The formbook finally came good yesterday, and CUE CARD rewarded my faith in his ability with an emphatic win at the tremendous SP of 7/2. Those in receipt of the Cheltenham Bulletin will have been on him for 2pts win @ 5/1 back in mid-February and he has been a real money-spinner for me as I had 2pts on him when he won at Ascot LTO and, together with the 2pts I had on him at 5/1 for the Ryanair, I placed another 2pts on-course yesterday at 4/1 with a hapless rails bookie. What a day! It was almost a classic, as VINO GRIEGO came very close to making it 2 winning wagers on the day, being beaten only by the 50/1 rank outsider in the Byrne Group Plate. CUE CARD has contributed 13.50pts profit for his win (2pts @ 5/1, plus 1pt @ 7/2) and VINO GRIEGO provided another half-a-point.
Today is the final day of what has been an eventful week and, having secured a profit for the meeting, we can concentrate on enjoying the final day of the Festival. Apologies to donators to the blog for not getting a draft out to you last night, but I was at Cheltenham yesterday and a lorry shed its load on the M40 putting the "kybosh" on my attempt to get home in time to wrote a draft.
1:30 Triumph Hurdle for 4yo's (2-miles & 1-furlong)
With the inception of the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap (see Day 2) in 2005, this race has been raised to another level. Essentially, you are looking for a top-class 4yo capable of transferring its ability to the top-table next season (last year's winner Countrywide Flame ran 3rd in this weeks Champion Hurdle). Top-class recent form is a must for this with 16 of the last 19 winners having won LTO, and 16 of the last 19 winners having won at least two hurdle races.
This year it looks particulary competitive and 4yo hurdlers is not my "bag" so I'd be just making a stab in the dark making a recommendation.
No selection in this race.
2:05 Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle (2-miles & 1-furlong)
This handicap hurdle is one of the most competitive of the NH season, probably as it is a race that is historically targeted by the Irish, and Irish trainers have won this for 5 of the last 6 years.
The last 7 winners were rated between OR131 and OR139, so the 8/1 fav Cotton Mill may well go into the race well supported but, rated OR150 and with 11st 8lb to carry, he has a tough task.
The talented front-running Tennis Cap with a rating of OR141, could lead them all a merry dance in this race, but Ruby Walsh has chosen a Paul Nicholls horse – Ranjaan -as his ride.
One hurdler I've followed all season is PRINCETON PLAINS and I highlighted his chance in my handicap updates (sent to donators). Altho' he's not won one of his 4 starts this season that's not a black mark in my book as this race will suit him right down to the ground and he comes into this on a handy OR138 and was given a very tender ride in the Betfair Hurdle LTO. What is very interesting is that AP McCoy is in the saddle and I am expecting a big run from this one. Unfortunately, "Pricewise" of the Racing Post has selected him (did he receive my handicap updates?) and the early 20/1 is gone. He's only 16/1 with Ladbrokes now (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4), and just 14/1 elsewhere and for such a competitive race that is not really great value.
No selection advised
2:40 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (3-miles)
Many questioned this race when first introduced in 2005 but, in my opinion, it already has a roll of honour that that includes Weapons Amnesty and Bobs Worth making it a worthy addition to the Festival race roster. With 3 of the 8 winners starting at shorter odds than 2/1, and only 1 winner in the history of the race starting at longer odds than 9/1; stick to those at the head of the market.
In my opinion, this is a much easier race to win than the Neptune Novices Hurdle over 2m5f, so that is a big pointer to AFRICAN GOLD whose stablemate The New One won the "Neptune" on Wednesday very easily.
Whatever wins, pay attention to this race for valuable pointers for staying novice chasers for next season; a quick look at last year's race and Lovcen, Rocky Creek, Tour Des Champs, and Fill The Power have all won as novice chasers this season.
Selection: AFRICAN GOLD, ½pt win @ 13/2 (William Hill)
3:20 Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (3-miles and 2½ furlongs)
The climax of the meeting and, in recent years, this has been possibly the most emotional race of the Festival. There is not that much between those at the top of the chasing tree and, as we saw with First Lieutenant being comprehensively beaten yesterday in the Ryanair, those at the top are not that brilliant. This race will likely go to the best horse today, rather than the best staying chaser in training today (which we all know is the injured TIDAL BAY).
The last "placed" (ie. ran 2nd or 3rd the previous year) horse to go on and win the Gold Cup the following season (other than Kauto Star in 2009) was Bregawn in 1983 (he was 2nd to Silver Buck in 1982), so that is not a good omen for The Giant Bolster & Long Run: placed horses do not win the Gold Cup the following season.
The last 12 winners were all in the 1st-3 in the betting (in 2012, Synchronised was one of the three joint 3rd-fav's on 8/1), so look to those at the head of the market to find the winner.
