So there might be a drop of rain about? Big deal. It cannot possibly be as vile as the third day of the meeting, two years ago, when they abandoned the bumper after hours of relentless, horizontal sleet.
And of course some among the tweedy throng at Cheltenham today would find perverse satisfaction in their very discomfort, on the principle that when the effete get going, they go to Santa Anita.
Be that as it may, heavy rain during the first top-class fixture of the jumps season will have practical consequences for those proposing a wager. Betting on its biggest prize, the Paddy Power Gold Cup tomorrow, has already been animated by gambles on mudslingers like Tranquil Sea and Ballyfitz, but conditions may already be deteriorating for the four races televised by Channel 4 this afternoon.
Hoopy and Alexanderthegreat, — first and second last year, when the winning rider “borrowed” a whip from a startled rival after losing his own — are both back for the opener. The runner-up remains feasibly handicapped, while Hoopy remains entitled to further progress after a recent spin at Galway. But preference is for My Lord Oscar (1.15) who is ridden by the first lady of Cheltenham in Nina Carberry — more than a match for male amateurs — and whose strong-travelling style should be well suited by a good gallop round here.
Carberry and Enda Bolger would appear to have the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase sewn up with the track specialist Garde Champetre (3.0).
“He knows his way round all right, had a run three weeks ago, and is cherry-ripe now,” the trainer said yesterday, before confessing that his other runner, Heads On The Ground, “Is starting to get a bit long in the tooth now.”
The Irish also have a couple of formidable candidates for the Sharp Novices' Hurdle in Loosen My Load and Some Present. Punters need to be wary, however, none being tested in very soft ground and most capable of considerable improvement.