We preview the opening day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
The seven race card begins with the Supreme Novice’s hurdle at 1.30 before wrapping up for the day at 5.30 with the Novices’ Handicap Chase.
We have detailed run through of every race, including expert picks from Charlie McCann.
Champion Day – Tuesday, March 12 (Old Course)
1.30pm Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 87y £125,000
The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the traditional curtain raiser to The Festival – which always welcomes in the famous roar on the opening day. First run in 1946 and known as the Gloucestershire Hurdle, it used to be split into two or three separate divisions.
Some big names have taken this title previously including Gold Cup legend L’Escargot, Champion Hurdle heroes Bula and Hors La Loi and most recently Vautor, Douvan and Altior.
1 Abacadabras (FR) 6 11 7 Gordon Elliott Ireland Gigginstown House Stud Davy Russell
2 Allart (IRE) 6 11 7 Nicky Henderson Mr R. A. Bartlett James Bowen
3 Asterion Forlonge (FR) 6 11 7 W. P. Mullins Ireland Mrs J. Donnelly P. Townend
4 Berkshire Royal 5 11 7 W. P. Mullins Ireland Andy Bell & Fergus Lyons Dave Crosse
5 Captain Guinness (IRE) 5 11 7 Henry de Bromhead Ireland Declan Landy Rachael Blackmore
6 Chantry House (IRE) 6 11 7 Nicky Henderson Mr John P. McManus Barry Geraghty
7 Edwardstone 6 11 7 Alan King Robert Abrey & Ian Thurtle Tom Cannon
8 Elixir d’Ainay (FR) 6 11 7 W. P. Mullins Ireland Mr John P. McManus Mark Walsh
9 Fiddlerontheroof (IRE) 6 11 7 Colin Tizzard Taylor, Burley & O’Dwyer Robbie Power
10 Hollow Sound (IRE) 5 11 7 Luke Comer Ireland Mr Luke Comer Mr D. T. Kelly
11 Jabbaar 7 11 7 Iain Jardine Let’s Be Lucky Racing 11 Conor O’Farrell
12 Mario de Pail (FR) 5 11 7 Sam Thomas Walters Plant Hire & Potter Group Sam Twiston-Davies
13 Shishkin (IRE) 6 11 7 Nicky Henderson Mrs J Donnelly Nico de Boinville
14 Soviet Pimpernel (IRE) 5 11 7 Peter Fahey Ireland Robcour Kevin Sexton
15 Whatsnotoknow (IRE) ts 5 11 7 M. F. Morris Ireland R. A. Scott Philip Enright
16 Heaven Help Us (IRE) 6 11 0 P. Hennessy Ireland Mr J. Turner Daniel Mullins
Shishkin (9/4), Asterion Forlonge (11/4), Abacadabras (5/1), Fiddlerontheroof (6/1), Chantry House (7/1), Captain Guinness (12/1), Allart (16/1), Edwardstone (16/1), Elixir D’Ainay (25/1), Soviet Pimpernel (33/1), Berkshire Royal (50/1), Mario De Pail (100/1), Heaven Help Us (100/1), Hollow Sound (200/1), Jabbaar (200/1), Whatsnotoknow (200/1)
Expert view from Charlie McCann:
The opening Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle looks a top-class renewal with Willie Mullins looking for a record seventh win in the race. Mullins saddles three including Asterion Forlonge who is unbeaten in four career starts including a fluent win at Leopardstown last time.
Tolworth winner Fiddlerontheroof will be hard to keep out of the frame – one major firm are betting each way seven places – but Shishkin (1.30) has been hugely impressive in winning his last couple of starts at Newbury and Huntingdon and he gets the vote to give Nicky Henderson a fourth win in the race.
The selection, who runs in the same colours – that of Joe Donnelly – as Asterion Forlonge, does not have the form in the book that at least a couple of today’s rivals possess, but he is a strong traveller who won over an additional three furlongs last time. That proven stamina could prove crucial in what is likely to be a strongly run race.
2.10pm Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase (Grade1) 1m 7f 199y £175,000
The Arkle Novices chase, has been run on the opening day since 1980 after previously been a second day event. Formerly known as the Cotswold Chase before 1969.
