Cheltenham Festival Day Four – Photo to deliver picture perfect performance in Gold Cup?
A fantastic week at Cheltenham comes to an end on Friday afternoon with Jump Racing’s Blue Riband event, the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup taking centre-stage.
Won by the likes of Arkle, Kauto Star, Denman and Best Mate, Al Boum Photo is aiming to emulate the latter by becoming the second horse to win three renewals of the iconic contest this century.
We’re bringing the curtain down on this week with yet another race by race guide to all the action.
1.20pm Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle
An excellent running of the G1 event. Zanahiyr has looked electric in three starts over timber and is feared along with the progressive Quilixios and G1 scorer Adagio.
However, Tritonic, a smart horse on the Flat, has looked very good in two starts over timber. A gutsy winner on his hurdling debut at Ascot, he displayed a potent turn of foot to take out the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton on his latest star. He jumps his hurdles neatly and matched with his smart finishing kick, he could quicken away from his rivals after the final flight making him a leading player.
Selection: Tritonic 5/2
1.55pm County Hurdle
The last five runnings have been shared between Willie Mullins with two wins and Dan Skelton with three. The duo look like they could once again fight out the finish this time around with Mullins saddling the talented Blue Lord who drops into handicap company following two solid efforts in G1 contests.
However, Skelton may have found a good opportunity for Third Time Lucki. Second in Graded company at the track earlier this term, he disappointed when only fourth at Musselburgh on his latest start, but off a mark of 143, he could be a Graded horse masquerading in a handicap.
Selection: Third Time Lucki 10/1
2.30pm Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
A G1 with an open feel to it. Stattler shaped well when third at Leopardstown on his latest start and should relish the step up in trip, whilst the Paul Nicholls-trained Barbados Buck’s has progressed rapidly through the ranks this term winning his last three starts.
Alaphilippe is another horse on the up and impressed at Haydock last time out. However, Farouk D’alene looks massively overpriced for Denise Foster. A winner of two of his three starts over hurdles, he is a relentless galloper who stayed on well over this trip last time out. He looks just the type who will keep finding for pressure and makes appeal in a race where stamina is the name of the game.
Selection: Farouk D’alene 14/1
3.05pm Grade One WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup
The feature race of the meeting and one which has brought together some stars name within the sport. Al Boum Photo is a deserved market leader as he bids to join a select few as a three-time winner of the iconic chase. He warmed up for the contest with his usual easy success around Tramore and it is easy to see the reasons why he is fancied to complete the hat-trick.
However, he does face a number of fascinating rivals headed by Champ who returned to action with an excellent second over an inadequate trip at Newbury last time out and showed his liking for the Cheltenham hill when storming to victory in the 2020 RSA Chase.
A Plus Tard took out the Savills Chase on his latest start, but still has to prove his effectiveness over three and a quarter-miles. Royale Pagaille would also be a fascinating runner if connections decided to target this event.
Frodon landed the King George VI Chase last time out and is another to note following his Ryanair Chase win last term, whilst 2018 Gold Cup hero Native River would be a player if ground conditions are testing along with 2020 Gold Cup second and third Santini and Lostintranslation. However, there look to be very little chinks in Al Boum Photo’s armoury and he can etch his name into sporting folklore.
3.40pm St. James's Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Chase
It Came To Pass captured the 2020 running under Maxine O’Sullivan and will be partnered by Richie McClernon this time around with amateur riders not permitted to ride at this year’s Cheltenham Festival. However, his preparation for this race has been far from ideal and Billaway, second in the race last year for Willie Mullins, has achieved more this term.
They should both go close, but Bob And Co is proven over this trip and returned to action with an easy win at Haydock last time out. He gets the vote.
Selection: Bob And Co 5/1
4.15pm Mares’ Chase
The inaugural running of this Mares’ Chase and Willie Mullins look to hold leading claims with the likeable Elimay. She finished an excellent second at Thurles to stable companion Allaho and had former Cheltenham Festival winner Shattered Love behind in second when she easily landed a Listed event at Naas last time out. Her main asset is her jumping and with this trip seemingly perfect, she is bound to go close in this event.
Selection: Elimay 15/8
4.50pm Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
Last but not least. The final contest of this year’s Cheltenham Festival. Willie Mullins again looks to hold a strong hand with Gentleman De Mee narrowly heading the betting following an easy win on his debut for the Closutton trainer. Mullins could also run Ganapathi who shaped with promise over a trip that stretched his stamina last time out and a mark of 140 could underestimate him.
However, Column Of Fire was coming through to win this race 12 months ago before falling at the final flight. He returned to action when well-beaten at Navan in January, but a handicap mark of 145 looks very workable and if in the same form as he was last year, he offers each-way value in the finale.
Selection: Column Of Fire 10/1
In association with Betting Expert