CHELTENHAM BREAKFAST: Bookies bashed as punter wins £50,000 on Day One, free pints for all make up for car park mudbath… plus Paddy Power’s CHEAT SHEET for Day Two

Day two of the Cheltenham Festival features the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The Grade One race had surprisingly eluded trainer Willie Mullins until two years ago, when Energumene enjoyed the first of his two victories. 

Energumene has been sidelined by injury but his stable-mate El Fabiolo is much more than an able super sub.

Another highlight should be classy Ballyburn facing a tasty test in the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday. 

Every morning Mail Sport will dish up a serving of Cheltenham Breakfast, taking a look at everything happening on and off the iconic racecourse in what is set to be another memorable week. 

El Fabiolo (above) takes on Jonbon and Edwardstone in the Queen Mother Champion Chase

El Fabiolo (above) takes on Jonbon and Edwardstone in the Queen Mother Champion Chase

Punters celebrate on Day One as Paul Townend wins the Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle

Punters celebrate on Day One as Paul Townend wins the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle

Ricci ponders Gaelic options 

Rich Ricci is a man who will always stand out in a crowd, such is his fondness for wearing remarkable tweed suits. 

The one-time boss of Barclays Investments can also be relied upon for a few colourful words but a conversation with Cheltenham Breakfast was revealing.

We had just walked back into the parade ring after Gaelic Warrior had turned the Arkle into a procession. To be by the final fence as the six-year-old started to accelerate was to see an equine athlete showing the world just how much talent he possesses.

Gaelic Warrior turned the Arkle into a procession with a fine performance on Day One

Gaelic Warrior turned the Arkle into a procession with a fine performance on Day One

It was a genuinely breathtaking sight and Ricci was stunned by it. We discussed whether this gelding could have the most natural talent of any horse he has owned and Ricci kept pointing to Gaelic Warrior, who was bucking and kicking, to show how full of beans he was after running two miles.

Ricci had wondered whether Gaelic Warrior was a Gold Cup horse; he could even run in next year’s Champion Chase. But what about this for a thought: how about a showdown with Il Est Francais at Kempton on Boxing Day in the King George? 

What a race that would be.

Doddie’s worth cause

Spare a thought for Nicky Henderson. The master trainer looked ashen-faced as he marched across the paddock lawn after the Champion Hurdle and with good reason.

His horses are running deplorably and there is clearly a bug circulating around his Seven Barrows yard. Four well regarded horses, included the JP McManus pair Jeriko Du Reponet and Iberico Lord, were pulled up.

We should be rooting for him today, though. He saddles Doddiethegreat in the Coral Cup. Owned by Kenny Alexander, whose colours adorned Honeysuckle, the gelding is named in memory of the Scotland rugby giant Doddie Weir. Every bit of prize money he earns is being raised to help fight Motor Neurone’s Disease. The Coral Cup is worth more than £50,000 to the winner. We shall roar him on.

Mail Sport will be rooting for Doddiethegreat in the Coral Cup today, in honour of Doddie Weir

Mail Sport will be rooting for Doddiethegreat in the Coral Cup today, in honour of Doddie Weir 

Punter wins £50,000 – but bookies got off lightly!

A resounding victory for punters on day one at Cheltenham featured a huge winner from Essex – but it could have been even worse for the bookies.

Traders in Paddy Power HQ in Dublin were left sweating after a Chelmsford-based punter nearly pulled off the heist of the year by landing a £200,000 payday.

The online customer had picked seven horses and put them in two different bets – a £20 each-way accumulator, and a £1 Super Heinz (which is a combination of the selections in 240 different ways).

What followed was the stuff of fairytales. His first six selections – Slade Steel, Gaelic Warrior, Chianti Classico, State Man, Lossiemouth and Lark In The Mornin – all came in to leave the punter sweating over the huge six-figure payout if Embassy Gardens won.

The Willie Mullins-trained Embassy Gardens was the 7/4 favourite for the 5.30 and while the punter let his Super Heinz run, he cashed out the accumulator for £36,000.

And it proved to be a shrewd move.

Embassy Gardens came home second behind Corbetts Cross, making it an early contender for cashout of the week.

The Super Heinz, meanwhile, would have returned another £49,937 had it come in – but a payout of more than £14,000 was plenty to cushion the blow.

A muddy start for racegoers

Heavy going ensured a few fancied runners got stuck in the mud but that was nothing compared to the state of the Cheltenham car park. 

Long before racing started, wheels were spinning left, right and centre and the patience of some racegoers was getting frayed.

It all meant that plenty of tractors were required on hand to do the business and give marooned vehicles a much-needed nudge and a lift. 

