16:41 That's it from Trials Day at Cheltenham and what good racing we have seen.
It is hard to believe the next time we gather here it will be for the festival itself - 1:30, Tuesday 10th March.
We shall, of course, be here bringing you full coverage from the best National Hunt meeting of the year.
Meanwhile from a January evening here in the Cotswolds a very good evening and I'm off to get some of the 7/2 on Punchestowns.
16:39 So let's see how our tips finished up:-
12:55 2 Diamond Harry Won 8/11
1:30 9 Ping Pong Sivola (NAP) Won 3/1
2:05 13 The Sawyer Won 9/1
2:35 7 Halcon Genelardais Second
3:10 4 Simarian Third
3:45 5 Fair Along Third
4:20 7 Presenting Copper Won 7/1
16:36 Not a bad afternoon for our tipping as we have another winner.
The pair finished ten lengths ahead of the remainder with Unfurled coming from nowhere to deny the favourite third place, much to the annoyance of those who had backed the jolly each way.
In complete contrast to our last race the fifteen runners set off at a frenetic pace in the finale.
Spear Thistle was the one who went off in front but the mare Presenting Copper, under Richard Johnson, never allowed him to get a decent lead.
These two were out in front until the sixth when Spear Thistle dropped out.
As they came down the hill it was Matuhi who joined the mare up front but, even more menacingly, the favourite Hernando Royal was on their quarters, with Awesome George also coming from the pack with an eye catching run.
Indeed at the second last it was Awesome George who jumped alongside Presenting Copper and as they turned the home turn the pair were locked together.
Approaching the final fence Awesome George had the advantage by about half a length but, not for the first time this afternoon, we saw another grave, battling performance as Presenting Copper pegged back the leader to claim a ½ length victory.
16:18 They are on their way down for our last, a 15 runner handicap hurdle - shock horror we have a non-runner saving the bookmakers from having to pay out on the first four once again.
16:17 More bookmaker reaction to the last. Punchestowns is now 3/1 from 2/1 with William Hill and 100/30 co-favourite with The Tote (from 15/8) along with Kasbah Bliss and Big Bucks (in from 12/1)
William Hill are going 7/2 Big Bucks.
16:06 Well the World Hurdle is suddenly open again as the odds-on favourite Punchestowns was beaten by the very well backed Big Bucks to an almighty roar from the Cheltenham crowd.
Big changes to the World Hurdle betting with Big Bucks into 7/2 from 12/1 and Punchestowns drifting from 7/4 out to 11/4.
Obviously cognisant of the testing ground the field set off at no pace at all, with the first circuit being run at no more than a hack canter. Even the perennial front runners Lough Derg and Fair Along were happy to sit mid-division.
What pace there was came from Petitfour and he held the lead for the first circuit, until Fair Along had enough and finally took up the running. The field were very well bunched as they completed the first circuit.
Punchestowns, meanwhile, was settled at the back by Barry Geraghty.
As they crested the hill for the final time the pace picked up and Lough Derg was first to come under pressure, this run seemingly coming too soon after last weeks victory at Ascot.
Fair Along was looking very happy in front and had a couple of lengths on the field at the second last.
As they turned for home Fair Along still had the lead but both Big Bucks and Punchestowns had him in their sights.
It was hard to detect their relative positions as they approached the last as Fair Along was taking the inside route with the other two on the stands side.
The top to just jumped the last in front, with Big Bucks having the advantage.
Another battle up the run in saw Punchestowns unable to peg back Big Bucks who ran out a four length winner. Fair Along came home 2¼ lengths further back.
Lough Derg ran on through beaten horses to take fourth.
15:38 The long distance hurdle next where Punchestowns is just shades of odds on. Would you want to back him odds on today?
Lough Derg has attracted some support 25/1 into 18/1 but I can’t help 3 miles here at Cheltenham is beyond him now.
Big Bucks has been well supported today and is now 7/2 second favourite.
Our selection Fair Along is trading at 15/2
15:24 Only seven runners in our second hurdle of the afternoon and it was quite a tactical affair.
It was also a race where the betting was spot on, with the top two in the betting Walkon and Reve De Sivola, coming home 25 lengths ahead of their rivals.
The outsider of the field, Nampour, was the hare in the contest with out selection Simarian happy to chase him along.