Bobs Worth @ 4/1, Sir Des Champs @ 9/2, and Silviniaco Conti @ 5/1.
On a strict interpretation of the form, Bobs Worth wasn't the best horse in the Hennessey Gold Cup (handicap) at Newbury when he won that on 1st December last year (Tidal Bay was). Also, he'll be coming into the Gold Cup without a run in 104 days, and the horses that have been able to win off such a long break (in top races at the Festival) since 2002 can be counted on one hand. Flagship Uberalles won the 2002 Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2002 off a 95 day break, and Captain Cee Bee won the Supreme Novices Hurdle off a 115 day break. By coincidence, both those races are over trips of about 2-miles and not the 3-miles & 2½ furlongs of the Gold Cup. If any trainer can bring a horse to the Gold Cup in winning form off such a break, Nicky Henderson can, but the horse hasn't shown that he is clearly the best staying chaser in the land yet and so, with that doubt combined with the long lay-off, Bobs Worth cannot be the selection; certainly not at odds of 4/1. I'd be looking for more like 6/1.
Sir Des Champs ticks a lot of boxes, but his form does not confirm that Sir Des Champs is an out-and-out stayer, and if there is one quality that a horse needs to win the Gold Cup, it's proven stamina.
That leaves just SILVINIACO CONTI. This season, the horse is unbeaten winning 3 races at top level over 3-mile on soft ground and is pretty much confirmed as a staying chaser of the highest quality. If the ground gets better, no problem. He's got winning form on good-to-soft and good ground. I cannot find a chink in the horses armour and so, at 5/1, he is the selection. Blog donators are already on at 5/1 to 1pt win so I won't be adding to that stake.
Proven stayer's are worth following in the Gold Cup as this is a race that can develop into a war of attrition and any weaknesses are thoroughly exposed. One horse who is very consistent is LONG RUN, and I can see him running 2nd or 3rd in this race. Unfortunately, odds of just 6/1 are not enough to tempt me to make him an eachway selection.
If you are already on SILVINIACO CONTI ante-post do not add to the wager. If not
SILVINIACO CONTI, 1pt win @ 5/1 (available generally)
4:00 Christie's Foxhunters Chase (3-miles and 2½ furlongs)
Another "traditional" race at the Festival, and one that probably shouldn't be included. Personally, I'd prefer jump racing to distance itself as far away from fox-hunting as possible and, if it has to be run, it should be re-named. As all the competitors will have run in a point-to-point, why not call it the Point-to-Point Challenge Cup instead?
Essentially, the formbook goes out of the window with this race as the chances of most in the race will depend on whether their amateur jockey can stay in the saddle. Prominent runners can do well in this race but, last year, a couple went off like scalded cats and the pace of the race collapsed mid-race. No Selection.
4:40 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap hurdle (2-miles & 4½ furlongs)
This race has only been run 4 times. It is a particularly competitive race, and as its only been run 4 times there is not much to go on trends-wise. Also, last year, the race conditions were slightly altered making it a 0-145 race from a 0-140. I really cannot see anything jumping out of the page at me in this race, perhaps I've been looking too hard. That said, the front-running DOUBLE ROSS won over C&D earlier in the season and has been running well since over shorter trips. With no obvious front-runner to fight him for the lead, he could get his own way up front (in the style of Buena Vista) and at 25/1 a small eachway wager is worth a go.
Selection: DOUBLE ROSS, ¼pt eachway @ 25/1 (BetVictor, ¼ odds a place 1,2,3,4 BOG)
5:15 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual (handicap) Chase (2-miles & 110 yards)
This race has been won 5 times at odds of 12/1 or greater since 2006. In 2011, the winner was 40/1 and last year, Bellvano won at 20/1.
Since Edredon Bleu (who went on to win a Champion Chase in 2000) won in 1998 with 11st 6lb, no horse has won carrying more than 11st, so stick to those with 11st or less to carry. With 13 of last 14 winners having raced in no more than 12 chase races (in 2012, Bellvano was having just his 6th chase race), you are looking for a lightly raced chaser. Nicky Henderson always has a good go at this race (as it's named in honour of his father) and, sure enough, he did. He supplied the 1st, 2nd and 4th horse home from 6 entries.
This race is going to be a real head-scratcher tho' one who I know will really run a great race and possibly deserves a win at the top-table is RENARD. He ran in this last year off OR144 and couldn't get into the race after being hampered at the 10th fence. I reckon he's been running better this season without winning and so runs off OR139 next week. He handles Cheltenham well enough and this trip will suit him best. Yes, he is more experienced as a chaser than the typical winner of this race, but he's genuine and should not be 40/1 in this race (Corals & Stan James).
Selection: RENARD, ¼pt eachway @ 40/1 (Corals & Stan James, ¼ odds a place 1,2,3,4 BOG)
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