Cheltenham Festival live blog: Day 1

This live event has finished

5:37pm

The places have remained unaltered.

5:25pm

Mighty race there from Attaglance, who finishes half a length behind Present View. 

There's a stewards' inquiry into possible interference by the winner.

4:55pm

Not too long before the final race of the opening day and North Yorkshire has an interest in the Rewards4Racing Novices' Chase.

Norton's Malcolm Jefferson saddles Attaglance, who won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle here two years ago.

He likes the track and was fourth in the Paddy Power Gold Cup here last November. The drying ground will also be a plus and this would be some venue to grab your first victory over the bigger obstacles.

4:25pm

Well, what can you say about Quevega? A wonderful performance to win her sixth straight Mares' Hurdle.

Good performance too from Cockney Sparrow. John Quinn's mare finished fifth and would possibly have picked up another place but for being hampered by a faller.

3:53pm

Terrible news here at the Festival.
 

3:50pm

Now, can Cockney Sparrow push Quevega in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle?

John Quinn's Listed winner has a lot on her plate - trying to deny Willie Mullins' super mare a sixth successive win in this race and Cheltenham festival history.

She's never run over two-and-a-half miles before but Quinn believes she will stay the trip and is hoping she can run a big race.

Whether that's enough to beat Quevega, however, is another matter entirely.

3:43pm

Our Conor, who took a huge fall at the third flight in the Champion Hurdle, is up on his feet following a prolonged period of treatment and, hopefully, will be okay.

3:28pm

Jessica Harrington's gelding stayed best up the hill, holding off My Tent Or Yours to win by a neck.

The New One was third and no excuses for Hurricane Fly, who finished fourth as he was overwhelmed by his younger challengers.

3:28pm

What a race! It's Jezki, at 9-1, who beats all the market leaders to win the Champion Hurdle.

3:13pm

Gazette & Herald:

My Tent Or Yours, the mount of AP McCoy.

3:13pm

Gazette & Herald:

The New One, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by his son Sam.

3:12pm

A couple of shots of some of the principal runners for you in the Champion Hurdle. Excuse the poor photography but you get the drift...

2:50pm

Next up, the big one.

The Stan James Champion Hurdle. Hurricane Fly, Our Conor, My Tent Or Yours and The New One.

It should be one of the highlights of the week.

2:48pm

It's the grey Ma Filleule and Holywell at the finish, and it's the latter who gets up for trainer Jonjo O'Neill and jockey Richie McLernon.

2:47pm

Holywell is cruising on the outside.

2:46pm

Tour Des Champs, Standing Ovation and Fruity O'Rooney still there. Alfie Sherrin trying to get back into it.

2:45pm

Standing Ovation takes over in front from Tour Des Champs.

2:45pm

Tour Des Champ still in front with a circuit left to travel.

2:44pm

Cantlow has fallen.

2:43pm

Standing Ovation and Holywell tracking.

2:43pm

Vintage Star has gone, Tour Des Champs leads them.

2:41pm

2:41pm

Twenty four runners set to go to post for the Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Chase. 

2:14pm

2:14pm

Western Warhorse, 33-1, looked to be tiring as they came down the hill. But he has produced a tremendous turn of foot, under Tom Scudamore, to reel in Ruby Walsh on Champagne Fever and get up by a head.

That totally silenced the crowd.

2:13pm

From ecstacy to agony for Willie Mullins.

After Vautour stormed to the Supreme Novices', Champagne Fever has just been mugged in the Arkle.

1:58pm

From one great white Mullins hope to another.

The Irishman saddles the favourite Champagne Fever in the Racing Post Arkle next up.

His horse has won at the Festival for the past two years, adding the Supreme Novices' Hurdle to his Champion Bumper success of two years ago.

Trifolium and Rock On Ruby, the Champion Hurdle winner in 2012, look the main threats to deny Champagne Fever a Festival hat-trick.

1:52pm

Vautour's trainer Willie Mullins: "He screams a chaser for me. If he can perform like that, jumping over fences, then he will be very, very good. 

"He treated them like a bunch of maidens. I thought he was a good horse, but that's a different league."

1:48pm

1:37pm

Well if that's anything to go by, the Irish are in for a cracking week. Vautour, 7-2, has won the Supreme Novices' with plenty in hand. Always at the sharp end, he powered up the hill and won by 6 lengths from Josses Hill. 

Irving, the joint favourite, was among the first off the bridle. A fantastic start.

1:22pm

Gazette & Herald:

Followed swiftly by Vautour. The bell has gone, the jockeys are mounting. The Festival is about to get under way!

1:21pm

Gazette & Herald:

Supreme Novices' Hurdle favourite Irving in the parade ring.

1:02pm

1:02pm

Horses for the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle now in the pre-parade ring.