As they reached the top of the hillNampour wass joined up front by Blue In Cee, behind them Pemberton, Simarian, Walkon and Reve De Sivola were running four abreast with Higgy’s Boy in last.
The field were well bunched coming down the hill but at the second last the top two in the betting took up the running and were soon clear of their rivals.
Turning for home the favourite had the call and although Reve De Sivola did everything possible, he was unable to get past the jolly who held on for a hard fought 1¼ length victory.
Simarian rallied to just grab third spot on the line from Blue In Cees, Nampour and Higgy’s Boy who finished in a heap.
Pemberton was pulled up at the last.
15:10 Stan James have cut Joe Lively from 100's to 40's for the Gold Cup and 25's to 20's for the National.
Hills are also 20's for the National, from 33's and are 33's for the Gold Cup, also from 100's.
14:55 Well something of a shock result in the big one with the race going to the 11/1 shot Joe Lively with the favourite (and our selection) Halcon Genelardais only managing to come second.
Ollie Magern was down to a walk on the run in and had to be gently coaxed over the line by Paddy Brennan to finish last of the five finishers.
However it would be both churlish and unfair to begrudge the winner as you will not see such a brave performance in many a long day.
It was almost another pillar to post victory with the Colin Tizzard gelding setting off in front. Ollie Magern kept him company for a while before dropping out very quickly after the eighth fence.
Snoopy Loopy was thereabouts for a while but began to fade after ten.
Tidal Bay, who made an horrendous mistake at the second, Denis O’Regan did very well to keep the partnership intact, was back in the mix as they began the final circuit.
Halcon Genelardais was tracking the leaders throughout.
Turning for home it was Joe Lively and Halcon Genelardais who had the advantage with Star De Mohaison running on.
Joe Lively made a mistake at the second last allowing the favourite to get in front and at this point it looked to be race over.
Halcon jumped the last in front but Joe Lively was coming back for more and the crowd were treated to a classic Cheltenham finish as Joe Lively ran on bravely yo overhaul the favourite and come home by 2¾ lengths. The front pair finished 18 lengths ahead of the third Tidal bay with Star De Mohaison fourth.
14:33 Our big race next, the Letheby & Christopher Chase, aka the Cotswold Chase, very much a Gold Cup trial.
Halcon Genelardais is the favourite at 9/4 but it looks to be an open race.
Nozic is the drifter at the moment.
14:21 I am beginning to wish I had done the Tote Jackpot, having tipped the first three winners.
Somehow The Sawyer found enough on the run in to hold on by 2½ lengths with the favourite taking the runners-up spot.
Our second chase over 2m 5f and a repeat of the winning tactics, with another pillar to post victory.
This time it was The Sawyer under William Kennedy, running off joint bottom weight and it was this weight concession that helped him win, I can see the handicapper having something to say on this one.
Ironically he was joined in the lead for most of the race by Mister McGoldrick, who was carrying 26lbs more on his back than the winner.
Turko was with the pace for most of the race, whilst the favourite Akilak was happy to settle mid division.
Coming down the hill it looked as though the eventual winner was going to be swamped as Battlecry, Mister McGoldrick and Pablo Du Charmil all came with challenges but The Sawyer kept his head in front.
As they turned for home the complexion of the race changed, Battlecry was the only close challenger to The Sawyer and even he faded as they came down the straight.
Indeed approaching the last it was two running on horses, the favourite Akilak and Too Forward who looked to be the main danger as they both ran from the pack.
13:44 If the winner of our first race was unimpressive the same cannot be said of the winner of our second contest.
Galant Nuit, settled last for most of the contest, ran on well to grab fourth on the line and looked as though he would prefer 3 miles.
Ping Pong Sivola (our Nap for the day if you recall) was set off in front by Aiden Coleman and the Venetia Williams trained mare put the boys in their place and never saw another runner throughout.
As they entered the home straight it looked as though Tricky Trickster was going to cause the mare some problems but Coleman kicked her on and the further they went the greater the lead, eventually coming home 16 lengths clear of her rivals, Tricky Trickster came home second with Camden George a further 18 lengths behind in third.
Camden George had been Ping Pong Sivola’s closest rival for most of the contest, before dropping away as they came down the hill. Three out he had dropped back to fifth but seemed to find a second wind in the latter stages.
