A climate laden with precipitation and snowfall; it'll take more than that to detract from the impending spectacle of the Cheltenham Festival.
Over the course of the next four days, commencing from Tuesday, Cheltenham Racecourse will play out twenty eight of the most spectacular exhibitions of steeplechasing superiority that'll further enhance the unique credentials of this national treasure.
Headlined by the anticipated display of superiority by Sprinter Sacre (below) in Wednesday's show-piece, the two mile Queen Mother Champion Chase, Cheltenham is a festival which many a British and Irish racegoer look forward to year on year. Like the feeling that a child holds as Christmas comes to an end for another year, the feeling of a British racegoer as the final surge past the post of a winner of the Grand Annual Chase, the traditional end of Festival race, is similar. Now, with less than twenty four hours to go, that Christmas Eve anticipation is all too familiar on 'Cheltenham Eve'.
With thousands upon thousands packed into Cheltenham day after day this week, the ever-present roar from the crowd will mark the start of the Festival. My Tent or Yours, a scintillating winner of the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, will head the market and the hopes of Champion Jockey, AP McCoy, in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. A race in which the ill-fated Darlan finished second in last year, My Tent or Yours will look to provide the connections with a finishing placing of one better with victory.
From overseas, Un Atout, from the Willie Mullins stable, is an exciting French-bred recruit that has barely come off the bridle in his two starts to date. Kept fresh for this race, expectation is high that this classy individual can handle the likely soft ground in the Festival opener.
Hurricane Fly, the winner of the 2011 Champion Hurdle and also from the Willie Mullins stable, looks to regain his crown this year. Uncharacteristically out of form last season and with a performance of under performing proportions in the 2012 Champion Hurdle, Hurricane Fly has looked near to his best again this season, particularly when surging clear of Thousand Stars and Binocular in his last outing. Whether Hurricane Fly can account for the likes of defending champion Rock on Ruby, Zarkandar and Grandouet, however, is a question which many believe has already been answered. Paddy Power, one of Ireland's flagship bookmakers, have installed an enticing offer for 'punters' with their 'Money Back if Hurricane Fly wins' special. An offer consistent with them year after year and one which has, to our knowledge, never seen the 'offer horse' win its race.
What about Quevega? Having been to the Festival and left victorious in the last four years, Quevega goes for her fifth victory in the OBLG.com Mares Hurdle. Odds-on to saunter to victory yet again, it'll take a tough mare to beat Ireland's sweetheart, but can that be Nicky Henderson's ever improving Une Artiste who herself powered to victory in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle last season?
Cross Country chases, handicap hurdles and chases, Grade 1 battles; these are all part of the impending spectacle of the Cheltenham Festival which will see horse upon horse power up the Cheltenham hill with their best effort at achieving victory in front of the elated masses.
Wherever you are in the world, don't dare miss the next four days, Britain and the Cheltenham Festival is about to put on a show that very few will agree to being an exciting display of equine perfection.
Photo Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)