY, 2 Mount Ida, 3 Concertista
5.30 (2m5f) Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle)
1 GOOD RISK AT ALL, 2 Hollow Games, 3 The Goffer, 4 Adamantly Chosen