This race is a breeding ground for horses to go on to major Cheltenham success. Previous winners include Remittance Man, Flagship Uberallas, Sprinter Sacre, Sizing Europe, Moscow Flyer and Alverton – who is the only horse to win this and then go onto to take the Gold Cup.
1 Al Dancer (FR) 7 11 4 Nigel Twiston-Davies Walters Plant Hire Ltd Sam Twiston-Davies
2 Brewin’upastorm (IRE) 7 11 4 Olly Murphy Mrs Barbara Hester Richard Johnson
3 Cash Back (FR) h 8 11 4 W. P. Mullins Ireland Watch This Space Syndicate P. Townend
4 Esprit du Large (FR) 6 11 4 Evan Williams Mr & Mrs William Rucker Adam Wedge
5 Fakir d’Oudairies (FR) 5 11 4 Joseph Patrick O’Brien Ireland Mr John P. McManus Mark Walsh
6 Global Citizen (IRE) ts 8 11 4 Ben Pauling The Megsons David Bass
7 Notebook (GER) ts 7 11 4 Henry de Bromhead Ireland Gigginstown House Stud Rachael Blackmore
8 Our Merlin 8 11 4 Robert Walford Mr Alvin Trowbridge Stan Sheppard
9 Rouge Vif (FR) ts 6 11 4 Harry Whittington Kate & Andrew Brooks Gavin Sheehan
10 Maire Banrigh ts 8 10 11 Dan Skelton Mr J Hales & Mr J Diver Harry Skelton
11 Put The Kettle On (IRE) 6 10 11 Henry de Bromhead Ireland One For Luck Racing Syndicate Aidan Coleman
Notebook (5/2), Fakir D’Oudairies (4/1), Brewin’upastorm (5/1), Cash Back (11/2), Maire Banrigh (10/1), Esprit Du Large (12/1), Global Citizen (12/1), Rouge Vif (12/1), Al Dancer (20/1), Put The Kettle On (20/1), Our Merlin (100/1)
Expert view from Charlie McCann:
If the Supreme looks a strong renewal, I’m not convinced the same can be said of the Arkle. I am a big admirer of Brewin’upastorm but I wonder if a five-runner race at Carlisle and a virtual match at Taunton over 2m 2f is an ideal preparation for this severe jumping test. He could easily be the best horse in the race, but this examination might come a shade too soon in his chasing career. The two-and-a-half-mile Grade 1 at Aintree next month might be his day in the sun.
There is plenty of pace in the race and I’m not convinced Mark Walsh gave Fakir D’oudairies (2.10) the best of rides when he was beaten over a length by Notebook when last seen over Christmas. Note he meets that rival on 7lbs worse terms this afternoon.
Today’s forecast soft ground will suit Joseph O’Brien’s five-year-old who has good course form and is likely to be ridden more aggressively than was the case at Leopardstown. The selection missed the Irish Arkle – won again by Notebook – on account of the prevailing good ground but there are no such concerns this afternoon. Henry De Bromhead’s unbeaten chaser Notebook does look the one to beat but at 9/2 I hope Fakir D’oudairies camp.
2.50pm Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f £110,000
Another race dating back to the 1940s the Handicap Chase is normally seen as a perfect grounding for the Grand National at Aintree but also the Gold Cup, with many horses going on to enjoy wins in those huge races after competing in this.
