Hello and welcome to the final day of our Cheltenham Festival coverage… Gold Cup day! We will have a recap of Thursdays thoughts along with our Cheltenham blog table. Not to mention our thoughts on todays racing and of course the BIG race!
As you know, this website is 100% Independent with NO Affiliate links & curated by 2 racing enthusiasts from either end of the British Isles.. Alongside Charlie & Rich, we have our National Hunt Diary Columnist Chris Price and Talksport 2’s Lee Mackenzie.
Charlie had a day off but Rich, Chris & Lee all landed a winner in the opener with Defi Du Seuil, while Rich had another place with Faugheen….
Cheltenham Blog Table –
Name – Winners – Placed –
Rich 3 4
Lee 3 0
Chris 2 0
Charlie 0 1
Rich leads the table, which is a surprise to everyone including himself, but it’s the last day and anything can happen….
With that out of the way, we can concentrate on the racing and what a final day we have in store, building up to the big race at 3.30… We have the thoughts of our guest bloggers plus Charlie with his Friday Selections while Rich will have the Final Word…
Charlie – 2.50 Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)
Lisnagar Oscar -Hasnt really put a foot wrong having filled the first 3 places in his last 5 starts over distances of 2m to 3m. Was 2nd here back in December last year in a Class 1 group 2 novice hurdle, when beaten 2 and 3/4 lengths by Rockpoint. Has since won at Chepstow after dropping in grade to take a Class 4 Novice Hurdle over 2m 3f beating Dickie Diver by a head. Latest win came at Haydock after going back up in grade to take a Class1 Group 2 Novice Hurdle over 3m beating Ask Ben by 10 lengths. Lisnagar Oscar has experienced Cheltenham before so there is no doubt the course will suit, hopefully the ground doesn’t become too testing, as that could stop his chance of winning.
3.30 Gold Cup (Grade 1) Chase
Native River – Has been in great shape since landing this race last year. Was 2nd at Haydock over 3m 2f when beaten by 4 length by Bristol De Mai. Was 3rd in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day behind Clan Des Obeaux and Thistlecrack. Native River loves Cheltenham and if recapturing the form shown when winning this last year could well go well again. Although he has faced several of tomorrow’s opposition before he could be the one pulling out all the stops in the later stages.
4.10 Foxhunters Chase (Class 2)
Shantou Flyer -Has won here twice in the past but last 3 visits to Cheltenham have seen Shantou Flyer finish 2nd. Although Shantou has won last two starts in Hunter Chases at Kelso over 2m 7f and at Fontwell over 3m 2f. Main threat comes in the shape of Road to Rome who has won last 4 starts for J J O’shea.
Native River – 3.30 Cheltenham Gold Cup
I start with last years winner, who has done little wrong in two starts this season. A good second to Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai on reappearance in the Betfair Chase was followed by a running on third in the King George, with track and conditions far from ideal. Any overnight rain would be appreciated as the softer it gets, the better his chance will be with his abundance of stamina. Currently priced about 5/1, he is more than worth an each-way bet to nothing as he’s sure to be galloping up the hill when others cry enough.
Hazel Hill – 4.10 St James’s Palace Foxhunters Chase
I feel ashamed going against my beloved Pacha Du Polder after big priced wins the past two years, but as age appears to be catching up with him and 12yo’s do not have the best record in this contest, I can only advise a small each-way play. So for the win I’m going for the highly consistent Hazel Hill, who has put up a highly respectable sequence of 14 wins from his past 15 starts. I was impressed by the way he stormed clear at Warwick in January and appears to have plenty to his liking today at the current price of 6/1.
Assessing the Gold Cup isn’t made an easier by the presence of Presenting Percy, whose unconventional preparation could lead to the mother-and-father of all gambles if connections feel he’s spot-on. He was impressive in the RSA last season and correctly became a major contender for this race as a consequence.
Clan De Obeaux has been the big improver this winter, but I prefer a proven Cheltenham performer, so it’s hard to ignore the record of the reigning champion NATIVE RIVER. It’s obvious he often hits a flat spot and then stays on (though not in last year’s race), but Gold Cups are rarely won by horses who sit on the bridle and quicken up like a Guineas winner.
