Load-shedding a concern for Cheltenham festival meeting
SA punters may not be able to watch races at the four-day meeting
Will load-shedding ruin the famous Cheltenham meeting for racing fans this week? That is the worrying question after many enthusiasts were unable to watch three feature races at Turffontein last Saturday.
In certain areas of Johannesburg, the power went off at 2pm on Saturday and only returned after 4pm. This meant many racing fans missed out on watching three important races — the Senor Santa Sprint, Derby and Oaks Trials.
Cheltenham starts its four-day meeting at (3.30pm SA time) on Tuesday with the running of the Supreme Novices Hurdle. If bookies got their sums right, it is a three-horse affair between Constitution Hill from Nicky Henderson’s stable and the Willie Mullins duo of Dysart Dynamo and Kilcruit. This column fancies the latter.
The main event on the first day is the Champion Hurdle (5.30pm SA time) which features an intriguing clash between Henry De Bromhead’s star mare Honeysuckle and the highly rated Mullins runner Appreciate It. Honeysuckle — a 4-7 chance in the betting market — is considered by many pundits as the banker bet at the meeting, but Mullins has warned she will have to be at the top of her game to beat Appreciate It.
De Bromhead’s mare gets the 3kg mare allowance which prompted this response from a stable spokesperson. “She is probably the only mare in training at the moment who you could argue doesn’t need it. We have it, though, and we’re not going to send it back.”
There has been some market interest in Gordon Elliot’s runner Teahupoo, an 8-1 chance, but it will be a shock if she beats her more fancied rivals.
Nevertheless, Elliot, who this time last year was starting a six-month suspension, told reporters he had a “savage” team headed for Cheltenham.
“I promise you, we have a savage team going over to Cheltenham. Lads are asking me to give them one winner for the week but it’s not easy to pick one of them out. We have some serious chances every day.”
The home side — again likely to play second fiddle to the army of Irish raiders — does have a chance of taking the Arkle Chase (4.10pm SA time) with Alan King’s runner Edwardstone. The gelding is the 9-4 favourite.
Two horses are quoted at 7-2 in this race — Gordon Elliot’s Riviere D’etel and the Mullins representative, Blue Lord.
So how do the leading bookmakers feel about the festival? Betfair’s Barry Orr said: “In terms of one horse we are expecting to take a lot of stakes on for the week, it has to be Tiger Roll. It could be the last race of his fabulous career.”
Ladbrokes’ Nicola McGeady said: “Wednesday is the day we are most nervous about with everyone betting on the same horses — Shishkin, Bravemansgame, Tiger Roll and Facile Vega.”
Paddy Power’s Paul Binfield said: “Rachael Blackmore multiples on each day are likely to be a real headache given her immense popularity.”
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