I CAN’T see Hurricane Fly being beaten as he seeks a third Stan James Champion Hurdle in four years.
I know he is an older horse, and there’s not been a winner aged over 10 since Sea Pigeon’s era, but he loves Cheltenham.
He will have come on for his last run at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion when he toughed it out after the last.
They will go a nice gallop and I think Our Conor – last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner – will finish second to him.
Our Conor will like the drying ground, but so, too, will Hurricane Fly. And then there’s his jockey Ruby Walsh. The most successful rider at the Festival, he knows Cheltenham like the back of his hand and is a brilliant judge of pace – perhaps the best.
If Hurricane Fly is upsides another horse at the final flight, he will win.
This has the makings of a great day for Ruby, his trainer Willie Mullins and Ireland.
I think they will take the opener with Vautour. Second in France, he has won at the big tracks in Ireland and is rated 154. I think he is the real deal.
And then they have Quevega in the Mares’ Hurdle. She knows the track. She’s won the race five times and will take all the beating, although John Quinn’s Cockney Sparrow has an each-way chance.
She’s to be ridden by AP McCoy who has been great to me since my bad fall last year. This will be one of his last Festivals – even ‘the Champ’ can’t go on forever – and I know his agent has been working very hard to get him on some winners this year.
Rock On Ruby should take the Arkle after winning his prep at Doncaster. He’s by a sire I love, Oscar. He’s won twice before at Cheltenham, including the 2012 Champion Hurdle, and was placed in last year’s renewal.
He’s trained by Harry Fry, who is going places.
Green Flag could win the handicap chase while I’ll be cheering my cousin Robbie McNamara in the Fulke Walwyn National Hunt Chase on Sue Smith’s chaser Herdsman, who won at Catterick last time out under Ryan Mania.
Like me, he’s a cousin to John Thomas McNamara who was badly injured in a fall at Cheltenham last year and I know that a win would really cheer him up.
In the last race, I like Attaglance who will be ridden by my good friend Brian Hughes.
The horse won at the Festival two years ago and the drying ground will definitely help.
TOOMEY’S TIPS FOR DAY ONE
2.05: Rock On Ruby
2.40: Green Flag
3.20: Hurricane Fly
Brian Toomey is backing Jack Berry House, the Injured Jockeys Fund Centre being built in Malton. Donations can be made via the injuredjockeys.co.uk website.