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Punter's Diary by Malcolm Heyhoe

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punter's diary
Updated: 1st March 2013 - GG.com

Mad March Blooms

When the first days of March dawn and the gentler weather becomes more of a common feature, racing fans turn on the radio, pick up a paper, peer at the internet, switch on the television and hardly a moment goes by without someone banging the drum for the four magical days of the Cheltenham Festival.

Quentin Collonges runs in the
Grimthorpe Chase
© Racehorse Photos

Quentin Collonges

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.

Before the great meeting gets under way, March's racing slips in quietly with Newbury hosting the Greatwood Gold Cup on March 2 and Doncaster playing host to Grand National contenders in the Grimthorpe Chase.

On the same day Kelso stages 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. This year Nicky Richards should win the graded prize with Eduard or Duke Of Navan.

A week later on March 9 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 Jonjo O'Neill's Mr Watson looks a likely sort after scoring at Cheltenham the other day and scooting up in a novice event at Plumpton previously.

Rock On Ruby
© Racehorse Photos

Rock On Ruby

The 2013 Cheltenham Festival snaps the tape on March 12 and provokes the lung-bursting first day roar with the Champion Hurdle featuring as the day's star attraction.

Last year Rock On Ruby sprang a surprise and collected the big hurdling prize courtesy of a subdued effort from previous Champion, Hurricane Fly and this pair, along with Zarkandar and Grandouet, have the race between them.

In the Arkle Trophy on the opening day Simonsig should prove far too good for the over-rated Overturn, who lacks the former's tactical versatility and overall brilliance and the Arkle is probably heading back to Seven Barrows for a second year in succession following Sprinter Sacre's joyous and profit-making romp in last year's Arkle.

Sprinter Sacre occupies centre stage on March 13 and is yet another of the meeting's many short-priced favourites as he bids to add the Queen Mother Champion Chase to last season's Arkle success. Last year's two-mile champion novice has been in terrific form on his two successful starts this term and with his air of invincibility, he will be impossible to beat.

Reve De Sivola
© Racehorse Photos

Reve De Sivola
On Thursday March 14 the Festival serves up a double helping of championship races with the World Hurdle and Ryanair Chase topping the bill. This time around both races are wide open, and more intriguing than normal.

In the former contest Reve De Sivola is the favourite to land trainer Nick Williams a first and long-awaited Festival success while in the latter event there are no less than five horses covered by a handful of points at the head of a very open betting market.

On Friday March 15 the curtain comes down on what should be a thrilling week's action with the Cheltenham Gold Cup staging an enthralling three-way clash between the season's best staying chasers in the shape of Bob's Worth, Sir Des Champs and Silviniaco Conti.

It seems nigh on certain that one of this illustrious trio will win chasing's Blue Riband, but it's anyone's guess, however, as to how the race will unfold this time around, but perhaps the Irish and Willie Mullins might hold the ace in the hand for the 2013 Gold Cup.

Cheltenham Festival week's racing action comes to a close with the Midlands National at Uttoxeter on March 16, and a mud-loving stayer is the order of the day for this four-mile marathon while on March 23 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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