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This is it folks, the pinnacle of the Festival, the race we have all been waiting for!
WILL Al Boum Photo retain his crown & win the race for the 3rd season in a row? Or will we have a new Champion??
We are now 3 days in, so lets have a look at the AOL Cheltenham Blog table….
FINAL FESTIVAL TABLE
1 Rich – 1 winner & 5 Places from 9 inc 28/1 winner, 40/1, 2 x 10/1 & 2 x 14/1 places
2 Chris -1 winner & 5 Places from 9
3 Jamie – 1 winner & 4 places from 9
4 Charlie – 1 Winner & 4 Places from 9
As it’s the final day of our coverage & the pinnacle of the Festival, our NH stalwart Chris takes the lead on the blog today( Obviously, the pinnacle of his AOL career to date too!)
1.20pm JCB Triumph Hurdle
Zanahiyr went into my notebook for this after winning his maiden hurdle last October, the son of Nathaniel then bolted up in the Bar One Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse. The time of that race stacks up well against the Grade 1 Royal Bond won by Ballyadam on the same card. He followed up in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Christmas, beating Saint Sam comfortably who was placed in the Boodles on Tuesday. Another step forward is obviously required here, but he has an excellent chance of with conditions to suit. UNPLACED
3.05 WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup
A Plus Tard has been a solid horse over fences over the past 3 season’s winning a pair of Grade 1’s and the Novices Handicap Chase back here in 2019. He took his form to another level when winning a red-hot Savills Chase in December. Looking back at the race, the front pair didn’t set an overly strong pace, so it was to my selection’s credit that he came from so far back and ran them down at the line. That finishing burst will be required again here, as will his ability to travel at a fair clip, which will most likely be the case today with Frodon and Native River out front. This could cap a magical week of firsts for Rachael Blackmore.
3.40 St James’s Palace Hunters Chase
I was hoping Bob And Co would line up here last season after 2 comfortable wins in Hunter Chases, but connections opted for another year before going for the big prize. Bob And Co reappeared at Haydock last month, and duly romped home by 17 lengths from a pair of useful rivals. Paul Nicholls knows how to win this after taking the 2017 and 2018 editions with Pacha Du Polder and whilst most of his form is on soft ground, he has won on good-to-soft in his younger days. I’m expecting him to be bang there up the hill.
1.55 McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) over 2m 179y
Selection – Third Time Lucky, 6yr old Gelding out of Arcadio and Definite Valley, has had 9 races in total although 1st run was a point to point where he finished a 3 and 1/4 length 2nd to Thomas Shelby, of the remaining 8 races Third Time Lucky ended up winning 5 of them and finishing 2nd twice and placing 3rd once. The wins have came at Market Rasen, Huntingdon, Uttoxeter, Wetherby and Kempton. Has had two races at Cheltenham the first was on the 11th March 2020 in the Champion Bumper when finishing 4th behind Ferny Hollow, Appreciate It and Queens Brook. The most recent run at Cheltenham came on the 15th November last year when beaten into 2nd by For Pleasure who had a 3 and 1/4 length advantage at the line, Jungle Junction was a further 13 lengths adrift in 3rd.
Verdict- Third Time Lucky has had two decent races at Cheltenham and deserves to be in the winners enclosure, his yard have won 3 of the last 5 renewals and will be looking to add to that today, biggest threats to the selection come in the shape of Champagne Gold and Ganapathi.
6th (Some bookies paid 6 places)
2.30 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle (Grade 1) over 2m 7f 213y
Selection – Barbados Bucks, 6yr old Gelding out of Getaway and Buck’s Blue, has had 6 races on UK soil 4 of them over hurdles winning 3 times and finishing 2nd in the other. The wins have came at Southwell X 2 and Kempton last time out on the 9th January when beating Fedelta by 4 lengths with Slipway a further 2 and 1/4 lengths behind in 3rd.
Verdict – Barbados Bucks has the potential to be a very good hurdler for Paul Nicholls as he looks to add to his Cheltenham winners, biggest threat to the selection comes in the shape of Torygraph who has won last two starts. UNPLACED
3.05 Gold Cup (Grade 1) over 3m 2f 70y
Selection – A Plus Tard, 7yr old Gelding out of Kapgarde and Turboka, has had 10 Chase starts winning 4 times and placing in the other 6, the wins have came at Naas, Cheltenham and Leopardstown. Won the Close Brothers Novices Chase in 2019 when beating Tower Bridge by 16 lengths with Ben Dundee a further 4 and 1/2 lengths behind in 3rd. Was 3rd in the Ryan Air behind winner Min and Saint Calvados.
Verdict – A Plus Tard has some decent form in the book and could spring a surprise win here against Al Boum Photo who’s looking to make it 3 gold cups in a row. Of the rest Native River could sneak a place at a price as could Kemboy.
