Angus McNae
Angus McNae's Racing UK Blog
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Racing UK
Let’s just keep it simple on day one

So much has been said and written about this year’s Festival that you could be forgiven for being either stuffed with information or simply confused. With that in mind I am planning on keeping things simple on day one of Cheltenham.

For me this means backing Champagne Fever and Vautour. Both should go very close for the Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh team, who look set to dominant this year’s Festival.

Let's start with Champagne Fever in the Racing Post Arkle Chase.

The case is a strong and basic one. Firstly he is ridden by Walsh, who is the best jockey around. Secondly this horse loves the track, having won the Champion Bumper and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in the past two seasons.

Thirdly he has proved that he is very useful over fences. His win at Punchestown in November was impressive and his subsequent defeat was a function of getting involved in a duel early in the race and then committing a bad error late on. He is clearly miles better than what he showed that day and he will be really hard to beat. I realise that the race is strong, with the likes of Rock On Ruby in there but this horse has pace to burn and is versatile in terms of tactics, so what is there not to like? I will look to him to kick-start my Cheltenham Festival in style.

In the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Ruby Walsh has chosen to ride Vautour and the hint should be taken.

Vautour easily beat The Tullow Tank last time out, which is strong form. He stays well and his current rating probably underplays his latent ability. When interviewed on Ruby Walsh made much of the fact that this horse has plenty of stamina.

That is certainly the case, but if you watch all of his three hurdle wins this season in his video form it is blatantly obvious that he is not short of speed, either. Actually he is a strong traveller, who will be suited by a strong gallop and thus the Supreme is perfect for him.

There you have it two horses with obvious credentials that should be backed on day one of the Festival. I may get a little bit more adventurous later in the week but I think the two we have today give us a fighting chance of getting off to a winning start.

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I have had a good look at the Champion Hurdle and admit to being just a tad confused. One thing is for sure it is a great race and I want Hurricane Fly to win, and if it is a real test I think he will.

One thing that strikes me is that a lot of people think he is a cruise-and-quicken type, whereas for me he is best when he is faced with a severe test at two miles, where he really has to dig deep.

If he gets that sort of test and the ground has not dried out too much, he is the one. There are other possibilities of course. I like Our Connor, but does he need softer ground? My Tent Or Yours has speed, but does he really get home over a stiff two miles?

The New One has a bit to prove at this level but is the new kid on the block. On balance Hurricane Fly will probably do it, and I hope he does, but it is a tough betting race. I put up The New One as a lay in the win market in one of my blogs last week and nothing I have heard, or read, has changed my mind.

Come back tomorrow as I will be writing a blog every day throughout the Cheltenham Festival.

Angus McNae’s Tuesday Cheltenham tips:

1.30 Cheltenham: Vautour at 7-2 with William Hill

2.05 Cheltenham: Champagne Fever at 3-1 with William Hill

3.20 Cheltenham: Lay The New One in the Champion Hurdle win market