Quevega can complete great day for Mullins at Cheltenham

Irish mare on the verge of five in row

 

My Tent Or Yours is a hotpot for the opening William Hill Supreme Novices Hurdle; Simonsig’s even hotter for the Racing Post Arkle: but outside the Champion Hurdle, Quevega ’s bid for modern-day Cheltenham history will be the whiter-than-hot Irish storyline on a bitterly cold first day of Cheltenham 2013.

Doom-laden predictions of snow interrupting the most important racing week of the year have been dismissed by the authorities but frost-covers throughout the track mean an unusual vista awaits the near-70,000 racegoers showing up this afternoon.

The contrast with such a regular festival stalwart as Quevega is all too obvious. Yet again, there’s a lot of people looking for a lot of reassurance from the little mare.

The recent festival pattern of Irish success being concentrated into the first two days may not apply quite as much this year with so much riding on Sir Des Champs, Our Conor, Salsify et al on Friday. But a good start remains half the battle and Quevega’s status as the ultimate out-of-the-blocks heroine is already assured, even if she doesn’t manage to replicate the legendary Golden Miller ’s five Gold Cup wins in the 1930s.

Since 2009 Quevega has dominated the OLBG Mares Hurdle, securing this Grade Two addition to the modern festival calendar plenty reflected kudos with her subsequent Grade One exploits at Punchestown. But as per normal today is when we get a first glimpse of the star mare in action for the guts of 10 months.

Usually such an absence counts for nothing. It will be a seismic shock to Irish confidence if there’s anything different now.


Un Atout
If she’s an open-book among the Willie Mullins team, Un Atout is very much a mystery. Unbeaten in three, and from the family of Sir Des Champs, he goes into the Supreme with a level of stable confidence behind him that must be significant.

One certainty is that if Un Atout is to remain unbeaten, he will have to unveil plenty that might have remained unseen up to now.

My Tent Or Yours put up a Betfair Hurdle performance that had handicappers purring. Unlike some over-hyped Supreme failures of the past, he has already put figures on the board. Tony McCoy also wasted no time picking him over JP McManus’s other big hope, Jezki.

However, Cheltenham and Newbury are very different beasts. Is it value taking short odds about a long-striding, free-running sort like the favourite around a notoriously tight track like the Old Course?

Balthazar King brought an end to Ireland ’s dominance of the Glenfarclas Cross-Country last year but ground conditions are so different this time he has been ruled out of the race at the last minute.

Hardy annuals
Some hardy Irish annuals, and 10 visitors in all, will trek their way around the gruelling course including Arabella Boy who will attempt to give the “banks king” Enda Bolger a fifth win in the race.

On the face of it, Arabella Boy looks the best of the raiders, but he did unseat Nina Carberry on his only course start last December and Bolger has voiced his suspicions that Punchestown’s banks may be more his cup of tea.

Arabella Boy was well in command of Big Shu at Punchestown last month but there was plenty to like about the point to pointers effort and testing ground will be right up his alley at a decent price.

Simonsig has been flawless in his chasing career to date and is a proven festival performer with a swaggering Neptune victory last year. Betting odds-on in a novice chase is usually a road to the poor-house but it’s hard to formulate a reasonable argument for the Henderson star being beaten.

Carlito Brigante’s chance in the concluding race had been talked up on the basis of there being good ground. That isn’t the case now and there could be value to be had in siding with Shangani.

Catterick is not the usual pre-Cheltenham stop-off for festival contenders but Shangani won nine days previously at Sandown where his jumping was immaculate. Venetia Williams ’s team are flying and he likes the soft.

JP McManus runners are to be respected in handicaps here and the fact Nadiya De La Vega is trying three miles plus for the first time in the JLT could be the winning of the race. The French mare likes the track and goes on the heavy and it is significant the step up in trip has been put off until now.