The final day of the this years festival sees Vauban and Pied Piper go to battle again in the opener. All eyes will be on the Gold Cup, can Minella Indo go back to back? Will A Plus Card be able to go one better then last year? Will it return to England in the form of Protektorat for the Skelton’s. Can old favourite Al Boom Photo re-write history and win it for a third time. All questions will be answered at 3:30 in what seems a magnificent race!
Cheltenham 1:30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1)
VAUBAN (7/4) won in effortless style at the Dublin racing festival. He didn’t jump with great fluency, and he had a wide trip but the way he picked up around the bend was so eyecatching. Willie Mullins has been very bullish about his chances and Rich Ricci is also very excited about what the future holds.
PIED PIPER (11/4) won on the bridle over C&D in the January meeting. He beat Vauban when both horses were on hurdling debut at Punchestown. It was heavy ground that day and Vauban also made an awful mistake at the last. The improvement both horses have shown has been scintillating and you’d be shocked if one of the front two didn’t win this.
FIL DOR (13/2) was behind Vauban at Leopardstown, however the slow pace wouldn’t have suited. The faster gallop projected will definitely suit however he would have wanted the ground to come up softer.
IL ETAIT TEMPS (9/1) was third on his stable debut after racing keenly and not having the best of trips. It will be interesting to see what kind of talent he holds, but to finish as close as he did on his debut in a Grade 1, he must have a bundle of potential.
PORTICELLO (14/1) has the experience and seems to be battle hardened, however the good to soft projected ground isn’t sure to suit.
ICARE ALLEN (16/1) was disappointing at the Dublin racing festival when he returned to winning ways in good style in a weaker race at Fairyhouse. He seemed to jump and travel a lot better and could give a better showing back in a Grade 1.
Knight Salute (18/1) seems to be the English horse with the best chance. Milton Harris has done wonders with him this year winning all of his races. His latest was the Grade 2 juvenile at Kempton. He may not have the quality of the Irish, but he certainly deserves his place in the race.
DOCTOR PARNASSUS (20/1) looked smart at Taunton, but this is far deeper race.
TEDDY BLUE (20/1) is a very keen going sort and would need to settle early on to have any kind of chance.
LUNAR POWER (50/1) has been behind Fil Dor twice this season and would need a huge step up to turn that form around and maybe get into a place.
AGES OF MAN (150/1) & KOI DODVILLE (200/1) round of the runners in the opener on the final day.
Cheltenham 2:50 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices’ Hurdle) (GBB Race) (Class 1)
GINTO (11/4) has been faultless so far this season and had the choice of the Ballymore but opted for this race. He has shaped as if he’s a stayer and it’ll be interesting to see if he stays up the hill.
His pedigree would suggest he should have no issues. He certainly has the class to win this.
HILLCREST (11/4) has improved with every start this season. This monster of a horse looked very good at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and stepping up to 3 miles last time out really brought out the best in him. He just seems to keep going and on paper he’s the ideal horse for this race.
SHANTREUSSE (9/1) seems to love the testing ground which he won’t get here. He has come on for his runs this season and you wouldn’t want a better jockey on board.
MINELLA COCOONER (10/1) was given an absolute peach of a ride by Danny Mullins at Leopardstown. He won’t get an easy lead like he did at Leopardstown and he’s been on steady drift all week in the market.
THE NICE GUY (11/) was impressive at Naas on his hurdling debut. He’s only had one run over hurdles however he did win two bumpers and you do get the impression that he won’t have any problems with the trip.
GOOD TIME JOHNNY (14/1) has experience and won a big runner handicap on his last start. He may just come up short in this company but wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the places.
RAMILLIES (14/1) hasn’t jumped with any fluency in any of his runs this year and a few mistakes would put him out of this.
STAG HORN (14/1) is an intriguing runner here for Archie Watson who doesn’t train many jumpers. He’s looked very good but being able to stay 3 miles on the new course is difficult for anyone let alone a flat bred horse.
Classic Getaway (16/1) will be hoping to show his worth after being a very experience purchase for Cheveley Park Stud. Representatives say he is a future star and will be better in staying chases next season.
BARDENSTOWN LAD (18/1) is a very worrying drifter in the market. Reached a top price 7/1 last week at a point and the fact he’s now 18’s could be telling. Price being irrelevant, he’s had an ideal prep for the race and John McConnel is very capable of training a high-quality horse.
20/1 bar the other 9 runners.
Cheltenham 3:30 – Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1)
GALVIN (3/1) would a ready winner for jockey Davy Russell who’s had an unlucky week. He’s been very good this year and topped it off getting up to win the Savills on the line at Leopardstown. There is no concern with track or distance and he’s a worthy favourite.
A PLUS TARD (10/3) second in the race last year has also had very good season. He’s back to go one better than last year and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be able to do so. Rachael went for home a bit too early last time and probably would have beaten Galvin with a more conservative ride. I’m a fan and he always runs his race so there isn’t any reason why he won’t be bang on there.
MINELLA INDO (9/2) last year’s winner has had a very up and down season. Yet to win a race this season and hasn’t really looked like a Gold Cup winner at all. He clearly loves Cheltenham but on form he’s way off this season and I’ll be surprised if he’s up to it again.
PROTEKTORAT (9/1) showed his engine last time out after tanking through the race and still storming home to win. The Skelton team would have been praying for rain which doesn’t look likely. He could be the one to go forward this year as there doesn’t seem to be a clear front runner in the field.
AL BOUM PHOTO (11/1) is a two-time winner of the race and has taken the same route as the last 4 seasons to try and go in again. He was third behind two of the same rivals this year and there’s no apparent reason to see how he’ll be able to reverse that form.
ROYAL PAGAILLE (141) is another of those who would have been crying out for the heavens to open.
TORNADO FLYER (14/1) was a good winner of the King George however there seemed to be a huge pace collapse and a good conservative ride saw him to victory on Boxing Day. He’ll love the trip but whether or not he’s got the quality is yet to be proven.
CHANTRY HOUSE (18/1) couldn’t go the gallop in the King George and returned to winning ways at Cheltenham in January, but he wasn’t impressive and didn’t look like a Gold Cup horse.
ASTERION FORLONGE (28/1) will be hoping to finish more than anything. It’s clear he’s got ability but he’s just a lunatic.
SANTINI (66/1) once second in this race is a much older and slower horse now. He was behind Chantry House last time out.
AYE RIGHT (80/1) concludes the field. Harriet Graham’s runner has been ever so game in all of his races, and will no doubt give his all however he surely won’t have the ability to take a race of this nature.
1:30 – Vauban 7/4
2:10 – I Like To Move It 12/1 ew & Broomfield Burg 25/1 ew
2:50 – Hillcrest 11/4
3:30 – A Plus Tard 10/3
4:10 – Billaway 2/1
4:50 – Elimay 15/8
5:30 – Chemical Energy 8/1 ew