1 Vinndication (IRE) ts 7 11 12 Kim Bailey Moremoneythan David Bass
2 Brave Eagle (IRE) p 8 11 10 Nicky Henderson Mr Robert Kirkland Nico de Boinville
3 Cepage (FR) 8 11 8 Venetia Williams The Bellamy Partnership Charlie Deutsch
4 Vintage Clouds (IRE) 10 11 4 Sue Smith Mr Trevor Hemmings Ryan Mania
5 Mister Malarky p 7 11 4 Colin Tizzard Wendy & Malcolm Hezel Jonjo O’Neill Jr.
6 Kildisart (IRE) p 8 11 3 Ben Pauling Mr Simon Munir & Mr Isaac Souede Daryl Jacob
7 Discorama (FR) ts 7 11 1 Paul Nolan Ireland Andrew Gemmell/Thomas Friel B. J. Cooper
8 Who Dares Wins (IRE) p 8 11 0 Alan King HP Racing Who Dares Wins Tom Cannon
9 Atlanta Ablaze 9 10 12 Henry Daly The Last Man Standing Tom O’Brien
10 Activial (FR) 10 10 12 Tom George Mr R. S. Brookhouse Jonathan Burke
11 Mulcahys Hill (IRE) p 8 10 11 Warren Greatrex McNeill Family and Prodec Networks Ltd A. P. Heskin
12 Burbank (IRE) bl 8 10 11 Nicky Henderson Mr Trevor Hemmings Jeremiah McGrath
13 Cogry p 11 10 10 Nigel Twiston-Davies Graham and Alison Jelley Sam Twiston-Davies
14 Townshend (GER) ts 9 10 9 Nigel Twiston-Davies Mr J. D. Neild Jamie Neild (7)
15 Cobra de Mai (FR) ts, p 8 10 9 Dan Skelton Norman Lake & Susan Carsberg Harry Skelton
16 Big River (IRE) ts, p 10 10 8 Lucinda Russell Two Black Labs Derek Fox
17 The Conditional (IRE) p 8 10 6 David Bridgwater Mr P. J. Cave Brendan Powell
18 Elwood (FR) p 6 10 6 Gordon Elliott Ireland Gigginstown House Stud Luke Dempsey
19 Soupy Soups (IRE) p 9 10 5 Neil Mulholland Equi ex Incertis Partners Robert Dunne
20 Quarenta (FR) p 8 10 4 Jonjo O’Neill Martin, Jocelyn & Steve Broughton Harry Cobden
21 No Comment h 9 10 4 Philip Hobbs Mr John P. McManus Richard Johnson
22 General Principle (IRE) bl,ts 11 10 0 Gordon Elliott Ireland Gigginstown House Stud Non Runner
23 Vivas (FR) bl,ts 9 10 0 Charlie Longsdon Mr Nigel M. Davies Gavin Sheehan
24 Ice Cool Champs (IRE) ts 9 10 0 Kerry Lee West Coast Haulage Limited Adam Wedge
Vinndication (5/1), Kildisart (13/2), Discorama (7/1), Who Dares Wins (7/1), The Conditional (15/2), Mister Malarky (10/1), Vintage Clouds (14/1), Mulcahys Hill (16/1), Cobra De Mai (16/1), Elwood (16/1), Brave Eagle (16/1), Big River (20/1), No Comment (20/1), Cepage (20/1), Activial (25/1), Burbank (25/1), Quarenta (25/1), Cogry (33/1), Townshend (33/1), Soupy Soups (33/1), Atlanta Ablaze (33/1), Vivas (50/1), Ice Cool Champs (66/1), General Principle (N/A)
Expert view from Charlie McCann:
I’ve backed Kildisart in the following Ultima Handicap Chase, but the ground has gone against Ben Pauling’s eight-year-old. Despite the steadier of 11st 12lbs Vinndication would have been the selection at Ascot or Sandown, but is he the same horse going left-handed?
The Conditional (2.50) didn’t jump as well as he can in the Classic Trial at Warwick last time, but the handicapper has seen fit to drop him 3lbs and he returns to the scene of his C&D triumph from an 8lbs lower mark back in October. If jockey Brendan Powell can get him into a nice jumping rhythm, he is taken to reward each way support. Several firms are betting six places on the race and the selection is 9/1.
3.30pm Unibet Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 87y £450,000
The first Champion Hurdle was run back in 1927 and is one of the most illustrious races at the Festival. It is one third of the hurdling triple crown along with the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurde at Kempton. Only one horse in history – Kribensis, has managed to claim that honour.
With such a long and distinguished history this race has been won by some of the sports superstars. Five horses have managed to claim this title three times, those being Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq. Current holder Buveur D’Air has the chance to join those greats – having won the last two runnings.
