Punter's Diary by Malcolm Heyhoe

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punter's diary
Updated: 1st March 2012 -

March Marvels

When March arrives and the milder weather becomes more of a norm, racing fans turn on the radio, pick up a paper, switch on the television and hardly a moment goes by without someone banging the drum for the four magical days of the Cheltenham Festival.

Sire De Grugy

Sire De Grugy

A single meeting sums up an entire season on the jumps and while this distorting effect can pull the rest of the season out of shape, jumps fans have long grown used to Cheltenham's defining four days.

Traditionally March's racing slips in quietly with Newbury hosting the Greatwood Gold Cup on March 3 and on the same day Kelso plays host to one of its feature races courtesy of the Premier Kelso Hurdle, a keenly competitive contest for novices over two and a quarter miles of the pretty Borders track.

A week later on March 10 Sandown stages the Paddy Power Imperial Cup, and this good prize is often won by a progressive type that has managed to conceal its better nature during a light campaign. David Pipe is always a trainer to follow in a race that his father won four times while this time around Gary Moore's Sire De Grugy looks a likely sort after reaching the frame in the Betfair Hurdle and scooting up in a valuable race at Taunton four days later.

Hurricane Fly
© Caroline Norris

Hurricane Fly
The 2012 Cheltenham Festival snaps the tape on March 13 and provokes the lung-bursting first day roar with the Champion Hurdle featuring as the day's star attraction. Last year the Irish collected the big hurdling prize courtesy of a majestic Hurricane Fly and he seems more than likely to win the big race again.

The 2010 Champion Hurdler Binocular bids to claim the prize a second time but faces a formidable opponent in Hurricane Fly and Paul Nicholls bids for a first Champion success with the classy Zarkandar who is sure to come on for his last-gasp success in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury the other day.

The top two-milers occupy centre stage on March 14 and Sizing Europe is yet another of the meeting's many short-priced favourites in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Last year's two-mile champion has been in terrific form on his last two successful starts and should be hard to beat with Nicky Henderson's Finian's Rainbow the main domestic challenger.

Big Buck's
© Racehorse Photos

Big Buck's

On Thursday March 15 the Festival serves up a double helping of championship races with the World Hurdle and Ryanair Chase topping the bill. In the former contest Big Buck's is a short-priced favourite to land a fourth and unprecedented success while in the latter event there are no less than five horses covered by a single point at the head of a very open betting market.

On Friday March 16 the curtain comes down on what should be a thrilling week's action with the Cheltenham Gold Cup staging round three in the season-long clash between reigning and past Gold Cup heroes Long Run and Kauto Star. It's anyone's guess as to how the race will unfold this time around, and who knows, there may even be a surprise in store for the 2012 Gold Cup.

March's racing action comes to a close with the Midlands National at Uttoxeter on March 17, and a mud-loving stayer is the order of the day for this four-mile marathon while on March 31 the Flat season creeps into action with the William Hill Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster.

Malcolm Heyhoe writes weekly horse racing articles for GG.COM-Horse racing betting, information, news, results and free daily tips

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