Weeks and weeks of training have come down to this day. One of the most important in National Hunt Racing. Dreams will be realised and broken for today is Cheltenham Gold Cup Day.
Nine runners will go to post in a classy renewal of this race. Of the nine, four of them are unbeaten. The main two English hopes are APPLE’S SHAKIRA and Redicean. The former, a mare by Saddler Maker, is trained by Nicky Henderson and she has won all three of her starts by a combined twenty- eight and a half lengths. She had Gumball behind on her first start. Before this, Phillip Hobbs’ gelding won his first two starts and was just beaten by Espirt de Semoza. Redicean is unbeaten and bolted up in a Grade 2 last time out by seven lengths. He has soft ground form but has only ran around Kempton. Farclas has been second on both of his starts to date behind Mr Adjudicator and Espoir D’Allen. Mr Adjudictor is yet to be beaten and comes from the all powerful Willie Mullins’ stable. He won his maiden and then was dropped into Grade One company and won impressively with Farclas in second at the Dublin Racing Festival. Willie Mullins also has Saldier and Stormy Ireland. The former won his only start by ten lengths and his other runner, Stormy Ireland, has also only won a maiden but she won hers by 58 lengths. A bit of an unknown quantity.
To Win- Apple’s Shakira
Each way- Redicean
Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle
Bleu Et Rouge is most likely to go off favourite for this race. He has performed well on both of his most recent starts and finished second behind Kalashnikov, who ran brilliantly in the Supreme on the first day of Cheltenham, in the Betfair Hurdle. That race could be a brilliant form line for most of the British hopes. Spiritofthegames was third in that and he has been a model of consistency all season, winning first time out and placing in the others. He has a better weight this time around as Bleu Et Rouge has to carry top weight. Remiluc and William H Bonney were fifth and eighth respectively and could go close. Remilic finished second last time out. Jenkins seemed a new horse when blinkers were put on. He couldn’t figure last time out in the Betfair but looks like he won’t mind the ground. CHESTERFIELD won at the Aintree Grand National meeting and then went to the Scottish Champion Hurdle and won last season. He had a good prep run in a National Hunt Flat Race last time out and will be partnered by Daniel Sansom, who gets on really well with him and will take off a possibly crucial five pounds. The Irish have Merie Devi and Duca De Thaix. The former won last time out and Duca De Thaix is quite unexposed but has won on the extremely heavy ground so that’s a plus.
To Win- Chesterfield
Each way- Spiritofthegames
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Won last year by Penhill, who won the Stayers Hurdle on day three, there are twenty runners who should line up this time around. Nicky Henderson has a fifth of the field with his two main hopes being Santini and Chef Des Obeaux. SANTINI has won around Cheltenham before over two miles four in heavy ground in a Grade Two. He had Black Op in second who finished second behind Samcro earlier this week. On debut, he beat Robin Waters and Chef Des Obeaux commandingly. The latter has won all three starts since and the most previous was in a Grade Two by fifteen lengths. Another Nicky Henderson runner is Ok Corral who has been extremely consistent all season. He has won three of his five starts and all have come at Kempton. The only two horses to beat him are Yorkhill and Whatswrongwithyou. He’s extremely inexperienced for an eight year old. Poetic Rhythm won the Grde One Challow Novices Hurdle in an amazing battle with Mulcahys Hill, giving trainer Fergal O’Brien a first Grade One winner. Enniscoffey Oscar has a brilliant each way chance after winning a Grade Two over three miles. Of the Irish, Chris’s Dream maybe the pick as he won his last two.
To Win- Santini
Each Way- Enniscoffey Oscar
Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup
Eighteen runners will line up for the main showpiece for the meeting and it looks very open. The main trail of form could come in the Irish equivalent of this race. Edwulf, from Joseph O’Brien’s yard, won the race, beating Outlander, Djackadam and Our Duke. Throughout the race, he travelled like the best horse. Killultagh Vic, Ainable Fly and Minella Rocco all fell at crucial points of the race. Our Duke was fourth and he didn’t jump with much fluency, making some bad mistakes. He has won since and could give Jessie Harrington a second consecutive win in this race after Sizing John won last year. He unfortunately won’t line up this year as he is injured. With the ground going to run soft, supporters of NATIVE RIVER will be quite happy. The chestnut relishes soggy ground and was very impressive making his seasonal debut a couple of weeks ago. Might Bite has been the talking horse of the season. He won the King George, with Double Shuffle an incredible second, in December but we haven’t seen him since. He is most likely the one to beat but punters could be put off by the way he wanders up the run in at Cheltenham. Definitely Red won here earlier this season and has a good chance as he stays very well. Road To Respect won here last year and has performed well this season. Total Recall’s main aim is the Grand National in April but if he can win this it will be a bonus. American was supplemented but hasn’t showed much this season. If Edwulf won, it would be an amazingly emotional story.
To Win- Native River
Each Way- Edwulf
St James’ Palace Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase
Last year’s winner Pacha Du Polder lines up again this time. He was third behind Warden Hill last time out. The latter has ran well this season and could be a good each way shot. Virak has won his last two for Paul Nicholls, winning at Ludlow and Haydock on soft ground. Paul also has Wonderful Charm and Unioniste. He won last time out and finished nineteenth in the Grand National last year. He is probably the best chance for the Ditcheat team. Unioniste has been brilliant for trainer/jockey David Maxwell, who is a great supporter of the game. The grey has won his last two starts and has a good chance to make it three. Grand Vision is also a grey and he has wowed audiences with his spectacular jumping on his past few starts. He’s two from three this season and it would be brilliant for connections, who have had a quiet week. CAID DU BERLAIS won his past three points. He’s an ex-Paul Nicholls inmate, now with Rose Loxton. Burning Ambition has won a Grade One and will enjoy the conditions.
To Win- Caid Du Berlais
Each Way- Unioniste
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
FLAWLESS ESCAPE could continue Gordon Elliot’s winning run. He is two from four this season and Gordon Elliot does well in this. Burrows Saint, Carter McKay and Deal D’estruval all run for Willie Mullins with some very good conditionals aboard. Burrows Saint will be partnered by Lizzie Kelly, who has already had a winner here this week. The son of Saint Des Saints has had two runs and won one on soft ground. Similarly, Deal D’estruval has also got a 50% strike rate. Carter McKay has danced in all the main hurdle races this season. He won his maiden and then went to the Moscow Flyder and was third behind Getabird, who was disappointing earlier this week and then behind Tower Bridge in a Grade One at Leopardstown. Jamie Bargary will be doing the steering. Another Irish chance is Sire Du Berlais, who will be partnered by Donal McInerney. He is yet to win over hurdles but was second last time out. Tommy Rapper, for Dan Skelton and Bridget Andrews, could be the best English shot. He has won his last three and likes the ground and will stay the trip. Melrose Boy and Diese De Bieffes have an each way chance.
To Win- Flawless Escape
Each way- Tommy Rapper
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
NORTH HILL HARVEY has won two of his four chases. He didn’t run as well as anticipated last time out. He is a course and distance winner here. Paul Nicholls brings Bouvreuil back in trip to two miles and he has Festival form. Foxtail Hill is a course and distance winner and he won well at the start of the season but hasn’t showed much since. Rock The World won this last year and, for the same ownership, Sizing Platinum hasn’t been seen since finishing third to Foxtail Hill in late October. Top Gamble, Theinval and Vaniteux are good each way shots.
To Win- North Hill Harvey
Each Way- Foxtail Hill