1 Ballyandy 9 11 10 Nigel Twiston-Davies Options O Syndicate Sam Twiston-Davies
2 Call Me Lord (FR) 7 11 10 Nicky Henderson Mr Simon Munir & Mr Isaac Souede James Bowen
3 Cilaos Emery (FR) h 8 11 10 W. P. Mullins Ireland Luke McMahon P. Townend
4 Coeur Sublime (IRE) ts 5 11 10 Gordon Elliott Ireland C. Jones Davy Russell
5 Cornerstone Lad 6 11 10 Micky Hammond Mrs B. M. Lofthouse Henry Brooke
6 Darasso (FR) 7 11 10 Joseph Patrick O’Brien Ireland Mr John P. McManus Mark Walsh
7 Darver Star (IRE) ts 8 11 10 Gavin Cromwell Ireland SSP Number Twenty Two Syndicate Jonathan Moore
8 Fusil Raffles (FR) 5 11 10 Nicky Henderson Mr Simon Munir & Mr Isaac Souede Daryl Jacob
9 Gumball (FR) h 6 11 10 Philip Hobbs Mr Terry Warner Richard Johnson
10 Le Patriote (FR) bl 8 11 10 Dr Richard Newland Canard Vert Racing Club Charlie Hammond
11 Not So Sleepy ts 8 11 10 Hughie Morrison Lady Blyth Jonathan Burke
12 Pentland Hills (IRE) 5 11 10 Nicky Henderson Owners Group 031 Nico de Boinville
13 Petit Mouchoir (FR) p 9 11 10 Henry de Bromhead Ireland Gigginstown House Stud Rachael Blackmore
14 Sharjah (FR) ts 7 11 10 W. P. Mullins Ireland Mrs S. Ricci Mr P. W. Mullins
15 Silver Streak (IRE) 7 11 10 Evan Williams Mr L. Fell Adam Wedge
16 Supasundae ts 10 11 10 Mrs J. Harrington Ireland Ann & Alan Potts Limited Robbie Power
17 Epatante (FR) 6 11 3 Nicky Henderson Mr John P. McManus Barry Geraghty
Epatante (11/4), Pentland Hills (4/1), Cilaos Emery (11/2), Sharjah (10/1), Supasundae (10/1), Darver Star (10/1), Coeur Sublime (12/1), Fusil Raffles (14/1), Ballyandy (16/1), Call Me Lord (16/1), Silver Streak (20/1), Petit Mouchoir (25/1), Cornerstone Lad (25/1), Not So Sleepy (33/1), Darasso (50/1), Le Patriote (100/1), Gumball (100/1)
Expert view from Charlie McCann:
The Champion Hurdle is not a race I have a strong opinion about and I don’t know many people, going into the race, who have. Epatante has done little wrong and her Christmas Hurdle success at Kempton is the best piece of form this term, but I am going to give Pentland Hills (3.30) one last chance having failed to get home in both starts this season when he has refused to settle. At 11/2 – each way four places – I would be disappointed if he were out of the frame.
4.10pm Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 3f 200y £120,000
Introduced to the Festival programme in 2008, the Mares’ Hurdle has already become a firm fans favourite. The first running was on the last day, but since then it has been an opening day staple.
The race is best known for one reason and that is the brilliant Quevega managed to win it six-years-in-row up to 2014. No other horse has ever won this many times at the Festival.
1 Benie des Dieux (FR) 9 11 5 W. P. Mullins Ireland Mrs S. Ricci P. Townend
2 Cap Soleil (FR) 7 11 5 Fergal O’Brien Mrs S. A. Noott Paddy Brennan
3 Crossgalesfamegame (IRE) 6 11 5 Fergal O’Brien Walid Marzouk & Richard Rowland Max Kendrick
4 Desaray Girl (FR) 5 11 5 Philip Kirby Resdev Sam Twiston-Davies
5 Elfile (FR) 6 11 5 W. P. Mullins Ireland Mr K. Alexander Daniel Mullins
6 Honeysuckle 6 11 5 Henry de Bromhead Ireland Mr K. Alexander Rachael Blackmore
7 Lady Buttons p 10 11 5 Philip Kirby Mrs Jayne Sivills Thomas Dowson
8 Popong (IRE) 6 11 5 Henry de Bromhead Ireland Mrs D. Halley Aidan Coleman
9 Roksana (IRE) 8 11 5 Dan Skelton Mrs Sarah Faulks Harry Skelton
10 Stormy Ireland (FR) 6 11 5 W. P. Mullins Ireland Sullivan Bloodstock Limited Robbie Power
Benie Des Dieux (4/5), Honeysuckle (2/1), Stormy Ireland (10/1), Roksana (10/1), Elfile (16/1), Lady Buttons (20/1), Cap Soleil (100/1), Crossgalesfamegame (100/1), Desaray Girl (100/1), Popong (100/1)
Expert view from Charlie McCann:
The Mares’ Hurdle looks a virtual match between Irish raiders Benie Des Dieux (4.10) and Honeysuckle but the former, who should be chasing a hat-trick in the race, looked better than ever when winning at Gowran Park last time and her handler Willie Mullins has compared her favourably with non-other than Annie Power recently. Honeysuckle has won all eight starts including her last two in Grade 1 company against the boys and this promises to be one of the races of the Festival.
