Day 2 is usually my favourite day but I’m not sure that will be the case this year. The ‘big’ race, the Champion Chase, doesn’t quicken the pulse in its usual manner this year. It’s not because Sprinter Sacre, the reigning champion is missing through injury (if that’s the right thing to call a heart murmur), but because there aren’t many horses in the race which are top-class and firing on all cylinders. Maybe it will be a stunning spectacle but it may not have the usual thrill because I may not have had a bet on it.
But, for heaven’s sake, you might say, there are other races! And you would be right.
The RSA Chase is a good race – but one from which I have rarely won money (which is a bit puzzling really – it seems just my type of race). Several of the winners of this race for novices have gone on to win the Gold Cup a year or two later (and some of the placed horses too). none of the top three in the betting has won at Cheltenham – although Ballycasey and morning Assembley have better excuses than Smad Place (being Irish and making their first visits!). Le Bec at 12/1 may be a good each-way punt.
And the last race of the day, often in the gathering gloom, and marking the half way point of this four-day festival of irrelevant fun, is the ‘bumper’. What’s the bumper? The bumper is a race for young National Hunt horses where they don’t have to jump over anything. It’s a type of race to get young horses accustomed to racecourses and crowds and, if they are Irish horses, to come over here and bamboozle the English betting public. The winner of this race is usually Irish-trained and it’s often trained by Willie Mullins but since Mr Mullins often has several runners in this race that doesn’t help as much as it might seem in finding the winner. Often it seems it is the Mullins-trained runner that we didn’t expect to win which romps home.
But the Festival bumper clearly does work as a training ground. Winners and placed horses from this race have gone on to win many big hurdles and chases at the Festival in subsequent years. This has been a good race for me over the years and I will not be amongst those racing to get away early from the car park – I will be relishing this race. It might be worth backing each of the three Mullins horses each way; Shaneshill, Killultagh Vic and Black Hercules.