A solid moment yesterday for Scotland, and a British Prestbury Cup tally scored by Lucinda Russell's returning hero Corach Rambler in the Ultima. For fellow British bearer Nicky Henderson, Jonbon's defeat and Epatante's misfire were more than made up for when Constitution Hill soared nine lengths clear to win the Champion Hurdle in a canter. Indeed, the day was billed somewhat as Constitution Hill's alone. But it soon saw him share the limelight with Henry de Bromhead's hurdling queen, Honeysuckle. She and Rachael Blackmore proved doubters wrong, as they put things right in a fighting finish that left not a dry eye in sight... Good luck trying to keep up that emotion on days Two, Three and Four!
But Day Two is Edwardstone's day. So rudely robbed by Editeur Du Gite in the rescheduled Clarence House, he returns with a vengeance this afternoon. Do we believe the Mullins excuse of white painted fences, thought up in defence of Energumene's poor performance? Nube Negra (for Dan Skelton) isn't without hope of shaking things up in the Queen Mother placings either, having gone well to win the Schloer Chase at the November Meeting. But the Schloer win was in the absence of Edwardstone. And therein lies the rub.
The Glenfarclas cross county follows the Queen Mother, and we peer across to another outing for eleven-year-old mother Snow Leopardess. Of course, common sense must prevail (however brave she was to keep up on Trials Day), and the brains say Delta Work or Galvin. Fourth in last year's Gold Cup, Galvin didn't perk up as hoped, having beaten A Plus Tard at Leopardstown three months before her Grade One victory here. Back On The Lash, meanwhile, put last year's Tiger Roll party pooper, Delta Work, in third on Trials Day, as he drifted left and ran out of steam up the hill. Could we see a repeat of that today?
Elsewhere, look out for Dinoblue in the Grand Annual, Run For Oscar in the Coral Cup, and A Dream To Share in our closing race today, the Champion Bumper. Good Land looks to see off Impaire Et Passe and defending Paul Nicholls champion Hermes Allen (virtually unbeaten, with a New Year's Eve Challow Hurdle under his belt, but unseen since) in the Ballymore. And let's hope 'the giraffe' Sir Gerhard can stick his neck out in a photo finish with Gerri Colombe or The Real Whacker in our second race on Day Two, the Brown Advisory.
Matt Chapman's Ones to Watch
I like Good Land each way in the Ballymore. He's a confirmed stayer at the trip, and will hard to keep out of the frame for Barry Connell. In the 2:10pm, I've always liked Thyme Hill. He may not be the most fluent a fencer, but he's been second in the Stayers Hurdle. I'll risk him each way in the Brown Advisory. In the Coral Cup, I really like Beacon Edge, rolling back the years for Noel Meade. Edwardstone is my selection in the Queen Mother (Shishkin clearly would've hacked up, but he's not there).
Delta Work in the cross country just looks too good for me, and in the Grand Annual I'm going for Third Time Lucki. He'd prefer faster ground, but he's not a bad horse, and has run well at Cheltenham before. Finally, in the Champion Bumper, it's a guessing game. I'll go with It's For Me... quite simply, because it is.
-> Catch me in person this morning, and every day of the Festival, in the exclusive Racing Breaks Legends Lounge. I'll be dishing out tips with Sky's Mike Cattermole, ITV colleague Mick Fitzgerald and ace pundit Paul Kealy. Yeeehaaa!