4.50pm Northern Trust Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed) 2m 4f 63y £70,000
The National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup is named in honour of JT McNamara, who was paralysed in a fall at Cheltenham in 2013 and died in 2016. This race is for amateur riders only.
Over 150 years old, the National Hunt Chase has been run more times than any other event at the Cheltenham Festival. The Grand Annual is older but has been missing on occasion from the line-up.
1 Precious Cargo (IRE) ts 7 11 7 Nicky Henderson Mr T. Barr Nico de Boinville
2 Hold The Note (IRE) p 6 11 7 Mick Channon Mr T. P. Radford Jonathan Burke
3 Espoir de Guye (FR) 6 11 6 Venetia Williams Mrs J. Hitchings Charlie Deutsch
4 Torpillo (FR) h 5 11 6 Nigel Twiston-Davies Mr Simon Munir & Mr Isaac Souede Daryl Jacob
5 Knight In Dubai (IRE) ts 7 11 5 Dan Skelton Mr & Mrs Ben Houghton Conor Shoemark
6 Jarveys Plate (IRE) bl 7 11 5 Fergal O’Brien The Yes No Wait Sorries & Mr Chris Coley Paddy Brennan
7 Champagne Mystery (IRE) 6 11 5 Nicky Henderson Mr Trevor Hemmings Jeremiah McGrath
8 Imperial Aura (IRE) 7 11 5 Kim Bailey Imperial Racing Partnership 2016 David Bass
9 Champagne Court (IRE) ts 7 11 5 Jeremy Scott Mr I F Gosden and Mr DJ Coles Nick Scholfield
10 Galvin (IRE) 6 11 4 Gordon Elliott Ireland Mr R. A. Bartlett Davy Russell
11 Paint The Dream ts 6 11 2 Fergal O’Brien Mr David Brace Jack Tudor (5)
12 Highest Sun (FR) ts 6 11 2 Colin Tizzard Mr Ashley Head Robbie Power
13 Mellow Ben (IRE) 7 11 2 Chris Gordon Broadsword Group Ltd Tom Cannon
14 Earlofthecotswolds (FR) p 6 11 1 Nigel Twiston-Davies Twiston-Davies, Mason, Greer & Kiely Sam Twiston-Davies
15 Beakstown (IRE) ts, p 7 11 1 Dan Skelton Bryan Drew Harry Skelton
16 Mitchouka (FR) 6 11 1 Gearoid O’Loughlin Ireland C. Jones Donal McInerney (3)
17 Daly Tiger (FR) 7 11 1 Noel Meade Ireland Gigginstown House Stud Sean Flanagan
18 Lord Schnitzel (IRE) ts 7 11 1 Matthew J. Smith Ireland Mr Klaus Koentopp B. J. Cooper
19 De Plotting Shed (IRE) 10 11 1 Suzi Best Kelly, Beal and Vasey Tom Scudamore
20 Trainwreck (IRE) 8 11 1 Henry de Bromhead Ireland Gigginstown House Stud Rachael Blackmore
R21 Whatmore 8 11 0 Henry Daly Strachan, Lewis, Gabb, Graham & Inkin
R22 Sensulano (IRE) 7 11 0 Noel Williams Allison, Allison, Williams Tom O’Brien
Imperial Aura (5/1), Galvin (6/1), Hold The Note (15/2), Beakstown (10/1), Trainwreck (10/1), Espoir De Guye (10/1), Champagne Court (12/1), Precious Cargo (14/1), Highest Sun (14/1), Torpillo (14/1), Sensulano (16/1), Knight In Dubai (16/1), Paint The Dream (20/1), Champagne Mystery (20/1), Earlofthecotswolds (25/1), Daly Tiger (25/1), Whatmore (25/1), Mellow Ben (33/1), Mitchouka (33/1), Lord Schnitzel (33/1), De Plotting Shed (33/1), Jarveys Plate (33/1)
Expert view from Charlie McCann:
Regular readers will know that the Novices’ Handicap Chase is one of my pivotal races of the week, having backed both Imperial Aura (4.50) and Hold The Note for this race some time ago. I have followed Imperial Aura since he was given an injudicious ride at Chepstow over timber on his reappearance and Hold The Note since he was beaten at Ludlow on his chase debut.
