Horses For Courses: Hurricane blows his Cheltenham Festival rivals away

FLY-ING HIGH: Hurricane Fly ridden by Ruby Walsh, right, leaps ahead of Peddlers Cross to win the Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy. PIC: PA
FLY-ING HIGH: Hurricane Fly ridden by Ruby Walsh, right, leaps ahead of Peddlers Cross to win the Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy. PIC: PA
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THE Champion Hurdle winner, a local winner and the good thing of the day hacking up by umpteen lengths – all good regards Tuesday at Cheltenham.

Maybe not so rosy for my hosts, Racing UK (RUK), however, no doubt counting the cost of their Ruby Tuesday offer!

The boys at RUK took it upon themselves to make a generous offer of refunding all new customers’ annual subscriptions if Walsh was top jock on day one.

Apparently he was 4-1 to lead outright on the first day but in the end it was a 75-1 treble that had RUK counting the cost!

Rarely do such offers appear what they seem – what happened to Paddy Power’s super offer of money back if Cue Card wins? Nothing – as the horse was sunk without trace.

At the outset, odds of 4-1 about Ruby being top jockey on day one looked stingy, but the writing was probably on the wall once Al Ferof, at 10-1, landed the first.

Cue Card, bidding to get punters off to a flyer, came there tanking two out looking all over the winner but alas that famous Cheltenham hill struck again as Walsh’s mount ground out victory in a very similar fashion to Noland back in 2006, and in the same colours.

Few around me had backed Al Ferof but certainly in the RUK box a few eyebrows were being raised with Ruby already having one on the board and with Hurricane Fly and banker of the day Quevega to come.

It was my first ever visit to to the Festival, the atmosphere was second to none – even on arriving to Cheltenham town centre with one of the local pubs renamed The Betfair Arms.

Ladbrokes, William Hill and Stan James banners adorned the town centre and getting the 6am train from Harrogate proved wise bearing in mind the sheer volume of racegoers.

Everything about the Festival is spectacular – from the opening Supreme Novices Hurdle roar to the party atmosphere of Guinness Village – but it has to be said victory for the unconsidered Al Ferof in the opener was a bit of a party pooper and success for Captain Chris in the Arkle was little better either.

A fair few then seemed to be on Bensalem at 5-1 in the third but not the masses who like me had plumped for Tony McCoy’s faller Sunnyhillboy and with three races down without a winner the first visit to the Festival was taking a nose-dive, as was the bank balance.

All three races were watched from the excellent hospitality of RUK’s glass-fronted box which in actual fact was two furlongs out giving a false sense of security as your fanices passed by – with Cue Card being a classic example.

It was also box number 13 so on the assumption that the thing was cursed it was into the main mixer and the swelling crowd by the winning post for the big one, the Champion Hurdle.

And what a champion performance we were treated to by Hurricane Fly who changed my day big time.

Menorah was selected as the day’s nap with Binocular out of the way but Cue Card’s poor showing let that form down big time and all the vibes leading up to the race were that the Irish would not hear of defeat for their Hurricane.

So against the grain a decent wager was placed on the Willie-Mullins trained inmate who was an 11-4 joint-favourite and yelled home by the masses in true Cheltenham style.

It was hairs on the back of the neck stuff as the Irish darling outbattled the game Peddlers Cross – and as Walsh brought his mount back along the grandstand for a victory parade – a scene reminiscent of Sea The Stars at York.

That was my day sorted – not to mention thousands of others – but over a pint of Guinness (what else?) a thought was spared for the chiefs at RUK with Ruby now two-up and Ruby Tuesday, from their perspective, not going according to plan!

All that was needed was victory for odds-on class act Quevega to seal their fate and inevitably the mare produced a scintillating performance to hack up by 10 lengths. Three to Ruby and game over for RUK with countless £240 subscriptions being refunded.

Here’s hoping they laid their liabilities off with a bet on the Irishman to be top day one jockey though that didn’t seem to be the plan over lunch!

Ride the storm was the general feeling and that storm looked like getting electric with Ruby’s Definity hammered into a ridiculously short 3-1 favourite for the last.

Definity, though, failed to read the script and instead it was Divers – trained by Middleham ace Ferdy Murphy – who brought home the spoils.

We say it every year, but Murphy ALWAYS seems to land a decent priced Festival winner; it’s just finding the thing that’s the problem!

Still, thanks to the Hurricane, there were no problems whatsoever upon leaving Prestbury Park with spirits high and the wallet replenished enough to fork out for a some astronomically priced cans on the train. Drank with a smile, good times and good memories with Ruby Tuesday one that will last forever and no doubt it will for the team at RUK too.

Lancelot Du Lac ridden by Frankie Dettori (left) winning The Qatar Stewards' Cup Handicap at Goodwood last August. PIC: Paul Harding/PA Wire

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