We’re finally arrived at Friday Day four at the Festival! The wallets and liver may have taken a battering over the last few days but its now time for one last chance to enjoy the greatest show on earth.
Before we being, all our selections are on with Bet365 – if you don’t have an account we recommend you get one below!
Four selections for Friday:
- Back Our Duke to win the Gold Cup (3.30) at 11/2 with Bet365
- Back Stormy Ireland to win the Triumph Hurdle (1.30) at 5/1 with Bet365
- Back Santini to win the Albert Bartlett (2.50) at 4/1 with Bet365
- Back Forest Bihan to win the Grand Annual (5.30) at 25/1 with Bet365
OUR DUKE looks set to make it back-to-back wins in the Cheltenham Gold Cup for trainer Jessica Harrington. The Irish handler landed last year’s event with Sizing John but although that horse in unfortunately unable to defend his crown through injury, she has a more than useful back-up in the shape of Our Duke.
This horse is built for a test like the Gold Cup provides and the added juice to the ground only further enhances his chances of success.
It’s been an inconsistent campaign for last year’s Irish Grand National winner, who started the season with a very flat effort before his jumping let him down in the Irish Gold Cup, where he still stayed onto finish fourth.
However, he looked back to his best last time out when outstaying the subsequent RSA Chase winner Presenting Percy in the style of a top-class animal.
The stiff nature of the Gold Cup trip will suit this horse much more than his rivals – he’ll be bang there from three out and it’s whether he’s got the minerals to get up that hill. I think he has.
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Momentum is building behind the chances of STORMY IRELAND in the Triumph Hurdle – mostly due to the incredible form that the Willie Mullins team find themselves in.
Four-year-old hurdlers aren’t usually top of Mullins’ priority list but the vibes are very strong behind this mare’s chances.
The winning margin of 58 lengths on her was more than a fair reflection of her superiority over that field and her jumping was very assured on a very soft surface.
She looks the one to beat despite the vibes being strong about Apples Shakira.
The Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle usually goes to a strong stayer, capable of galloping when the going gets tough.
The one that fits that bill is SANTINI, who brings a high level of form to the table courtesy of his win over Black Op – that horse finished second in the Ballymore Hurdle.
He looked beat that day on heavy ground as they jumped the last but toughed it out in gritty fashion to overhaul the long-time leader. That form is very strong and he should be followed with confidence.
A chance is taken on FOREST BIHAN to win the Grand Annual – or the get out jail stakes to those punters who have endured a tough week.
He won a competitive handicap off the same mark earlier this season and his hold-up style of racing should be perfect for the Grand Annual where the leaders always come back to the closers at the business end.
He’s a little bit inconsistent with his jumping and sometimes can belt one, but this horse has a huge engine and could be the class act in the final race of the 2018 Festival.
DAY THREE TIPS
Cheltenham is flying past at a rate of knots – is it really Day Three already?
The JLT Novices Chase looks a below par renewal this season – and it looks a good opportunity for TERREFORT for land a Cheltenham Festival novice chase double for owner Simon Munir, who also won the Racing Post Arkle with Footpad on Tuesday. The forecast rain that is due to fall on Prestbury Park looks certain to suit Nicky Henderson’s smart novice, who is a natural over the larger obstacles.
His performance in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase where beating the Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname was full of positives when analysing this race. He’s very enthusiastic over his fences and looks to have a fantastic attitude for a battle, which will do him no harm when push comes to shove up the Cheltenham hill. Invitation
Only brings some smart form from Ireland over but there is a slight doubt about his ability to truly stay the trip in bottomless ground while Terrefort will relish it.
Un De Sceaux heads the market for what looks an intriguing Ryanair Chase. Willie Mullins’ brute of a chaser won this race in fine style 12 months ago, where he was given a masterful ride by Ruby Walsh.
The heavy ground will suit him but Walsh suffered a suspected broken leg on Wednesday and won’t be fit to partner him. This horse is a tricky customer and no matter how talented Paul Townsend is, Walsh will be missed.
On that basis, amongst other things, I’ll be taking him on. It’s not a deep renewal in terms of quality, therefore CUE CARD might just be able to roll back the clock and land another win at the top level at the age of 12.
His run behind Waiting Patiently, who would have been a good thing in this, reads very strongly as Cue Card set a scorching gallop and maintained it all the way until the final eighth of the race.
He jumped brilliantly, looked full of beans and if he brings that sort of form to the table then Un De Sceaux will have a race on his hooves.
The each-way players should be licking their lips at the prospect of backing UNKNOWWHATIMEANHARRY in the Stayers Hurdle around the 10/1 mark.
Harry Fry’s gutsy stayer will relish the underfoot conditions at Cheltenham.
It was only 12 months ago that he went off odds-on for this contest when he was denied by a splendid ride from Walsh on Nichols Canyan.
This year’s renewal looks to lack a true superstar and guts may be the order of the day. Uknowwhatimeanharry has that in spades.
He’s well overpriced.
The forecast ground means you can rule out plenty in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap.
But one that will be ploughing through the mud with a huge smile on his face will be LAST GOODBYE, who could develop into a Graded performer over fences when the mud is flying.
His latest win at Leopardstown was richly impressive and the handicapper may not have caught up with a horse that ran brilliantly in the novice edition of this race when the ground wasn’t in his favour.
