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?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
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: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test