The racecourse is working all the time to find a way of improving the experience for those arriving on track. Parking will certainly catch their eye.

Mike and Zara Tindall brave the elements at Cheltenham on the first day of the Festival

Mike and Zara Tindall brave the elements at Cheltenham on the first day of the Festival

Wheels were spinning left, right and centre on a muddy day for racegoers and their vehicles

Bob comes first for Acheson

A nice problem emerged for Brian Acheson, whose colours were carried to success in the opening race by Slade Steel, but it is a problem, nonetheless. Irish Point ran a fantastic race in the Champion Hurdle and justified connections’ faith to take on State Man.

One race looks tailor-made for Irish Point and that is the two-and-a-half mile Aintree Hurdle, on the first day of the Grand National meeting. Irish Point won over the course-and-distance as a novice 12 months ago and he would have an outstanding chance in that contest.

To go there, though, would mean taking on his third ‘child’. Acheson is a proud dad to Robert and Courtney but the esteem in which he holds Bob Olinger, borders on paternal. He adores this horse, twice a Cheltenham winner, and has long had Liverpool in mind for him.

The outcome? Irish Point will have to find another target. Bob comes first.

Ascot chief basks in the Festival

Amazing to think that Royal Ascot is only three months away and Sir Francis Brooke, Chairman of the King’s course, will be find thoughts about those five days of glamour and pageantry all-consuming very soon – if they are not already.

But having tasted Cheltenham success as an owner, when Chianti Clasico dug deep, he absolutely understood why this Festival is spoken about all-year around.

‘Better than an Ascot winner isn’t it?’ he was asked in the giddy throng afterwards. 

Quite wisely, he allowed the question to drift into the ether.

Chianti Classico has won the Ultima Handicap Chase on Day One of the Cheltenham Festival

Crowds down but undampened

The inclement weather didn’t dampen spirits of racegoers and the roar that engulfed the course when Rachael Blackmore lifted Slade Steel back up in the final 100 yards was everything Cheltenham should be. 

There was, though, noticeably a little more space to manoeuvre and it will be interesting to see how crowd figures compare at the end of the week.

Rachael Blackmore celebrates after winning the the Supreme Novices' Hurdle Race with Slade Steel at Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday afternoon

Rachael Blackmore celebrates after winning the the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race with Slade Steel at Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday afternoon

Free pints for all 

Punters are getting stung for £7.50 a pint of Guinness at Cheltenham – a fact not lost on bookies Paddy Power.

In a jibe at the ridiculousness of the pricing, the Irish bookmaker opened a bar – imaginatively titled ‘Paddy’s Bar’ – and gave out a free pint for each customer to greet racegoers at Cheltenham ahead of day one.

Spokesman Paddy Power said: ‘We’re all about making great memories at the Cheltenham Festival, but we all know the English can’t pour a Guinness for love nor money. 

‘So what better way to start the week than a proper pint of the black stuff for free, before enjoying the brilliant racing? That’s why we offered punters the chance to start their week £7.50 up!’

El Fabiolo (above) takes on Jonbon and Edwardstone in the Queen Mother Champion Chase

El Fabiolo (above) takes on Jonbon and Edwardstone in the Queen Mother Champion Chase


Tuesday provided plenty of thrills, spills and – if you had a bit of luck – dollar bills, and we wouldn’t be surprised if day two’s Cheltenham Festival line-up is just as much of a rollercoaster ride for punters as well as your humble bookmaking pal.

Whether you’re up, down or somewhere in the middle after day one though there’s still seven more smashing races of top class National Hunt fare to get stuck into on Wednesday – try to contain your excitement.

We’ll know by about 1.35pm whether Willie Mullins made the right call in diverting Ballyburn to the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle after Slade Steel franked the form in Tuesday’s opener. 

If Ballyburn disappoints, Mullins still saddles market leaders Fact To File (2.10pm), Sa Majeste (2.50pm) and El Fabiolo (3.30pm) among others as he tries to turn the screw on day two.

There’s an inspection of the Country Chase course at 8am on Wednesday so be prepared for it to be a late addition to Friday’s card.

Courtesy of Paddy Power News, their pundits Mick Fitzgerald, Ruby Walsh, Paddy Mullins, Matt Chapman and Nina Carberry offer up their tips for day two below…


Mick Fitzgerald

Ballyburn (9/25 with Paddy Power) is the obvious pick but I’d sooner ILE ATLANTIQUE (each-way) who has some very good form to his name.

