Fingal Bay set for explosive start to Cheltenham Open


Though exploits of Kauto Star are unlikely to be matched any time soon, at least it seems his absence from the scene may be cheerfully borne. As the jumpers have gathered momentum there have already been tantalising glimpses of the future from emerging talent such as Cue Card, Silviniaco Conti, Kauto Stone, For Non Stop and Flemenstar. And more frissons are likely during the three-day meeting at Cheltenham that starts today.

Another of the best novices of last season, Grands Crus, heads the betting for tomorrow's Paddy Power Gold Cup, the most valuable of the 18 races at the fixture that traditionally ratchets up levels of anticipation. And the one who is expected to be the most exciting of the lot as a senior, the two-mile star Sprinter Sacre, is scheduled to strut his stuff on Sunday. Thankfully, the king is not dead. But long live the princes.

Though "only" a Grade Three handicap, tomorrow's two-and-a-half mile feature has been taken by some proper horses en route to greater things. Imperial Commander, for instance – the winner four years ago – in due course followed up at the Festival, in the Ryanair Chase and then the Gold Cup itself, on his next two visits to the track.

Today's opener, which is a contest for first-season chasers, has just as impressive a pedigree. The past six winners have included Grands Crus, Weird Al, Imperial Commander and no less than Denman, and among those placed was Exotic Dancer and Don't Push It. Even some of the ones who came home riderless deserve mention, given that they include the likes of Cue Card and The Giant Bolster.

The proven class act, over hurdles at least, among today's five runners is Fingal Bay (1.15). The six-year-old, who won over the smaller obstacles at this meeting a year ago and went on to score at the highest level, looked absolutely at home on his debut over fences at Chepstow last month. He missed his chance for glory at the Festival because of a pulled hamstring, but is already among the favourites to make amends in the RSA Chase in March.

Likewise, the two expected to dominate today's Grade Two novices' hurdle – Dodging Bullets (2.25) and Tominator – feature prominently in the ante-post lists for its Festival equivalent, the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Dodging Bullets' greater experience over obstacles and at the course may serve him well, at least for today.

One of Cheltenham's specialities is its Marmite offering, the series of cross-country races over the quirky fences on the infield. There will be keen interest in the sporting presence of the Czech raider Orphee Des Blins, long-priced but easy winner last month of the world's most famous contest in the category, the Velka Pardubika. But the Irish raider Sizing Australia (3.00) – whose top-class Henry De Bromhead stablemate Sizing Europe made it two from two for the season with an electric 20-length success at Clonmel yesterday – looks primed after a pipe-opener at Naas.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Sizing Santiago (4.05 Cheltenham) Not the first to have improved for a switch to his current stable and, as a half-brother to the same outfit's high-class three-miler Take The Stand, is likely to relish today's step up in trip.

Next best

Archie Stevens (12.00 Lingfield) Has got his act together in the past month and, after quickening well clear at Wolverhampton last week, looks capable of transferring his progress to better company.

One to watch

Cantlow, a creditable second on his debut over fences over two miles, looks certain to start to repay owner J P McManus

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan