The Gold Cup takes centre stage on Friday’s Cheltenham card, with the prestigious race due off at 3.20pm.
1:30 JCB Triumph Hurdle
Our Conor has improved in all his runs and is unbeaten in three hurdle runs to date.He really didn’t not look a Triumph Hurdle class horse until putting a decent horse in Diakali to bed in a matter of strides with a sensational turn of foot in a Grade One at Leopardstown last month. He seems to have abundance of talent and is thought the world of in the Dessie Hughes camp, but he might just hit the cross bar again. He is bidding to give the Irish their first win in the race for eleven years. They are 0-57 since 2002 and that statistic can’t be ignored. Rolling Star looks an obvious danger having won a Grade 2 on his British debut 48 days ago. Prior to that hurdle win, he was a winner over hurdles at Auteuil and he looks one to figure prominently. Far West was beaten on won all his British hurdle starts to dates. He battled gallantly to brush aside River Maigue on his latest outing. Reports from the Nicholls yard also claim he is working with horses such as Zarkandar. He looks mature, and his experience could provide the vital key. Each way chance lies with Stockton’s Wing, trained by Charles O’Brien. His form suggest’s he is great value at 20-1
Verdict: Far West 4-1 over Our Conor 3-1. Stockton’s Wing e/w 20-1
2:05 Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle
This is fiercely competitive and Cotton Mill has obvious claims. He was going well end when jinking and unseating rider in the Albert Bartlett last year and has done nothing wrong yet this season. His trainer John Ferguson has some very good horses and this lad could very well be the best of them. He was in the Champion Hurdle until the late stages, and he could still be well handicapped. The trip will be no issue and he really looks the one to beat, but his price doesn’t represent much value in a massive field. There is a strong Irish presence in the race and perhaps Gordon Elliot’s Shadow Catcher could prove the best of the home bunch. He was held in high regard going in to the Fred Winter last year where he failed to perform. He had a warm up run on the all weather at Dundalk and he could be very overpriced at 25-1 The better ground and the visor could improve the horse to give a good account for connections who were already on the board this week with Flaxen Flare.
Verdict: Cotton Mill 7-1 will be tough to beat but the advised bet is Shadow Catcher 25-1 at a large each way price.
2:40 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
At Fishers Cross will be hugely popular here having defeated Wednesday’s Neptune Hurdle winner The New One last time out. That win is perhaps very flattering as The New One was ridden completely wrong and showed vast improvement to win the other day. Rebecca Curtis charge also would like more of a cut in the ground so this could be a short priced horse to avoid. Ballycasey is a bit unexposed still, he did win impressively at Thurles lately and he must be strongly respected coming from Willie Mullins’ in form yard. Cloudy Copper is perhaps worth taking a chance on. JohnJo O’Neill has won this race twice in its eight runnings. He is just a straight forward, strong galloping horse with a touch of class. The horse has always been held in high regard by connections. He is a half brother to some good stayers and he is the pick of the race
Verdict: Cloudy Cooper 12-1
3:20 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase
The race many have been waiting for. There is massive value in Long Runs price this year. He seems to be the horse that everyone loves to hate, although there is no denying that he is a Gold Cup and a King George winner. There is a possibility the cheek pieces will bring improvement, many horses have improved dramatically with the addition of headgear this week and he might not be an exception. He has had a reasonable preparation for the race and is this year’s King George winner. Bobs Worth clearly has strong claims with his record around here but the price is a little short for a wide open Gold Cup. Sir Des Champs is perhaps the horse to beat. He has taken a blow Davy Russell, his regular pilot out of action. He could represent value at his price and could take all the beating.
Verdict: Sir Des Champs 3-1, Long Run 6-1 ew is fantastic value as it is impossible to see him out of the first three.
4:00 Foxhunters Chase
Irish foxhunter’s are in a class of their own and this Salsify is perhaps the best of them. Colman Sweeney if winning would provide the festival with its fourth trainer-jockey father-son combination of the week. He won this race last year and he looks like he will be tough to beat this year.
Verdict: Salsify 11/4
16:40 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
Gevrey Chambertin must go close in the Martin Pipe Hurdle for David Pipe whose father enjoyed so many great days at the Festival. The trainer normally has a handful of runners in the race but he has only the one today and Tom Bellamy take off a valuable 6lbs. The grey who is a brother of the stables Grands Crus looks the one to beat. The Albert Bartlett was on the cards for this horse and the Pipe team opted for this instead with influence from the owner. Village Vic has run in to some of the top novices this season, and he has finally got the ground the he has been waiting for. He is the value in the race for the Hobbs team.
Verdict: Gevrey Chambertin 5/1 could be a tough nut to crack. Village Vic 10/1 ew
5:15 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase
Nicky Henderson, whose father the race is in honour of trains six of the 24 runners. Tanks for that maybe the pick of them but it is difficult to tell. Nico De Boinville has been a faithful employee to Henderson and his charge in Petit Robin could reperesent huge each way value. He was runner-up in the Grade One Tingle Creek Chase over this course and distance two seasons ago, having he was third in the Champion Chase as a 6yo. It’s He is still only ten and he has been in good form lately. There is no denying he has some high-class form for a horse that will have only 11-05 on his back after the 7lb claim of Nico De Boinville, who is terrific value for his allowance.
Verdict: Alderwood 5-1 is the pick of the pack and could be hard to beat with Petit Robin 20-1 and Kumbeshwar 25-1 making the each way value.