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The 2015 Cheltenham Festival is the biggest National Hunt meeting of the season, and we have four days of the very best racing action to look forward to. It’s just a few short weeks away now, with the festival kicking off on the 10th of March and running for four consecutive days to the 13th of March. We’ve already previewed the action and given our tips for days one, two and three, so now it’s time to turn our attention to day four and the big one – The Cheltenham Gold Cup.
1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle (2m 1f)
2.05 Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (2m 1f)
2.40 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (3m)
3.20 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (3m 2 1/2f)
4.40 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (2m 4 1/2f)
5.15 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase (2m 1/2f)
Cheltenham Gold Cup
The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted the picture of Gold Cup favourite Silviniaco Conti on this page, and you may remember we backed him when he won the King George VI at Kempton on Boxing Day. That was a hugely impressive performance which you can relive here, and we’ve no reason to desert the star chaser now, even though his price is short enough for a Gold Cup. Part of the reason for that is the lack of credible competition, and with a clear round of jumping, Paul Nicholls’ charge will take all the beating.
The Gold Cup is the traditional highlight of the festival, where the best three mile chaser is crowned, and it has been won by some illustrious horses in the past. It is the ultimate test of speed, stamina, and bravery and the roll call of winners includes Arkle, Denman, Kauto Star, Long Run and Best Mate. It’s a Class A Grade 1 Chase that’s contested over 3 miles and 2 and a half furlongs, and has a prize fund of £550,000.
Silviniaco Conti is a worthy favourite for the race after the way he ran his rivals into the ground in the King George VI over the festive period. He had the likes of Champagne Fever, Al Ferof, Cue Card and John’s Spirit well behind that day, with the second-placed horse Dynaste unable to re-oppose here due to injury. He’s a horse that travels and jumps well, and we know that he will handle the track on the big day as this will be his third run in the Gold Cup. He was traveling well when he fell three out in the 2013 renewal of the race, won by Bobs Worth, and he finished a close-up 4th in the race last year which was won by Lord Windermere. He’s never won at Cheltenham, which could be a bit of a negative, but he was only beaten by two lengths in last year’s race, so it’s hard to argue that the track is against him. The way he continued to find more and more as his rivals toiled at Kempton was reassuring, and with a lack of exceptional rivals, this could well be his year.
Perhaps the biggest rival to his crown is Road to Riches. Trained by Noel Meade, he won the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over the Christmas period, and is an improved horse this year. He was available at 33/1 before winning that race, so those who got on him at a big price will be more than happy to look forward to the big day. However, he’s a little too short for us to get involved now.
Many Clouds is also not without a good chance and improved his credentials with a win in the Betbright Cup Chase at Cheltenham a few weeks ago. He beat a good yardstick in Dynaste that day, so has to be taken seriously.
Holywell – 11/1 12.00 +1100 11.00 11.00 -0.09 with William Hill
Jonjo O’Neill runs Holywell and he clearly loves the course having gained wins at the last two festivals, in the Pertemps Final and the Bayliss and Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase. Whether he has the class to take a Gold Cup remains to be seen, but he should go well and also holds a good chance.
Of the others, Willie Mullin’s Djakadam is worth noting at odds of around 16/1 17.00 +1600 16.00 16.00 -0.06 but he’s another who would have made more appeal at the prices that were being offered a month or two ago.
The Triumph Hurdle opens the day’s action, and is a Class A Grade 1 event run over 2 miles and a furlong. It is only open to four year-old novice hurdlers, and the prize fund for this year is £120,000.
The market is dominated by a strong favourite in Peace and Co but at 9/4 3.25 +225 2.25 2.25 -0.44 he’s plenty short enough to be backing in a race of this nature. It’s a race that’s run at a breakneck pace and there will be a big field, so it probably pays to go with an each-way shot, and a short favourite like this only serves to enhance the odds on the other runners.
We’ll take our chances with Petite Parisienne, one of the contenders from Willie Mullin’s powerful yard. She beat her well-fancied stablemate Kalkir in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown just last week, and that performance hasn’t gone unnoticed. It will be interesting to see which of the contenders line up for Mullins, and which horse Ruby Walsh rides, but we suspect Petite Parisienne may have earned the stable bragging rights with that one, and she goes to Cheltenham primed to run a big race.