Racing: Phar Bleu's speed can halt a Rooster reprise

The first Champion Hurdle markers go down at Cheltenham this afternoon. Rooster Booster first revealed his credentials as an contender with victory in the two-mile Grade Three hurdle that is the card's centrepiece, and three years later the evergreen 11-year-old is still plying his trade just as honestly among the élite, though he is now grey to the point of snow-whiteness.

The old boy demonstrated his ongoing sprightliness a month ago at Huntingdon, when he left the years trailing in his wake with a defeat of Ghengis and Hasty Prince, the 10th win of his career.

Rooster Booster was given that day the sort of ovation that is reserved only for truly heartwarming horses. Another success this afternoon and Cheltenham will have to get the roofers in, but Philip Hobbs, his trainer, has his feet on the ground. "I was chuffed to bits to see him come back with a win," he said, "but he's not getting any younger."

In Rooster Booster's favour are the facts that he is slipping down the handicap - he is 9lb lower today than when he was fourth in the race last year - and he will be guaranteed a strong pace in a big field at his favourite track. But there are legs with less mileage in them in opposition, and among the most interesting is the expensive set that has carried Don't Be Shy to three victories at Auteuil.

This four-year-old is the latest addition to the Martin Pipe-David Johnson team, at a reputed cost of £400,000, from France, where he was the best hurdler of his generation.

"He's really exciting," said Pipe. "He was bought for chasing eventually, but he's been jumping our English-style hurdles at home really well, so we're not sure which way we'll go with him this season, and this race will tell us more. He's been running over longer trips in France, but you need stamina for two miles round Cheltenham."

If Don't Be Shy can live up to his reputation, he will be something special. But a chance is taken with another of the younger brigade, Phar Bleu (2.40). One of the best of the four-year-olds last term, he ran well at Cheltenham when fifth in the Triumph Hurdle and has joined Paul Nicholls's powerful team during the close season.

The Independent Newspaper Novices' Chase is the day's other significant contest with a view to unearthing future talent, as the names of past winners Best Mate, Seebald and Azertyuiop testify. Last year's Greatwood Hurdle winner, Accordion Etoile, fourth in the Champion Hurdle, was best of these over the smaller obstacles, but Albuhera (2.05) made an excellent impression on his fencing debut over Wetherby's challenging fences.

Serious bet: Neptune Collonges (Cheltenham, 1.05) looked smart on British debut and can launch a good day for his stable.

Fun bet: Cherub (Cheltenham, 1.35) has kept good company and the step up in trip can make a little winged angel of him.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence