The fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival is headlined by one of the most prestigious contests in National Hunt racing – the Gold Cup.
The feature race last year saw Al Boum Photo finally give the Festival’s most successful trainer, Willie Mullins, his first win in the race, having saddled no fewer than six runners-up.
And the champion is back to defend his crown in 2020 under jockey Paul Townend but will face stiff competition from a host of new challengers, with the likes of Delta Work and Santini having impressed in their first seasons in open company.
13.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle
- A victory last time out preferably in a Graded event
- Raced in the last 50 days
- Sire to be a Grade 1 winner
- Spring Juvenile Hurdle or The Adonis, A Wave Of The Sea & Solo
- Nicky Henderson and Gordon Elliot have both taken 2 of the last 6 renewals
This looks a fascinating race this season with some impressive unbeaten juveniles set to lock horns.
With a few of these liking to get on with things in previous starts, tactics could play a crucial part in the finish.
One such runner is the unbeaten Allmankind, he’s raced plenty keen in his 3 starts including a victory here in November and brings some of the best juvenile form into this.
The slight concern I have though is he was last seen 77 days ago which and it would not surprise me if he does a little too much too soon on this occasion.
The Gary Moore trained Goshen also comes here unbeaten, and has won his 3 hurdle starts by a total of 68 lengths. He certainly has some engine and probably is the runner with most raw ability however he has a real tendency to jump to the right and whilst he has been able to get away with this at a lower level it has to be a concern.
The Adonis winner Solo comes here on the back of just the one start in the UK. He was an impressive winner that day and his trainer who knows what it takes to win this race seems to hold him in very high regard.
He looks an uncomplicated sort and is expected to be the horse most suited to how the race plays out.
Overall, I think the English trained runners have the edge this season especially as the main Irish hope for me Aspire Tower comes here after a heavy fall last time out.
14.10 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle – Extra Place Race 1-2-3-4-5
- Novice or second season hurdler
- Experience in a high-class handicap
- Rated between 130 – 139
- Not a winner last time out
- 2-mile early February handicaps at Newbury or Leopardstown.
- A race that Paul Nicholls, Willie Mullins and Dan Skelton have an excellent record in, with the latter winning 3 of the last 4.
A fiercely competitive handicap as always but one again that we can use a few trends to eliminate a few.
The Betfair is normally a decent trial for this but it seemed a messy race this season and I think overall the Irish handicap form looks stronger.
A few of these meet at Leopardstown in a competitive handicap and the one who interests me most from that race is Thatsy.
The Gordon Elliot trained runner didn’t have the best of trips that day being hampered on the home bend when the pace was quickening and then crucially had to be pulled wide around the entire field.
He stayed on well in the end and I get the impression he is the type who should be suited by this stiffer test. He hits the criteria of many of the key trends for this race and is expected to go close.
It would be foolish to not have a Willie Mullins runner on your side given his record in the race and the one I like most is Aramon.
He is top weight for a reason here and his form stacks up well against some of the best hurdlers around, 6th in last season Supreme as a novice he also has large field, festival experience to his name.
Mohaayed is a previous festival handicap winner who will be looking to give Dan Skelton another winner in the race but he has been badly out of form recently and is well found in the market now.
Selection: Thatsy, Aramon
14.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices’ Hurdle)
- Top 2 finish last time out preferably in a graded race
- Age 6 or 7 this stamina test takes plenty of getting
- A previous Point to Point winner
- Any previous Cheltenham Novice Graded races
- Not a great race for Willie Mullins runners
A race that has thrown up some big priced winners in recent years so it is certainly worth considering those at bigger odds.
Latest Exhibition`s form looks to have a strong feel to it being closely matched to some of the leading novices in Ireland, who had a couple of these behind him when winning last time out but he does have to prove himself over this trip.
The 2 Gigginstown runners Cobbler`s Way and Fury Road were behind that day but both have reason to think they could reverse that form.
The former looks to be all about stamina and with Henry De Bromhead and Rachel Blackmore having a good week he offers some value at a double-figure price.
Fury Road is one of the few in the field to be proven over this type of test when taking a grade 2 at Limerick. He just looked to be outpaced last time and back up in distance he is one to have on your side.
Thyme Hill comes here unbeaten over hurdles but again all his form is over shorter and at the prices I would rather have seen him perform at this trip.
Similar comments go for Harry Senior who whilst is bred to appreciate this type of test does have still have to prove himself.
Ramses De Teille is a different type to most here in being an experienced chaser who has reverted back to hurdling this season. He stays well and should relish conditions so has to be respected but could be vulnerable to a classier rival.
At real fancy odds House Island could just go well, this front runner has looked short of a change of pace over shorter and if this step up in trip suits could be one to out run his huge odds.
Selection: Cobbler’s Way, Fury Road
15.30 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase
- Will have previous Festival form
- Previous Grade 1 winner
- Ran 3 or less times this season and not on heavy ground
- 2nd or 3rd season chasers with no more than 12 runs over fences
- King George or Irish Gold Cup form
- Last seasons RSA Chase, Delta Work, Santini
This year’s Gold Cup looks a fascinating contest with an excellent blend of experience top-class chases set to do battle with what looks like a high-class group of second season chasers.
Last year’s winner Al Boum Photo arrives under the same light campaign as last season with just the 1 run at Tramore , he has to be respected but it takes a special horse to win back to back Gold Cups and with small doubts over his jumping still I expect him to be found out in a race which has a stronger feel to it.