He’s made for Gold Cups, and you only have to look at Richard Johnson’s face when he talks about him to realise that he does too. I’ve heard criticism of his two outings this season but for me they were both excellent performances in unhelpful circumstances.
The overpriced runner is Bristol De Mai, who has been unfairly dismissed as a Haydock mud specialist. One of the few in the field capable of a genuinely top-class performance, and more effective at Cheltenham than he is given credit for, he will benefit from being fresh and should run surprisingly well.
The Foxhunters is always tricky because there are so many unknowns, but I’d be surprised if SHANTOU FLYER didn’t run a big race. David Maxwell loves to find a runner for this one and he had an armchair ride round Fontwell in his prep. As a former big-field handicapper – he was pipped by Coo Star Sivola in the Ultima last year – he won’t be out of place in the hurly-burly of the Festival and rates a big player.
Final Word with Rich –
Thanks guys, it really has been a pleasure to have you on board this week and maybe we can see what the Grand National Meeting at Aintree next month brings…. Lets get straight to the opening race of the day….
1.30… Triumph Hurdle… Grade 1 Class 1… 2m 179yds…
Quel Destin… A debut runner up spot at Chepstow in a 2m Class 4 Juvenile Hurdle in October but since that day is unbeaten in 5 2m runs and has won the Grade 2 trial over C&D for this race by 1 & 1/4 lengths in November, landed the Grade 2 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster on December 15th before landing the Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow just 12 days later. Was last seen on February 16th, when taking a Class 2 Juvenile Hurdle again at Chepstow by 6 lengths….
DANGER….. Sir Erec… The former flat horse is 2 from 2 over hurdles and only started his career in December, when taking a 2m Leopardstown Maiden by a neck. Stepped up in Grade when last seen on February 3rd, taking the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown by 6 lengths from Gardens of Babylon….
2.50… Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle… Grade 1 Class 1… 2m 8f….
Birchdale… Two from two over hurdles this season. The former Point to Point winner over 3m in May quickly made a splash on rules debut at Warwick, when landing a 2m 5f Class 4 maiden hurdle by 4 lengths on December 13th. Quickly stepped up in grade when landing the Ballymore Grade 2 Novice Hurdle at this course over 2m 4f by 18 lengths on January 26th when last seen. Up in grade & trip….
3.30… Gold Cup Chase… Grade 1 Class 1… 3m 2f 70yds…
I am probably letting my heart rule my head here, but hey ho..
Thistlecrack… At 11 years old, the oldest in the field. Has run at this course 5 times, winning 3 times and placing once, to the mighty Many Clouds. Has run well in defeat this season and hasn’t been beaten that far. 3rd to Bristol De Mai by 5 & 3/4 lengths in the Lancashire Chase at Haydock over 3m 1f and then last time out in the King George IV on Boxing day at Kempton, when runner up to Clan Des Obeaux by 1 & 1/2 lengths, if still in the same form then has to be in with a shout… EACH WAY…
Of the rest… You cannot rule out Bristol De Mai, who can beat anyone on his day and the ground could just fall in his favour. Clan Des Obeaux is in fine form and the King George IV winner added the Denman Chase to the list of victories this season on February 16th… The reigning champ Native River gets his ground and will try and turn this into a true test of stamina, having been set out for this all season so we can expect him to give it all he has got. And then there is Presenting Percy, who would be the first horse to win this race without jumping a chase fence for a very long time. Although he has run over hurdles in Ireland, when winning the Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle on January 24th by 1 & 3/4 lengths and has last seen jumping fences in public when landing the RSA at this course last season…
And finally at a double figure price, there is the Welsh Grand National winner(3m 5f) Elegant Escape, who was a 3/4 length runner up to Frodon in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase(3m 1f) on January 26th….
A massive thanks to everyone for a fantastic effort this week… Thanks to everyone who has read our blogs and we hope we have helped you land a touch or two during the 4 days….
That is all for today folks… It has been a pleasure… Thank You…
All the best – The Cheltenham Blog Team