Day 3 was a case of so close yet so far. Our strong each-way fancy Top Notch turned for home in the JLT Novices’ Chase travelling as well as anything. As three horses approached the second last, little Top Notch got in tight and hit the fence hard, allowing favourite Yorkhill to bound clear. After the last, Top Notch showed all his determination, guts and class in trying to reel in the idling winner, but just failed. In the Ryanair Chase, Un De Sceaux was fantastic, but our selection Empire Of Dirt was given a curious ride out the back and never figured. The strongest bet of the day, Uknowwhatimeanharry simply wasn’t good enough – no excuses. Let’s see if we can bag a few winners on the final day of the festival, with the Gold Cup the highlight.
The JCB Triumph Hurdle is an exciting 2 mile hurdle that pits the best juvenile hurdlers against each other. There significant emphasis on the jumping in this race, as all of the runners are relatively inexperienced over timber. There are lots of last time out winners, and although there is a fairly strong market leader in the form of Defi Du Seuil, we prefer to look elsewhere for our selection.
Master Blueyes has done nothing but improve over hurdles, and Alan King’s representative looks a juicy each way price at odds of +700 with Bet365. He has a very good chance of making the frame and could well be up to winning the contest. Formerly a flat racer, Master Blueyes signed off his 3 year old campaign on the turf by finishing second at York over 1 mile 6 furlongs, recording an RPR of 93 in the process. That is some pretty decent flat form and the fact that he was competing over nearly 2 miles on the flat implied that he would be a strong stayer over timber. The embryonic stages of his hurdling campaign didn’t suggest that the 4 year old would be anything special, with form figures reading 422, however a resounding victory at Ludlow was followed up by a destruction job at Kempton on good ground. Being held up on good ground seemed to change this horse dramatically, and he scooted away to win by 11 lengths.
Recorded an RPR of 141 and was very impressive. Has shown he handles the ground, and this classy flat recruit could have more to come over hurdles.
The Albert Bartlett Novices’ hurdle is the stayers contest for the novices, and again has a number of horses with a 1 by their name. Death Duty looks like a worthy market leader and can score for Gordon Elliott under the usually good B J Cooper. He is available at odds of +200 with Bet365, Ladbrokes and Coral.
Death Duty has primarily been running on soft/heavy ground and has been performing very well. Was running against second favourite Augusta Kate last time out before that mare took a last flight fall. It was nip and tuck, but Death Duty’s jockey was convinced he had Augusta Kate covered, and the horse did stay on strongly to the finish. The switch to good ground should suit as sire Shantou actually has a better record on fast ground than slow. Elliott’s gelding has been running over 2 miles 4 furlongs in recent starts and the way he has finished his races suggests the step up to 3 miles will definitely suit. He has tonnes of class and should go very close.
In the words of Liverpool fans, the Tizzards must be thinking ‘this is our year’ with their extremely talented and likeable horse Cue Card. A strong traveller when falling in this race last year, the 11 year old doesn’t fit the profile of your average winner, but this year’s renewal doesn’t really have any superstars in, and with that touch of magic, Cue Card may just do it. At odds of +400 with Bet365, Ladbrokes and Coral, he is preferred over the favourite Djakadam and stablemate Native River.
Cue Card has seen many Cheltenham festivals and won the Champion Bumper all the way back in 2010 as a 4 year old. He has since gone on to do great things over fences, but there have always been doubts about the son of King’s Theatre getting the Gold Cup trip. With age he has started to stay better, and he certainly was travelling with plenty of zest when falling last year in this contest. No one knows what would have happened up the hill, but Paddy Brennan was sure he still had plenty of horse under him. A fall for Cue Card was very uncharacteristic and his jumping is normally foot perfect. Destroyed a field last time out in the Ascot Chase at Newbury and that is the best form in the field. Should be turning for home going well, and if he stays, he wins.
Djakadam has benefited from being around in a less than vintage time for staying chasers. Several years ago in the days of Kauto Star and Denman, he would have been a relative outsider for this contest, and for all he is very consistent, he doesn’t win as often as he should. Has his best chance today, but is yet to win on good to soft or faster and would have to be passed over for that reason.
Native River is also from the Colin Tizzard stable, and has quite a different profile to Cue Card. He is a younger horse who is a dour stayer. Probably lacks the star quality of the selection, but is a solid grinder who needs to be respected, as he should be staying on towards the finish.
13:30 Cheltenham – Master Blueyes (Each Way)
Friday 17th March
14:50 Cheltenham – Death Duty to Win
Friday 17th March
15:30 Cheltenham – Cue Card to Win
Friday 17th March