Time booked off work. A crisp copy of the Racing Post pored over eagerly whilst enjoying a leisurely breakfast. Tipsters anxious to make their mark over the Festival week sending through tips at all hours (1.40 in the morning in the case of On The Nose!). Watching 'The Morning Line' on Channel 4 adding to the keen sense of anticipation. Can't wait for it all to start.
And then it does start. Oh, dear.
1.30: The Supreme Novices' Hurdle
On The Nose, who have a selection in every Cheltenham race, look for a solid start by backing hot favourite Cue Card (5/2) and Northern Monky Punter (NMP) go for an outsider that a few different parties mention in dispatches - Magan's Star (28/1) each way. I have a curious and unfounded gut feel for Magan's Star based on no logic other than my daughter's name (Maegan) is pronounced the same way. Written in the stars, no? No. Magan's Whatever runs prominently but weakens quickly as the race gets serious. No matter. Surely Cue Card, one of the bankers of the meeting will win, won't it? No. It won't.
2.05: The Arkle
Medermit is very much in my corner. The Sportsman gave it last week antepost (4/1 each way) and On The Nose go for it too (3/1). Chasemaster manage to find a Cheltenham bet (they sound surprised in their email) and go for Realt Dubh (9/1 each way).
Medermit never quite seems to be going too well. It disappoints. Realt Dubh however, runs a solid race to claim a place and a small profit. I was hoping to get off to a decent start, especially as I'd backed the favourites in the opening two races, but it wasn't to be. Still, not too much damage done, especially as ProBandit had found the winner of the opener at Southwell (Where's Reilly - 7/4). All to play for.
2.40: Grade 3 Handicap
Right. This is where we start to get serious. 4PA, who I pronounced at the beginning of this month possibly holds the fate of March in it's hands, is into the action. Sunnyhillboy (6/1) under McCoy to win, and it is being backed on course too. Confidence is boosted by the fact that On The Nose have also stuck it up. 4PA also suggest a cheeky each way on a long shot, The Rainbow Hunter (25/1) and there are two seemingly relatively insignificant bets (stakes wise) from PJA NH - Great Endeavour (7/1) and Carole's Legacy (14/1). Oh, and On The Nose and NMP also try an each way at fancy prices (25/1) on Razor Royale.
Disaster as fairly early on in the race Sunnyhillboy dumps McCoy in such an unceremonious fashion it somehow doesn't seem befitting of a champion jockey and Sports Personality of the Year. Still, The Rainbow Hunter is racing prominently, Great Endeavour is blazing a trail and jumping like a stag, and Carole's Legacy ain't too far behind. All is not lost. Well, not quite all. The Rainbow Hunter gradually fades away in the way you would possibly expect of a 25/1 shot if you weren't so full of blind optimism (which, by the way, is beginning to fade fast), Great Endeavour approaches the last in line with two others with all to fight for and falls, and Carole's Legacy runs a brave race but fails to get the better of Bensalem in the run-in.
In a race in which I have staked £185, the only return I get is on the place part of a £5 each way bet. Not good.
3.20: The Champion Hurdle
The Sportsman advised Peddler's Cross at 20/1 back in September. Today, it started 9/2 third favourite. The Sportsman suggests an in running lay at 3.2, and I'm glad he did. My only real result of the day, as my lay is matched and Peddlers Cross is outbattled on the run in to finish second. Still, a good profit for The Sportsman, but it would have been better if the beast had won. Unfortunately, On The Nose had Peddlers to win.
If going against the crowd is the secret to betting success, NMP should have picked up a return by selecting last year's Supreme flop, Dunguib (10/1) each way. I don't suppose it flopped today, but it might as well have done for the returns provided!
4.00: The Cross Country Chase
This is where my disappointment reached it's zenith. 4PA went for a big bet on Maljimar (6/1). Heavily backed, it goes off as favourite. Garde Champetre is the On The Nose tip.
Maljimar bides it's time through the first three miles of the near four mile race. Making steady progress through the field, things are looking good. I can feel my heart beginning to pound a little (well, a lot, actually) faster. It is going like a dream with two to go. Surely this is where we hit the jackpot. Approaching the last things are still looking good - the jock surely just has to say "go". Jumping the last it is in a battle for the lead, but I still think we'll be ok....it finishes fourth, beaten a nose for third. Still, I get the stake back with there being 16 runners.
Naturally, Garde Champetre, backed win only, finishes second of the 15 (FIFTEEN) protagonists - there was a non-runner. Ho hum.
4.40: Mare's Hurdle
Optimistic as ever, On The Nose goes for Alegralil each way at 16/1 in the without Quevega market. It runs well. It finishes nowhere.
Still, at least easy winner Quevega is double up with a horse later in the week for NMP. Fingers crossed.
5.15: Novice Handicap Chase
Today's last shot at redemption. Both On The Nose and 4PA go for Definity (13/2). It goes off as 3/1 favourite. Ruby Walsh is on board. He's not in bad form, you know. You can guess the rest.
On The Nose: Staked 8 (eight!) pts, -8pts.
Chasemaster: Staked 0.75pts, +0.181pts.
The Sportsman: Staked 1.188pts, +0.568pts.
PJA NH: Staked 1.5pts, -0.125pts.
4PA: Staked 5pts, -5pts.
ProBandit: Staked 1.25pts, +0.813pts.
Northern Monkey Punter: Staked 1.5pts, -1.5pts.
Financial loss on the racing of £285.62.
Football Investor: Staked 1pt, -1pt.
Strike Zone: Staked 1pt, +0.35pts.
Financial profit on the football of £2.50.
Tuesday 15th March: Staked £668.50, -£283.12.
Week to date: Staked £741, -£274.02.
Month to date: Staked £7,708, +£299.45, roi 3.88%.
So, my highlight of the opening day at Cheltenham? Backing the winner of the first at Southwell. Not sure it should be like that!