Matt Chapman

Most will see this as a penalty kick for Ballyburn, but I’ll have a few quid each-way on JINGKO BLUE at the prices

Paddy Mullins

We think the world of BALLYBURN and this will tell us whether we are right or not. Trip and ground will suit

Ruby Walsh

BALLYBURN has been my pick in whatever race he runs in so I’ll stick with him. JIMMY DU SEUIL could be an each-way play.

Nina Carberry

Now that BALLYBURN runs here he’s still the one to beat.

Classy Ballyburn faces a tasty test in the Gallagher Novices' Hurdle on Wednesday

Classy Ballyburn faces a tasty test in the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday


Mick Fitzgerald

I’m not as convinced that Fact To File will relish this 3m trip. STAY AWAY FAY is a very strong stayer and I’d sooner side with him if this turns into a slog.

Matt Chapman

I’m a huge STAY AWAY FAY supporter whoever beats him here will have to be a real star. Of course Fact to File might, but I’ll stick with Harry Cobden.

Paddy Mullins

FACT TO FILE (4/5 with Paddy Power) jumps, settles, and has a high-cruising speed and a turn of foot. The full package.

Ruby Walsh

FACT TO FILE should be too quick for Stay Away Fay who will have to do a lot of the donkey work now up front.

Nina Carberry

I fancy MONTY’S STAR each-way to run a big race


Mick Fitzgerald

DODDIETHEGREAT ran really well in the 2m Betfair Hurdle and the step up in trip to 2m 5f should really suit him.

Matt Chapman

The one I’m risking here is MIGHT I. He’s interesting off 142 having been fourth this time last year off 145 in the Martin Pipe behind Iroko.

Paddy Mullins

If SA MAJESTE runs like he works at home then he is well handicapped.

Ruby Walsh

Willie Mullins saddles SA MAJESTE who could be well handicapped but his price is short enough now for a handicap like this. I prefer FIRST STREET (each-way) for a bit of value.

Nina Carberry

BUILT BY BALLYMORE (4/1 with Paddy Power) is set up for this race, he’s been laid out for it all season.


Mick Fitzgerald

1 feel like a deserter ignoring Jonbon but everything has to go right for him to win. EL FABIOLO just always finds a way to get the job done.

Matt Chapman

I’m massively in the EL FABIOLO camp and expect him to prove the outstanding two-miler chaser of the season.

Paddy Mullins

EL FABIOLO beat Jonbon last year and should confirm that result again.

Ruby Walsh

I still think the angle on JONBON (each-way) stands up. I can’t see him out of the three so you’ll get your money back. If he beats El Fabiolo you’ll get a bunch more.

Nina Carberry  

I can’t get away from EL FABIOLO. 


Mick Fitzgerald

DELTA WORK is a real course specialist and looks for a hat-trick of wins in this contest. He’s a proven performer.

Matt Chapman

I wanted to oppose the former Gold Cup hero MINELLA INDO but he will love the heavy ground and he really does have an excellent chance of winning.

Paddy Mullins

MINELLA INDO is a former Gold Cup winner in the Cross Country. He picks himself.

Ruby Walsh

The Cross Country course faces an 8am inspection on Wednesday. If the ground is that heavy it will suit COKO BEACH.

Nina Carberry

I’m going with GALVIN who put in a brilliant run at Navan last time.


Mick Fitzgerald

LIBBERTY HUNTER is a novice with some very good form this season. The booking of top UK jockey Harry Cobden should be noted.

Matt Chapman

UNEXPECTED PARTY (each-way) would want better ground but he might just be a very well handicapped. If held up off a strong gallop could be very interesting.

Paddy Mullins

SAINT ROI always runs well at Cheltenham and is a Grade 1 horse in a handicap.

Ruby Walsh

Two against the field for me in SAINT ROI who ran well enough in the Arkle last year and LIBBERTY HUNTER.

Nina Carberry

SAN FUREUR was a very decent hurdler and has good chase form this season. He steps in to handicap company now and handles soft ground.


Mick Fitzgerald

Romeo Coolio looked very good when winning at Fairyhouse and could give his owners reason to celebrate after Mount Ida won for them at a ‘Covid’ Cheltenham.

Matt Chapman

For some time I’ve been siding with YOU OUGHTA KNOW (each-way) who is one of many who goes for Willie Mullins. A big field and strong pace should suit.

Paddy Mullins

JASMIN DE VEUX put in the most visually impressive performance at Naas and I’m lucky enough to be riding him.

Ruby Walsh

ARGENTO BOY (EACH-WAY) performs better on the track than he does in his homework and will stay going in the soft ground.

Nina Carberry

I have to go with THE YELLOW CLAY. There’s a lot more to come from him.

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