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Kate Miller 16th Mar 2011 - 19:35

Cheltenham Blog - Kate Miller

Day two of the Cheltenham Festival and it is dreary and threatening drizzle as we line-up to watch the likes of Big Zeb and Master Minded in the Champion Chase, and So Young and Oscars Wells.

It's Ladies' Day, and I say that in the loosest of terms - not quite the same ilk of Aintree 'Ladies' Day, but nonetheless there are a few enthusiatstic racegoers who have forgotten it's still March. My Mum would be appalled. Or applauding. She likes acts of bravery does my Ma.

One lady I've seen has bedecked her hair with a number of net-type butterflies. I would hazard a guess that she spent more time on her hair than I spent waking, washing, dressing, and talking today. The first few didn't take long - the last bit happens all day and I'm an expert at it. Trust me when I tell you her hair was a work of art.

But let's forget the ladies and talk about the horses (the slightly rude ginger boy on the Fish 'N Chip counter who wolf-whistles anything with an XX chromosone won't, but I certainly can) I'm a purist. I'm also a realist, and I understand the need for Marketing to different types of racegoers, but I check the 'going' regularly, not my lipstick.

We've doing some work with AP McCoy this week who has agreed to be the face of our new bet 'Top Picks'. He's an utter pro is AP. On-time, well-read, and extremely accommodating. He has been added to my list of crushes, but in a completely platonic way. His wife seems delightful, and I saw her shoes yesterday and I do not fancy 'Death by Jimmy Choo' those spike heels will finish me off for sure.

Anyway, McCoy didn't have the best day yesterday, and following the Binocular debacle I'm guessing he wasn't going into the Festival too hopeful, he's picking his top picks with us each evening after racing, so do keep an eye out on the website for his daily video. He's not afraid to put one up at a big price, and talks with immense clarity and insight.

The atmosphere is slightly subdued today, I think it could be the weather, and it could also be to do with the MONUMENTAL parties that were quite clearly going on in Cheltenham last night.

The Queen's Hotel - the hub of all things Irish during Cheltenham week was clearly rocking, and rumour has it that some singing was to be had. I only know the chorus to Wild Rover (learnt after a trip to said Queen's Hotel many years ago) I also can't sing. Not a lot I could have added really.

It really is a bit chilly today, so the bulk of the crowd appears to have taken the sage advice of the St John's Ambulance and huddled together for warmth. In the bar. The Mandarin  Bar,  the Cottage Rake Bar, the Jim Bar, pretty much anywhere with a bar.  Good work race-goers, great to see our reputation as a nation of drinkers remains intact.

The first race went badly for us bookies (again) with a victory for Chicago Grey. Another stats-buster, but great for trainer Gordon Elliot who literally rode every yard of the finish from his position near the last fence.

The second race was forecast as a show-down between Ireland's big guns, Oscar's Wells and So Young. We'd stood So Young for over half-a-million after the public piled into him from the outset this morning. 2/1 favourite from 10/3.

That is some weight of money that will move a horse that much for Cheltenham. I was pouting aggressively after backing him for the Supreme and sided with Oscar's Wells instead for today's race.

It was all immaterial in the end though as First Lieutenant - in the manner that befit his name - battled-up the Prestbury Hill to head Rock on Ruby on the line. That race, that finish, is exactly why I love Cheltenham.

You and I will both know that not many of the crowd will have been on First Lieutenant, but the noise was simply almighty as they dueled to the finish. The occasion simply sweeps over you and you forget any reticence or shyness that might be in your being, and get carried along with the sheer sport of it all.

The RSA Chase was let-down by a lukewarm performance from Time for Rupert he simply can't have run up to his best, and I found that more disappointing than my bet on Master of the Hall who was going beautifully when hampered by the falling Quel Esprit. Nothing like a punter's lament to add to a blog eh?

The same could be said for the Queen Mother where having put up Sizing Europe at every preview I've done, I abandoned him in favour of Big Zeb on the drying ground. That is now 11 Arkle winners in the last 13 who have gone on to finish first or second in the following year's Queen Mother. We'd best get on Captain Chris now for next year!

Carlito Brigante finally did me a favour after I tipped him in the corporate box for our guests. I tipped a few other things too but I'm only going to talk about the 25-1 winner. It's my blog, and I have to put up with the boo-ing and vegetable throwing when I draw a blank.

The results, thus far had mostly been in the bookies' favour. We have been determined throughout the piece that this Cheltenham we would be price-driven. We've taken an opinion and laid it accordingly. Trust me when I tell you that with over 2,300 shops, a ridiculously fast-growing online platform, plus telebetting and mobile it does not take long for liabilities to rack-up.

When going stand-out prices on Cue Card, Master Minded, Time for Rupert et al, we've limited stakes but it is to allow as many of you as possible to get on. We haven't let a few individuals have grands, and grands on, we've let A WHOLE LOT of people have fifty-quids, and hundreds on.

And then we moved swiftly onwards onto the Fred Winter where Ireland racked up an astonishing sixth winner. Arthur Moore needs little introduction in Cheltenham handicaps and he'd definitely plotted this one with fearsome precision.

The bumper - usually an Emerald Isle benefit though instead went the way of Philip Hobbs. Never has a tag 'the quiet man' ever befit a trainer more, but he's a genuinely good guy, and I am thrilled he's having such a good Festival.

I'm lucky enough to have been to his yard and the set-up and team are magnificent. Cheltenian - whom I'd written off as potentially quirky following his Kempton win - stormed up the Hill and it will clearly not be the last we see of him.

Ultimately though, it just ended up being a day for the Irish didn't it? And no-one can ever begrudge a smiling Irish-man. They're surely going to drink the pumps dry of the black stuff in Cheltenham tonight. If you can't find me tomorrow then I might still be at the Queen's.................................



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