Marginal preference is for the Kim Bailey-trained runner, but the value has long gone in both selections and, in the last 24 hours, I have also backed Dan Skelton’s Beakstown each way at 14/1.
5.30pm National Hunt Chase (Amateurs) (Grade 2) 3m 7f 166y £125,000
One of the newer races, introduced when the Festival was extended in 2005. Initially run as an open handicap for novices, it was restricted to horses with a rating of 145 or less in 2011. There was a further tightening of the race conditions from 2012, with the contest being for novice chasers rated 0-140.
1 Anteros (IRE) ts, p 12 11 6 Sophie Leech Mr K. W. Bell Mr Damien Skehan
2 Carefully Selected (IRE) 8 11 6 W. P. Mullins Ireland Miss M. A. Masterson Mr P. W. Mullins
3 Clondaw Cian (IRE) p 10 11 6 Sophie Leech Mr G. Thompson Mr J. C. Barry
4 Forza Milan (IRE) 8 11 6 James A. Nash Ireland TSKOC Syndicate Mr Derek O’Connor
5 Lamanver Pippin 7 11 6 Colin Tizzard Dr Donna Christensen Mr William Biddick
6 Lord du Mesnil (FR) ts, p 7 11 6 Richard Hobson Mr Paul Porter & Mike & Mandy Smith Mr Sam Waley-Cohen
7 Newtide (IRE) ts 7 11 6 Kim Bailey Lady Dulverton Mr Barry O’Neill
8 Ocean Cove (IRE) p 8 11 6 Fergal O’Brien The FOB Racing Partnership Ms L. O’Neill
9 Ravenhill (IRE) 10 11 6 Gordon Elliott Ireland Try Ravenhill Syndicate Mr J. J. Codd
10 Redzor (IRE) ts 7 11 6 Dan Skelton Bryan Drew & Steve Roper Mr Jack Andrews
11 Smoking Gun (IRE) ts 7 11 6 Joseph Patrick O’Brien Ireland Gigginstown House Stud Mr T. Hamilton
12 Some Can Dance (IRE) p 7 11 6 Samuel Drinkwater Richard Bailey & Mr D P Drinkwater Mr Harrison Beswick
13 Springfield Fox 7 11 6 Tom George O’Donohoe, Cavanagh, Robinson, Nelson Mr Noel George
14 The Hollow Ginge (IRE) 7 11 6 Nigel Twiston-Davies The Ginge Army Mr Zac Baker
Carefully Selected (11/8), Ravenhill (9/2), Lord Du Mesnil (7/1), Forza Milan (15/2), Springfield Fox (8/1), Newtide (10/1), Lamanver Pippin (14/1), Smoking Gun (16/1), The Hollow Ginge (20/1), Redzor (50/1), Ocean Cove (50/1), Anteros (100/1), Some Can Dance (100/1), Clondaw Cian (100/1)
Expert view from Charlie McCann:
Carefully Selected (5.30) is the best horse in the race in the NH Chase which will be run over 3m 6f and not 4m as in previous years and I hope to see Patrick Mullins send favourite backers home happy.
There are many who will advise you he doesn’t jump well enough to win around Cheltenham, and he did survive a shuddering mistake three out to win at Naas last time when he was getting the better of the argument with Spyglass Hill when that one came down two out. He has drifted back out to 2/1 – from 13/8 – and I feel he may drift again on the day of the race. He is the class act in the race and promises to be well served by a true test of stamina.