The 12/1 is well worth taking.
DAY TWO TIPS
Yesterday was fun – shall we do it all over again today? Damn right we will!
Before we being, all our selections are on with Bet365 – if you don’t have an account we recommend you get one below!
Wednesday at Cheltenham is all about ALTIOR this year.
It’s always a treat watching him strut his stuff and today will be the day where his greatness can be celebrated widely. For some reason despite being unbeaten over hurdles and fences in 12 starts, there are doubts regarding his status within jump racing.
He already has two Cheltenham Festival victories to his name in novice company but this is his first opportunity to get that all-important win at the very top level.
On everything we’ve seen so far, if he turns up anywhere near his best, then those taking skinny odds will have few palpitations. Min will provide his sternest challenge in the Queen Mother Champion Chase (3:30).
However, considering Altior hammered him by seven lengths in the Supreme Novices Hurdle when they last met, it’d be a huge surprise to see Min triumph.
Judging by the hype, Samcro is likely to go off a warmer order than Altior in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle (1.30), which is pretty staggering. Here we have a potentially top-class animal, but one that hasn’t yet showed he can handle the trials and tribulations of a Cheltenham Festival.
And, perhaps more significantly, he hasn’t yet showed his form is of a higher level than NEXT DESTINATION, who looks worth chancing at the current prices for the Willie Mullins team.
The six-year-old looks a much improved horse this season judging by his Graded wins at Naas over the winter, where he showed enough speed, stamina and class to declare himself a top-class prospect.
The duel in the RSA Chase (2.10) between Presenting Percy and MONALEE has been talked up as one the clashes of the week. Both Irish horses look well capable of developing into Gold Cup players next season but it’s Monalee that looks capable of fulfilling that promise over fences.
He rates as a decent wager to land the Wednesday novice chase feature despite stamina question marks. Usually this race falls to a horse that is soaked in stamina but – as we saw last year with Might Bite – when a high-class performer lines up, ability can see him through. Monalee looks that type.
CAUSE OF CAUSES comes to life at this time of year as shown by his wins at the last three Cheltenham Festivals.
He goes for a near unprecedented four-timer in the Cross Country Chase (4.10) and such is the lack of credible contenders, he rates as the most likely winner at the prices.
The Wednesday handicaps are hideously tricky to solve but small stakes are advised on TOPOFTHEGAME in the Coral Cup (2.40) and ACT OF VALOUR in the Fred Winter (4.50) both of whom are trained by Paul Nicholls.
The master trainer has an exceptional record in the Fred Winter, having trained the one-two in two of the last three seasons.
Ballymore (1:30): Next Destination 3/1
RSA (2:10): Monalee 3/1
Coral Cup (2:50): Topofthegame 12/1
Champion Chase (3:30): Altior 4/6
Cross Country (4:10): Cause Of Causes 3/1
Fred Winter (4:50): Act Of Valour 8/1
DAY ONE TIPS
The race has a nice-each way shape to it and FIRST FLOW looks a decent punting alternative to the favourite Getabird.
The rain has come at the perfect time for the six-year-old, who in unbeaten over timber, including running away with the Sky Bet Supreme Trial at Haydock.
He possesses the perfect mix of speed and stamina, which makes him an intriguing runner in what does look an open race if you take out the favourite.
FOOTPAD is the day’s good thing for those that like steaming into a short priced one.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins has called him one of the best novice chasers to have come from his yard, which is a statement that needs respecting considering the talent that has jumped fences at Mullins’ base.
Footpad has been faultless over the bigger obstacles, showing a jumping technique absolutely perfect for two-mile chasing.
He’s big, he’s bold and he jumps at top speed – unlike his chief market rival Petit Mouchoir, who looks a far better hurdler than chaser and is well held by Footpad on their form from Leopardstown.
BUVEUR D’AIR and APPLE’S JADE should win the Champion Hurdle and Mares Hurdle, respectively, although you don’t really need me to tell you that – their short prices should be enough of a giveaway.
SHANTOU FLYER represents solid each-way value in the Ultima Handicap Chase (2:50).
On a straight form line through favourite Coo Star Sivola, the selection is well overpriced as he’s 8lbs better off in this race despite actually beating Coo Star Sivola at Cheltenham last time out.
The discrepancy in price between the two horses is pretty staggering.
The predicted slower surface enhances the chances of MS PARFOIS in the National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase (4:50).
You can set your clock by the seven-year-old mare in terms of her performance level. She jumps superbly, tries her heart out and brings all-important Graded form to the table in this race.
BARNEY DWAN, who runs in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase (5:30), has long been a fancy of mine for the Tuesday handicap and although the ground has gone softer than ideal, he still looks to have a huge opportunity.
His piece of form behind Presenting Percy last year at the Festival added to his impressive runs to date over fences that gives him a very strong chance. One year on, he comes back to the Festival as a talented novice chaser racing off the same mark in what looks a far easier race than what the Pertemps was.
Supreme (1:30): FIRST FLOW 10/1
Arkle (2:10): FOOTPAD 5/4
Ultima (2:50): SHANTOU FLYER 20/1
NH Chase (4:50): MS PARFOIS 8/1
Close Brothers (5:30): BARNEY DWAN 8/1