13:24 Our second contest is a 2m 5 f chase and once again they all look pretty good in the parade ring.
Slight negatives for Quws Law and Camden George, both of whom are slightly on their toes.
13:10 Well the odds-on favourite delivered but, probably for the first time in his career, he knew he had been in a race.
However once in the home straight it was Bensalem and Diamong Harry who ran on and the pair came home sixteen lengths ahead of their rivals.
I have to confess Diamond Harry did not look that resolute coming to the last and Timmy Murphy had to work really hard to get him home in front.
The fly in the ointment as far as the jolly was concerned was Alan King’s Bensalem, who was probably in the lead as they crossed the last, it was hard to tell as the pair were separated by the width of the track.
What was clear is there was a dour battle up the run-in and favourite backers were only really able to breath a sigh of relief in the dying strides. It has to be said it was an ugly rather than impressive victory, nonetheless the record books will show a sixth victory for the winner, leaving him unbeaten over obstacles.
Earlier in the race the pace was set by Tatniano, accompanied by Talenti. The latter had dropped out of contention as they came down the hill and it was Ernst Blofeld who was in prime position as they turned for home.
12:46 There is some each-way money for Emma Lavelle's Talenti, 50's into 33's
12:44 I have just been down to the parade ring to see the runners in our first contest and for a novices’ event they all look good – but, of course, this is Cheltenham and that would be expected.
Of the remainder Paul Nicholls Tataniano looked nice and at 8/1 could be the one for the forecast.
The short priced favourite Diamond Harry looks good, although at odds of 1/2 may not be a betting prospect for many.
12:21 Here are this afternoons runners to avoid, sorry, the tips.
12:55 2 Diamond Harry
1:30 9 Ping Pong Sivola (NAP)
2:05 13 The Sawyer
2:35 7 Halcon Genelardais
3:10 4 Simarian
3:45 5 Fair Along
4:20 7 Presenting Copper
12:17 Another non-runner, Foreman is out of the 2:05 - no rumble in the Cotswolds this afternoon then?
12:12 A good crowd building up here - no great surprise really considering the quality of the fare on offer, plus us NH fans have beed deprived of our fix over the last few weeks, there is only so much sand racing a man can take.
11:33 Good morning from Cheltenham on the day, for many, the countdown proper for the festival begins.
The day when several of the Festival hopefuls are on show, currently we have only the one non-runner, Harry Tricker in the last..
The going today is heavy, soft in places and the weather is sunny but a little bit chilly – perfect National Hunt weather.
Return to race archive:
9 Foreman (going)
13 Harry Tricker (temperature - VC)
1st 2 Diamond Harry 8/15 fav
2nd 1 Bensalem 9/2
Distances ½ l
Place £1.10 £1,20
Time 5' 23.3"
1st 9 Ping Pong Sivola 3/1 fav
2nd 4 Trick Trickster 5/1
3rd 7 Camden George 12/1
Distances 16 & 18
Place £1.60 £1.70 £4.00
Time 5' 46.4"
1st 13 The Sawyer 9/1
2nd 10 Akilak 6/1 fav
3rd 12 Too Forward 10/1
13 Ran NR 9
Distances 2½ & ½
Place £3.20 £2.30 £3.00
Time 5' 46.7"
1st 3 Joe Lively 11/1
2nd 7 Halcon Genelardais 5/2 fav
3rd 5 Tidal Bay 5/2
Distances 2¾ & 18
Place £2.10 £1.40 £1.60
Time 7' 13.7"
1st 5 Walkon 6/5 fav
2nd 6 Reve De Sivola 11/4
Place £1.60 £1.80
Time 4' 28.7"
1st 6 Big Bucks 7/1
2nd 4 Punchestowns 10/11 fav
3rd 5 Fair Along 8/1
Distances 4 & 2¼
Place £1.30 £1.20 £1.90
Time 6' 39.1"
1st 7 Presenting Copper 7/1
2nd 10 Awesome George 7/1
3rd 5 Unfurled 16/1
15 Ran NR 13
Distances ½ & 10
Fav 16 Hernando Royal 5/1 (4th)
Place £2.60 £2.30 £5.80
Time 4' 23.6"