Cheltenham Festival comes to an end on Friday, culminating with the signature event – the Gold Cup.
Every owner, trainer and jockey is desperate to win the ultimate prize on offer during the four-day event. However, there are other important races before the Gold Cup, which are still worth a great deal to all concerned parties.
Sir Erec has established himself as the leading contender for the Triumph Hurdle. Joseph O’Brien’s charge has been dominant on the track since converting to jumps racing at the end of last year. The Irish-bred horse won the Paddy Power Maiden Hurdle by a neck ahead of Tiger Tap Tap. He backed that with another clean ride at the Juvenile Hurdle in Leopardstown.
Paul Nicholls’ Quel Destin has reeled off five wins on the bounce and will be keen to match Sir Erec. His run included a victory in the Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham in November. Gardens of Babylon could be an interesting one, but the buzz around Sir Erec is hard to shift. Back him for the win at odds of 11/102.10+1101.101.10-0.91 with 888Sport.
County Handicap Hurdle
The contest is a tricky one to judge without an outstanding competitor in the field. Whiskey Sour is getting a lot of attention from the bookies, but does not have a great record of late. It’s going to be a race for the outside candidates. Mr Adjudicator is an intriguing option out of Willie Mullins’ yard. He does have form on his side unlike his stable-mate, although he is without a victory.
Mr Adjudicator finished second in the Triumph Hurdle last season and placed 11 lengths off the pace of Espoir D’Allen in the Fishery Lane Hurdle last time out. We Have A Dream has quality out of Nicky Henderson’s yard, winning his last outing at the Morebattle Hurdle. Monsieur Lecoq also has potential, triumphing at Sandown Park in the 32Red.com Handicap Hurdle. It’s a difficult one to predict, but Mr Adjudicator could be a safe option at 14/115.00+140014.0014.00-0.07 with Bet365.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
The contest appears to be fairly top heavy with talent. Expect one of the leading contenders to come away with the victory given the quality on display. Birchdale has been a horse on the rise, despite boasting only two races under his belt. He has won both of those meets, including his last outing at Cheltenham in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in January. Birchdale should have company down the stretch if the race plays out to form.
Lisnagar Oscar won the Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock Park last time out, highlighting his form ahead of the event. Commander of Fleet was given the nod on the ante-post betting odds. Gordon Elliott’s charge remains a good option for the race, although his last outing was not a dominant effort. Dickie Diver and Rhinestone could also compete. Birchdale has good value at 6/17.00+6006.006.00-0.17 with 888Sport to continue his bright start to his career.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
The big one arrives at 15:30 GMT, which will see the bars in the racecourse empty and see spectators glued to their television screens at home. Presenting Percy has been an impressive horse at Cheltenham Festival, winning the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle and the RSA Novices’ Chase in his previous two visits. However, the Gold Cup is a step up in quality and he has not faced the elite of the field this season. Native River, Clan Des Obeaux, Bristol De Mai and Thistlecrack have all traded blows over the course of the National Hunt campaign.
Presenting Percy won his one race of the season, although the standard was not great. Clan Des Obeaux won the King George VI Chase, while Bristol De Mai triumphed in the Betfair Chase. Presenting Percy does have the victories on the racecourse, which gives him the edge over Clan Des Obeaux. However, the rise of the French-bred horse is hard to ignore and he could put forward a statement with a win in the Gold Cup. Back Paul Nicholls’ charge for the win at odds of 9/25.50+4504.504.50-0.22 with 888Sport.
The last horse over the age of 11 to win the race was Earthmover in 2004 – also out of Nicholls’ yard. Ucello Conti has been in form, although he has not raced at Cheltenham in his career. Shantou Flyer is a horse to watch. He finished second in the Ultima Handicap Chase season and has won his last two events. Back him at odds of 8/19.00+8008.008.00-0.13 with 888Sport.
Grand Annual Chase
Nicholls won this event last season with Le Prezien and the horse returns for another crack at the crown. The French-bred horse has been out of form since his triumph, including a fall at the JLT Melling Chase at Aintree. His stable-mate Magic Saint could be the one to watch, producing a victory last time out at Wincanton.