12:46pm

12:38pm

North Yorkshire hopes this afternoon are resting mainly on Cockney Sparrow, who is bidding to dethrone the mighty Quevega in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle (4pm).

If Hurricane Fly is bidding to join the legends then Quevega would make history if she can claim this race yet again for trainer Willie Mullins.

She's going for a sixth successive win in the contest, over two and a half miles, and that would break the record for most victories at the Festival.

Quevega shares the title with Golden Miller, who won five straight Gold Cups in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and is odds-on to be in a league of her own by the end of today.

Cockney Sparrow, a Listed winner for Quinn, was runner-up to My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle late last year and is taking on this distance for the first time.

Quinn, though, has always been confident she will stay and the drying ground is definitely in her favour.

This is what he said to The Press a couple of weeks ago: “There are distance horses in her pedigree. I am upbeat. She is a very good filly.

“She is good in the spring and, although she fell at Doncaster, she came out of it fine.

“Cockney Sparrow has never been out of the money over jumps, apart from when she fell and it was bottomless ground that day.

“If she stays she will run a big race.”

Also on the hunt for a North Yorkshire win is Quinn's next door neighbour, Malcolm Jefferson, who saddles Attaglance in the Rewards4Racing Novices' Chase.

The eight-year-old, ridden today by Brian Hughes, has shown winning form at the Festival when victorious in the Martin Pipe two years ago.

He likes the track, having been fourth in the Paddy Power Gold Cup here last November, and Jefferson will be hopeful of at least getting in the money.

12:20pm

It's true to say that Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh could have a mammoth first day.

They took three races last year and Hurricane Fly and Quevega, of whom more in just a second, are many people's ideas of banker bets of the meeting.

The fancied Vautour in the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle (1.30pm) and Champagne Fever in the Racing Post Arkle (2.05pm) could make this an incredible opening spell for the Irish punters. They'll all be steaming in.

12:18pm

12:16pm

And just in case you want to familiarise yourself with Hurricane Fly's heroics 12 months ago, check out Racing UK's replay of last year's Champion Hurdle.

12:13pm

The Press tipster Tom O'Ryan has been scouring the first day Cheltenham form, so I don't have to, and you can read his views on this afternoon's action here:

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/sport/horseracing/11067621.Our_Conor_heads_Cheltenham_Festival_chances_for_top_handler_Willie_Mullins/

12:09pm

As far as pre-race hype goes, we could have the race of the four-day meeting this afternoon.

You have to hark back to the late 1970s and the halycon days of the Malton-trained Night Nurse and Sea Pigeon to find a Stan James Champion Hurdle (3.20pm) that has been as keenly anticipated as this afternoon's contest.

Hurricane Fly, the darling of Irish trainer Willie Mullins, is bidding to join an elite band of horses that have won this race three times.

He's the reigning champion, having seen off Rock On Ruby and Countrywide Flame, trained by John Quinn at Norton, 12 months ago.

But many pundits feel that he's vulnerable this time around in the face of some hugely talented young opposition.

Firstly, there is his age. Hurricane Fly is now into double figures and no horse has won a Champion Hurdle when that old since Sea Pigeon in 1981.

A trio of horses are lined up to take him on, with Our Conor bidding to wrest the title but still keep it in Ireland.

Anyone who watched Dessie Hughes' horse bolt up by 15 lengths in the Triumph Hurdle at last year's Festival surely couldn't fail to be impressed but Hurricane Fly has bested him twice this season at Leopardstown.

The distances have been declining, however. There was only a length and a half between the pair in the Irish Champion Hurdle at the end of January and there is a case to be made that Cheltenham, and especially the finishing hill, suits Our Conor down to the ground.

The steep incline to the winner's post is one of the few areas of concern for My Tent Or Yours, the mount of AP McCoy and trained by Nicky Henderson.

The seven-year-old looked poised for victory in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle here 12 months ago but came unstuck as Champagne Fever found more on the run in.

He's already beaten The New One, another major contender trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, but his rival hit the final flight hard that day when hugely in contention - and his victory in the Neptune at last year's meeting was eyecatching.

11:48am

Of course, you need not just take my word for it. Watch Alastair Down, Racing Post journalist and graduate of the University of York, explain why the Festival is so special.

11:46am

IT might be the roar of the crowd when the tape goes up, or the barrels of Guinness being consumed in the tented village, but there's something about the Cheltenham Festival that puts it above all others.

Good morning from Prestbury Park where we've got a superb sunny day and an equally superb set of races to enthrall us throughout the afternoon.

I'll do my best to guide you through all the action and reaction as National Hunt racing's premier meeting gets under way.

Why not get involved as well? You can use the comments facility below to send in your views, your best bets, and anything else that takes your fancy.

Or contact me on twitter too at @scarrollpress. Use the hashtags #cheltenham or #cheltfest

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