Presenting Percy went off favourite for last seasons race and whilst he has received a more conventional preparation this time around, he has to reverse last year’s form with a few and has been comfortably held by Delta Work on 2 occasions this winter.
Kemboy didn’t get past the first fence in last season and is another who has been beaten on 2 occasions this winter by Delta Work, I do the think better ground will suit but again I struggle to see a reason for him to reverse that form and also have slight reservations around his jumping.
In a race that I expect last seasons novices to dominate I believe Delta Work has the strongest claims to take the Gold Cup back to Ireland.
A creditable 3rd place in last seasons RSA Chase when looking the likely winner turning for home he has taken his form up to another level this season winning both the Savills and Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
His record on going with good in the description is excellent and under drying conditions, he would have more in his favour than Santini who carries the same RSA Chase form into the race.
Nicky Henderson’s runner made a low-key return when just winning a listed race at Sandown but a wind opp and return to Cheltenham bought about a comfortable success in the Cotswold Chase.
The ground that day was very testing and on a similar surface he would make a lot of appeal but much will depend on the underfoot conditions as on quicker ground he could just be caught out at a crucial time of the race.
The King George is the other main piece of form to digest, Clan Des Obeaux was a comfortable winner and secured back to back victories on a track that really plays to this horse’s strengths.
He could only manage fifth place in last season’s Gold Cup though and although he comes her a fresher horse this season, I have doubts about him on the undulations of Cheltenham.
Lostintranslation blotted his copybook in the King George when he never looked to travel that well and was eventually pulled up. Before that, though he looked a real live contender for this race and his past form looks to stack up very well.
His novice campaign last season has a real solid feel to it, including a solid second place in last season’s JLT here when looking to have Defi Du Seuil in trouble at one stage.
He then went on to comfortably beat last season’s RSA winner Topofthegame when stepped up to 3 miles for the first time at Aintree.
This season, after a comfortable reappearance success at Carlisle, he managed to beat Bristol De Mai on his home turf at Haydock and doing so removing any doubts about his stamina for a Gold Cup. An accurate quick jumper who looks to have the right blend of speed
Selection: Lostintranslation NB Santini
16.10 St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase
- 10 or 11 years of age
- Top 3 finish last time out
- Most likely to be an experienced chaser with plenty of decent form under rules.
- A race Paul Nicholls always needs to be respected in and has won 2 of the last 3 renewals.
Last year’s winner Hazel Hill has to be respected under similar conditions but it`s always a tough race to win on multiple occasions especially at the age of 12.
The JP Mc Manus owned Stalker Wallace is the ride of Jamie Codd, he ran well after a break behind Billaway but lacks the experience for this race and may be one for next year if staying sound.
JP also has Minella Rocco in the field, placed in the gold cup in his prime he’s shown himself to be in good heart recently winning a couple of hunter chases.
Top amateur Derek O`Connor is in the saddle and he should run a big race. Shantou Flyer has an excellent record here at Cheltenham including a second in this race last season. One year on he looks primed to run another solid race and David Maxwell is a good man to have in the saddle in these types of races.
Selection Shantou Flyer, Minella Rocco
16.50 Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – Extra Place Race 1-2-3-4-5
- Age between 6 and 10
- Rated between 138 and 150
- Novice/Second season or generally lightly raced over fences
- Previous festival experience
- Previous years renewal is not a bad place to be looking
- That man Paul Nicholls again, he always likes to line something up for this race and has won 2 of the last 4
Lisp looks to have a nice profile for this race, he`s a lightly raced novice with just the 3 starts over fences.
A wide-margin winner at Plumpton two starts back he has since run a solid race when not beaten that far in graded event at Doncaster.
A mark of 144 looks fair on his previous hurdles form. Some of which included a fifth-place finish in last season’s County Hurdle. Any drying of the ground will suit and his trainer Alan King has won this race in the past.
Of the rest despite his advancing years you would have to give Croco bay a squeak, last season winner is vulnerable to younger legs but is clearly suited to the demanding way this race is ran.
Theinval is another who has previous and comes here a fresh horse after a couple of poor efforts, he’s another who could go well at decent odds.
Selection: Lisp, Theinval
17.30 Martin Pipe Conditional`s Handicap Hurdle – Extra Place Race 1-2-3-4-5
- 2nd season hurdler
- Top 3 finish last time out
- The Irish have won 5 of the last 6 renewals
- Any graded form and also look for a run over further than this trip
- Respect anything Gigginstown run. Gordon Elliot has won 2 of the last 3
Column Of Fire is sure to be popular for the Gigginstown – Elliot combination, who have had plenty of success in the past in this race.
He posted a solid effort when third on handicap debut at the Dublin Festival so have experience in this type of race and the handicapper has reacted accordingly though and of a 11lb higher mark he will need to take another step forward.
Three of the runners meet at Thurles recently in race that has been the route to previous success here. The Willie Mullins trained Five O`Clock finished in front that day but the placed horse make more appeal for me on this occasion.
It`s hard to split the Joseph O`Brien pair of Front View and Assemble as they bid to give the trainer his second successive win in the race but marginal preference is for Front View who looks more entitled to come on for that effort and his previous novice form against the likes of Envoi Allen suggest he could be well treated off 139.
Selection: Front View, Assemble
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