Cheltenham Festival 2018

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Proper racing returns this afternoon with the beginning of the three day Open meeting at Cheltenham.  It is racing at the highest level, and I am sure that a number of these will be going to the Festival meeting in March.  If you have never been to one of these high class jump meetings, just try going, even if it is only once - the atmosphere is fantastic, completely different to any flat meeting.  It seems to me that real racing people go jump racing.

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I was watching the racing from Bangor yesterday afternoon and was horrified to see Christopher Timmons stop riding aboard 4/1 second favourite Jeanry in the closing stages of the handicap hurdle with the race at his mercy.  Predictably enough, Monsieur came from the clouds under Matt Griffiths to get up close home - it was one of the worst cases I have ever seen, and while I know the lad is only a 7lbs conditional, there can be little excuse for such offences.  He is now facing a 28 day suspension (the maximum penalty for the offence), and to be honest I don't think that is long enough.  It has happened before and is sure to happen again, but why do the jockeys do it?...the handicapper isn't stupid and will penalise a heavily eased winner every bit as much as a horse that is ridden out to the line.

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I am going to nominate Tom Scudamore for the ride of the week for his effort aboard Noble Crusader at Lingfield yesterday.  He must have been some price in running and he looked to have no chance at top of the hill, but Tom kept pushing and kicking and his perseverance finally paid off as he got up to beat Warren Marston on King Ozzy right on the line.  It looked like Tom was having trouble talking afterwards as he was so out of breath!

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I see that Johnny Murtagh has resigned from his job as number one jockey at Ballydoyle.  It must be a real pressure environment as they are now looking for their fourth stable jockey in just six years.  Richard Hughes and Ryan Moore are among those names that are being linked with the job, but I have to ask - why  on earth would they want to leave the Hannon and Stoute yards?  The bookmakers have Irishman Pat Smullen as their 6/4 favourite ahead of former French champion Christophe Soumillon at 5/2, but the interesting candidate is former Ballydoyle number one, Kieren Fallon at 4/1.

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It was good to see that the Brits finally managed to get on the scoreboard in the Breeder's Cup on Saturday night.  Frankie Dettori (who else?!) was successful aboard the Brian Meehan trained Dangerous Midge in the Breeders Cup Turf, netting a cool £1,000,000 for winning connections, and treating spectators to another of his trademark flying dismounts.  I was also delighted to see superstar French mare Goldikova complete an amazing hat-trick of wins in the Breeders Cup Mile, in the process going one better than the great American hope Zenyatta who could only finish runner-up in the Classic following what could only be labelled a disastrous ride from regular pilot Mike Smith.

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I see that Manchester United have sent Wayne Rooney over to America so that he can get his head in the right place.  I can imagine the stress that he is under on his £250,000 per week wage...I wonder if I told David that I was in need of some help if he would send me off on a nice holiday?!  I would imagine that he would just send me to Coventry!

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It's the final day of the flat season and the jockey's championship is still wide open and up for grabs following a treble yesterday for each of the protagonists.  Paul Hanagan kicked off with a double in the afternoon followed by another at Wolvehampton, while Richard Hughes capitalised by scoring on all three of his mounts to finish the day as they started.  This afternoon Hughes has seven mounts, with three of them being paper favourites, while Hanagan also has seven mounts, although they are not as well fancied.  Even so, with a two winner head start, you would still have to say that the advantage lies with Hanagan...what a finish to the season!  I am sure there will be a bumper crowd at Donny to watch the action unfold.

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