Three things we’ll learn on day two of the Cheltenham festival

Hotpot needs to be tested to prove his greatness.

Three things we’ll learn on day two of the Cheltenham festival

1. Can Douvan continue his gallop to greatness?

Douvan has raced 13 times, winning them all with an average winning distance of over 10 lengths. Willie Mullins is almost reverential in his assessment, unbelieving at times.

“It’s what he could be,” he says, “he could be the best I’ve ever had.”

But there’s a nagging problem. His contemporaries are not fast enough to get him out of third gear and this is slowing his inevitable march to the status of legend.

Great rivals make great champions. He goes into today’s race with an official rating of 174 or 8lbs superior to his next strongest rival this afternoon, Fox Norton — who he trounced by 11 lengths here in the Arkle last year.

This means the handicapper believes Sprinter Sacre at his best would beat Douvan at his best by five lengths over two miles.

This needs to be challenged. It could happen today if Ruby decides to let out another notch of rein and put clear blue daylight between Douvan and his field, but this is unlikely as he has never believed in expending energy needlessly.

Chances are that he wins on the bridle and we need to wait, and hope, that his path crosses with Altior sometime soon.

2. Will positivity pay off?

When Robbie McNamara fell in a bog-standard race on the day before the Aintree National two years ago the consequences were terrible.

Massive injuries ensued and paralysis below the waist was the outcome.

It was unmerciful unfair double blow for the McNamara family following the tragedy that had befallen Robbie’s cousin JT at Cheltenham two years earlier.

This is how McNamara deals with it.

“I get up in the morning and just go to work,” he stresses.

“There’s not a cloud hanging over me. It doesn’t bother me.”

His actions meet his words and he has quickly got on with the rest of his life and today has his first runner at the festival as a trainer when he saddles the outsider, Quick Grabim in the Bumper.

His Oscar five-year-old won a decent looking Bumper at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting, but then ran badly next time out at Exeter.

On that run he has little chance of winning today, but if he regains his Christmas spirit he could light up Gloucestershire. No doubt Robbie will say he is just doing his job.

3. Form is temporary, genius is permanent

A lot of people like to second guess Willie Mullins, tell him how to do his job, vent their frustration at his delayed decision making process.

But Mullins has forgotten more about preparing a horse than most of his rivals will learn in a lifetime and if he thinks his horse is equally ready for a variety of races then who are we to doubt him.

He agonises long and hard through the winter and then leaves decisions to the last minute, not afraid to change his mind when the variables move.

Sometimes they work or sometimes, like in the Mares’ Hurdle yesterday, they don’t.

Remarkably neither he nor Ruby Walsh had a winner on day one which is unprecedented in recent times.

They re-enter the fray on day two with the mighty Douvan in the Queen Mother Chase as a banker but without the usual strength in depth in the support cast.

This is when they could be dangerous at dangerous prices.

Form is temporary, genius is permanent.

Don’t be too surprised if this is proved again today.

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