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Cheltenham Festival highlights: day one

It may be Ladies Day at Cheltenham on Thursday but there is one lady who never fails to get the Cheltenham crowd going and today she certainly didn’t disappoint. Nina Carberry was the darling of Cheltenham once again when winning the Sporting Index Handicap Chase riding Heads Onthe Ground around Cheltenham’s cross-county course. With her second Festival win, Nina has equalled Gee Armytage’s record, and aged just 22 who is to say she won’t go one better.

It was a fantastic day for the Carberrys as Philip produced the winning ride on 16-1 outsider Sublimity in the Champion Hurdle. Often in the shadow of his better know brother and sister, it was great to see Philip claim a really big win for himself. In a race where Brave Inca and Hardy Eustace were the bravest horses of the day, producing their traditional dog fight, Philip kept Sublimity handy and then cruised past them to take the title. Watching the action on the big screen in the parade ring I was in serious danger of losing my toes as connections of the winner went ballistic, behaving like small children as they ran around screaming with delight.

My horse of the week so far has to be Istabraq who lead today’s parade, bucking and kicking all the way. Although much bigger and chunkier than when he was racing, he looked a million dollars and clearly felt it too. The same could not be said for all racegoers unfortunately. The weather clearly caught some people by surprise as they stood and swentered under their thick tweeds, while others would not have looked out of place at Royal Ascot, but clearly did at Cheltenham.

Cheltenham seems to be sporting its own rather classier version of the footballers WAGS, with the jockeys’ wives and girlfriends producing a fashion spectacle. Chanel McCoy, wife of Tony, is clearly head WAG with Gillian Walsh, Ruby’s wife, acting as her deputy. Unfortunately neither of their partners had a winner today so I don’t expect a great evening for either at home tonight.

The best dressed horse of the day was definitely Jack The Giant, who finished third in the Arkle. Owned by Major Chistopher Hanbury, chairman of the Hurlington Polo Association, he was sporting a bright maroon and yellow browband to match his owner’s colours, which made him look rather like an overgrown show pony, much to his embarrassment.

Stay in touch with what happens in all the major races at the Cheltenham throughout the Festival — plus H&H racing editor’s thoughts on the day — on www.horseandhound.co.uk, then read Horse & Hound’s in-depth report on all the action in 22 March issue of the magazine

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