By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22) and Luke Keena (@Lukekeena1)
It’s the final day of the Cheltenham Festival! We’ve seen some incredible performances and Friday promises to be a cracker!
The Irish are currently leading 11 to 9 in the Prestbury Cup but the English have a good chance in the first race of the day – the Triumph.
Read Luke and Samantha’s Irish VS English take on the racing….
JCB Triumph Hurdle
In this race, England are responsible for the top three in the market – Allmankind, Goshen and Solo. Very little splits them. I’m siding with Allmankind. This horse was bred to be top-class on the flat but is three from three over hurdles. His first win was by thirty seven lengths and then by two and a half in a grade two. Last time, he won a grade one on bottomless ground from Cerberus. He was keen and ran from the front but that is just what he does. He’s a live and the form is strong. Solo jumped into favouritism on his English debut for Paul Nicholls by thirteen lengths. The form is questionable for me. Goshen likes to jump right, he did so when he won by twenty three lengths on his hurdling bow bow; next time he won by thirty four lengths and he jumped significantly right when last seen, beating the smart Nordano. His jumping is my worry and he could cause chaos like Asterion Forlonge in the Supreme. Nathaniel sired a Festival winner on day three and has Navajo Pass. He could go well considering he won a grade two, beating Lord Lamington.
Five Irish runners head to post for an exciting renewal of the JCB Truimph Hurdle. The English look to have a strong hand, but I will take a chance on Aspire Tower. He is currently the second highest rated horse in the race. He seemed to be running below par last time out when he fell at the last , when he wasn’t bet. What makes me question if he was running his race was that he was joined at the last and how close Wolf Prince finished behind the winner. On his penultimate start he bet Wolf Prince by eighteen lengths. If he can return to that form, I think he will go close.
Dan Skelton has won this for the past two years and Mohaayed won this in 2018. He last won in December of that year but has been well-beaten since. He’s back on a winnable mark. Stolen Silver was second to Chantry House on his third start and next time he won a tight grade two. He was targeted at the Betfair Hurdle but only finished eighth. He stayed on well and cut in the ground is a good thing. That race could be a good form line into this with Ciel De Neige 2nd, Sir Valentine 4th, Zanza 6th and Oakley 7th. Sir Valentine has done nothing wrong over hurdles so far, putting some good runs in. Ciel De Neige is my fancy for the in form Willie Mullins after a huge run in the aforementioned contest.
Ciel De Neige looks to me, to be the pick of the Irish. Originally, I liked Janidil who has swerved the race for the Albert Bartlett. Back in December Janidil won at Fairyhouse and Ciel De Niege was back in forth. He was last seen finishing second in the Betfair Hurdle at Sandown. He was in front along way from home which I don’t think suited him. With a more patient ride I think he will be hard to beat.
Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
Thyme Hill has been the favourite for a while. He won the Persian War on hurdles bow and then a grade two here at Cheltenham. Last seen in December, he beat The Cashel Man in the Challow, a grade one. He came third in the Champion Bumper and has a live chance. One of the training performances of the season, for me, has to be David Pipe’s handling of Ramses De Teille. He’s an exposed chaser but they exploited his novice status and this resulted in him winning two grade twos at Haydock and Doncaster. You can’t discount him. Redford Road won her in a grade two in December beating Kiltealy Briggs, but was fifth last time. I would love for either Kiltealy Briggs or The Wolf to run well for the McNeills. Harry Senior is a progressive young horse. He won here on Trials Day, beating House Island, and us trying three miles for the first time. I’m going with Latest Exhibition. He’s done nothing wrong in four starts this term. It’s great to see Bryan Cooper back on the big stage with a good horse!
Nine Irish runners will head to post for this ultra competitive race. Latest Exhibition really impressed me at Leopardstown. He stayed on very strongly to get well on top at the line. Prior to that race he showed his class over two miles and a half to beat Andy Defruesne over an inadequate trip. Prior to that run he was second behind Abacadabras over two miles. I think the stamina test will suit, and I think he will go close.
Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup
Clan Des Obeaux won the 2018 King George but only cam , fifth in this the next March. He followed in Kempton and came second on seasonal bow subsequently. Last time, he absolutely hacked up in the King George and I think he’d the leading English challenger, based on that. Santini is a leading player too but he made hard work of a listed at the start of the season. He landed the Cotswold Chase and he stays all day so would like it if it turn into a slog. He beat Bristol De Mai that day and he came second to Lostintranslation in the Betfair Chase. Bristol De Mai made a mistake last time which seems to knock his confidence and he didn’t warm to the test when it mattered. Lostintranslation was well-fancied for the King George but pulled up with a wind issue. Hopefully he’s got over that. Elegant Escape hasn’t won since the 2018 Welsh National and isn’t up to this. I’m with Al Boum Photo as he won last year and has had the most ideal preparation.
I would be surprised if the Irish don’t take this years renewal. Al Boum Photo is a worthy favourite, last years winner comes into the race after the same preparation as last year. Delta Work brings in two standout pieces of form, those both came at Leopardstown when he won the best staying chases in Ireland this year. He has to have a big chance. I am going to take a chance on Presenting Percy. He has been improving run to run this season. I think they have been training him with one race in mind the Gold Cup. He travelled very well, before flattening out up the straight. I think he will come on again for the run. He has proven his stamina on numerous occasions, he has previously won over three miles five furlongs at Fairyhouse on testing ground. His win in the RSA in 2018 was an exceptional performance and if he can bounce back to that I think he will outrun his odds. Real Steel goes for Willie Mullins.
Foxhunters Amateur Riders Chase
This looks an open race but I’m with Minella Rocco. He defied a 1000+ day winless run at Warwick in January, when he beat last year’s winner Hazel Hill, and he won again under Derek O’connor at Wetherby. Hazel Hill is twelve and had won the race at Warwick before his Cheltenham victory last season. He won here in May over course and distance. He’s rated 147, 5lbs more than Minella Rocco. Caid Du Berlais won the Punchestown equivalent of this in good style. David Maxwell is a great supporter of the game and rides Shantou Flyer.
Grand Annual Handicap Chase
Gino Trail put up a bold show thirteen days ago to win at Doncaster on his first start for Fergal O’Brien. He’s a darling horse. Croco Bay won this last season under Keilan Woods. He was third at Punchestown next time and was seventh on seasonal bow. He put up a decent run to be second in January which will be a good prep. Two Taffs was third off a long absence in November and the sixteenth in the Ladbrokes Trophy. He ran a blinder at Warwick last time. His yard also have Marracudja who controversially got put up significantly in the handicap for a third place to Defi Du Seuil and Un De Sceaux. I’m with Paul Nicholls’ Greanateen. He likes to win this race and this horse has won his last three in splendid style.
Five Irish runners head to post for the penultimate race of the festival. Éclair De Beaufeu was impressive last month at the Dublin Racing Festival. This Gordon Elliot trained improving six year old was well on top at the end. Sean O’Keefe rode him on that occasion and gets the ride again. Sean’s claim will be invaluable. I think he is a horse on the up and can go close for the inform trainer Gordon Elliot. At a bigger price, Us And Them is interesting. His form this year has been bad, but as a result his handicap mark has been dropping. He was second in last years Arkle, albeit bet along way when a standing start cost him his chance. If he can bounce back to form I think he will outrun his odds.
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle
Ben Jones has shone this season and rides Pileon, who is round about a 10/1 shot. This horse won last time by a whopping twenty lengths and could be a big player. Espoir De Romay has done very little racing but won well last time and I rate Chester Williams. I’m with The Bosses Oscar. He’s a promising horse with two wins and two seconds under his belt. His rider Sean O’Keeffe is extremely talented.
My nap of the week on last weeks podcast was Front View. He was an eye catching second the last day at Thurles. Prior to that he won a good maiden hurdle at Cork. Both, Uhtred and Jon Snow have boosted the form. Prior to that, on hurdles debut he finished second behind Envoi Allen. I think he is very well handicapped and will be hard to beat.