The final day of the Cheltenham Festival is here, and that brings with it the Gold Cup. The premier race of the week and one that will certainly divide opinions up and down the land. Whatever your thoughts on the Gold Cup, it looks like many punters will be piling into their selection, after what has been a punter friendly week so far. Not so for myself, although with a remarkable number of 11 placed horses from the 21 races so far, I’m not actually doing too bad. I’m always one of the first to try and ‘take on a good thing’ so never expect to be well ahead if the favourites are going in, but hopefully today I can end on a high!
Onto the action on Friday….
Apple’s Shakira is apprantly the one for JP McManus this week, and she has been very well backed in recent weeks. As I’ve just mentioned about taking on a good thing, it’s probably no surprise to you that she isn’t my selection in this race. She has nothing to prove, she gets an allowance that she may be good enough to win without needing, and overall she looks solid, but 11/8 in the Triumph against unexposed horses is not for me.
The one I’ll be taking her on with is Mr Adjudicator, a horse who is two from two over hurdles, including when winning a Grade One last time out. It is interesting that Ruby Walsh was planning to ride Stormy Ireland before injury, because she really could be anything, but stablemate Mr Adjudicator looks to have better form in the book. I’m not convinced Redicean will get up the hill, having won at the flat track Kempton on all of her three starts, whereas Mr Adjudicator looks like he will relish the uphill climb at the end of this race.
I respect Apple’s Shakira of course, but at 8/1 I’ll go against her with Mr Adjudicator
A typically tricky County Hurdle for punters to solve here, and there are a huge amount of runners that have chances, far too many to mention. The horse I am backing here is A Hare Breath, who at 20/1 stands out to me based on a few things. The first thing is that Ben Pauling gave him a glowing report at the Doncaster preview evening two weeks ago. On top of that, he won very nicely last time out against a good field, has enough experience despite being lighlty raced and potentially still improving, and he has raced in very big fields before. He has also won at this course before, which is another positive, so overall he has a very nice profile for the race.
It’s not a race I’m overly excited about, because it looks ultra tough, but A Hare Breath is the one for me at 20/1.
One favoured horse I won’t be taking on today is Santini, a horse that I really like. He has a great attitude, and really came up the hill nicely when winning here last time out. He bet Black Op that day, who franked the form nicely by placing earlier in the week behind Samcro. I don’t think there is anything in this field on the same level as Samcro, and with that in mind it appears that Santini has the best form in the race.
There are a few unexposed types to watch in this race, but Santini has done nothing wrong at all so far, winning two races nicely under rules and with a 3m point victory, he should stay the three mile trip he’s encountering today.
The big race of the day, and of the week really and it should be a cracker. The race puts together the best of the best from Britain and Ireland, and I’m sure everyone has a strong opinion on who is going to land the prize.
I think Might Bite is the horse in the race that has the most class, and I’m sure he won’t wander around like he did last season. You may think that means I am backing him, but you’d be wrong, I don’t think he will stay the trip on this ground as well as other will. It takes a grinder to win the Gold Cup, and that is more important than class, especially on this ground and that is why I will be opposing Might Bite today.
Native River has clearly been trained with this race in mind, completely the opposite to last season when it was a bit of an afterthought, and by the time he arrived he was at the end of a long hard season. He will stay all day, and will try and grind it out a long way from home, with the hope of running the finish out of horses like Might Bite. However, if there is one thing against him today it is that he has many other horses in the field against him who are very similar types.
Of the Irish challengers, Our Duke put up a great performance to beat Presenting Percy last time out, and we all saw Presenting Percy deliver one of the easiest wins of the week in the RSA Chase. Although that race was over much shorter, he is another who will stay all day and will want a true test here, just like Native River. His early season injury stopped him from being a big talking horse, but the money has come for him recently, and assuming he is in the same form as last time out, he appears to have a great chance.
Killultagh Vic is a very intriguing runner, and is the pick of the Willie Mullins yard. He would have won last time out had he not fell at the last fence and would be much shorter in the betting had he won. His fall is a worry, and he doesn’t have much experience as a chaser which also doesn’t help, but he is clearly a hugely talented individual. This year may come too soon for him, but with a clear round of jumping he can’t be ruled out.
The horse I’m going to back in the race is Definitly Red, both because I am a biased fan of the horse, and because I think he has a cracking chance of winning. His victory here last time out was very impressive, and his last two wins have come on heavy ground so the ground will be no problem at all for him. The tougher the test is, the better it will be for this lad, who comes here in the form of his life. I strongly fancied him for the Grand National last season before the saddle slipped, let’s hope he gets a bit more luck this time around, and he gives us a run for our money. Yes, I’ll happily admit that I’m biased when it comes to this lad, but he appears to have a cracking chance of being there at the finish. At 12/1 he is the each way bet in the race for me.
I’m not going to say too much about this race as the point to point and hunter chase form on offer is not my strongest suit. What I will say though is that the reports have been great about Caid Du Berlais, a horse who finished 8th in a Festival handicap last year. He has since won three points with ease, and will be my each way bet in this one at 14/1.
Typically competitive once again here, but there is one horse who looks to be well ahead of the handicapper and that is Flawless Escape from the all conquering Gordon Elliott yard. He ran behind Total Recall last time out, who was extremely well handicapped over hurdles as he is better known as a chaser. He was keen that day, and this drop back in trip looks like it could do the trick and get him back to winning ways.
before that run over three miles, he won a maiden hurdle over today’s trip of 2m4f, and looks like there is still more to come from him. He looks well handicapped, but I am sure that many are in this race, but there is something about him that makes me think he is well ahead. He could still be on the up, and that piece of form behind Total Recall looks to be a serious piece of form.
I’m sure I’m not the only one to be surprised to see North Hill Harvey in this race, instead of contesting the Arkle earlier this week. I’m hoping that is because the yard think he is well handicapped enough to win this. He started his chasing career in the right way, and based on his two wins at this course he looks a nicely treated horse. However, he was not as good last time out at Warwick, and needs to show himself to be better than that. Personally I’m happy to forgive him that run, and back him here today.
The race is full of handicappers, and some of them are weighted to win this race for sure. However, North Hill Harvey could have even more in hand, and could still be improving, after just four runs over hurdles. It is a tricky finish to the meeting, but I will be siding with North Hill Harvey at 15/2 in the finale.
Good luck on the final day, and let’s hope we have another great day, and a fantastic Gold Cup race.