1:20 – JCB Triumph Hurdle – Selection: Tritonic
Alan King does very well with juvenile hurdlers and he has a great chance to land a third Triumph Hurdle with Tritonic. The son of Sea The Moon really opened up after the last at Kempton in the Adonis and went into my notebook for this race. Tritonic has travelled very strongly into his races and the further he goes, the better he appears to be going. Cheltenham will demand more of a stamina test than Kempton but a strongly run race will suit him and he can sit off a strong pace and pounce up the straight. Zanahiyr is a big danger and deserves to be favourite on all known form. If Tritonic jumps as fluently and quickly as he did at Kempton he should be right in the mix coming up the hill. UNPLACED
2:30 – Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle – Torygraph
The Cullentra stable of Denise Foster hold a strong in the big race of the week for staying novice hurdlers. Fakeira is well fancied and I can see why but I like Torygraph at a slightly bigger price. The selection has won his last two races and the form stacks up reasonably well. He won a four runner novice hurdle at Thurles from Angels Dawn, who went very close to winning a graded hurdle at Navan. Torygraph will undoubtedly have to improve from that Thurles race but he wouldn’t be at Cheltenham if connections think he hadn’t. The quicker ground conditions do pose a question mark but if he improves for racing on a sounder surface then he has every chance. Staying power looks to be this horse’s main strength and that is what is needed to win an Albert Bartlett. The stables horses have been running consistently well all week and he is a nice price. UNPLACED
3:05 – WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup – Selection: Champ (Nap)
This is the race have all been waiting for. There is many in with chances and Al Boum Photo will be tough to beat here. However, he faces new challengers today and I have to say I think the Gold Cup will bring out the best in Champ. Last years RSA Chase winner is proven at Cheltenham and the extended trip today should be right up his street. We had to wait a long time to see Champ this season and not many would have pictured his reappearance being at Newbury over 2m in the Game Spirit. Despite the big drop in trip Champ coped very well and connections will have been delighted with the way he jumped and travelled to finish second. He will have to jump similarly well to have any chance here. The ground is perfect for him and at the prices he is good value. I am hoping he will storm up the hill like last year. It looks like being a strongly run race and that will play to the strengths of Champ.
1.20 JCB Triumph Hurdle – 4yo Only – Grade 1 – 2m 179yds…
Adagio – Wiener Walzer X Aspidistra 4yo gelding
3 wins & 1 place from is 4 hurdle starts. His 1 place came at this course in the Grade 2 over 2m 87yds when finishing 5 lengths to Duffle Coat back on November 10th in the trail for this race, having won on hurdle debut at Warwick by 7 & 1/2 lengths, just a week before finishing 2nd here!
Made no mistake on December 12thwhen returning back here, to land the Class 2 C&D trial for this race from Historic Heart by 4 & 3/4 lengths. Made it 3 wins from 4 starts by landing the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle, Grade 1 on January 9th by 2 & 1/2 lengths….
If one of the bigger players falter, he is in with a big shout of either winning or placing… 2nd
2.30 Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle – 4yo Plus – 2m 8f…..
Streets of Doyen – Doyen X Satco Street 7yo gelding.
Had been running unsuccessfully over 2m before stepping up in trip to 24f (3m) & then he won 4 on the bounce, rising in the ratings from 113 to 135, a run which included a C&D win in a Class 2 Novice Hurdle on October 24th 2020. Was given a break & returned over 1m 7f, his old trip in a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle, finishing 6th of 7 runners. Now back up to 24f, he will be looking add to his 4 from 4 over this distance!
Has an Each Way chance… 3rd
3.05 Gold Cup – 5yo Plus – Grade 1 – 3m 2f 70yds….
Native River – Indian River X Native Mo 11yo gelding.
3rd to Sizing John in 2017, winner in 2018 & 4th in 2019 to Al Boum Photo, Native River has history with this race. Having missed last years festival & seeing Al Boum Photo win back to back Gold Cups, he is back to try & regain his crown…
He won the Denman Grade 2 Chase at Newbury prior to last season’s festival but had an issue so had a nice rest. returned after 301 days at Aintree in the Many Clouds Chase (Miss that horse) Grade 2 over 3m 1f & finished 3rd to Lake View Lad by 3 lengths.
His last run at Sandown on February 6th in the 3m 37yd Grade 2 Cotswold Chase, showed the rest of the NH world that Native River can still win & boy did he win well.
He routed the field by 9 & 1/2 lengths & in 2nd was Bristol De Mai…
The 3 others to keep an eye on are… Champ, who if he jumps well then he will be very much in the mix, A Plus Tard, who is the improver in the field & Al Boum Photo, who is looking for his 3rd Gold Cup on the trot….
Native River will run a big race & out run his double figure odds…
Some bookies paying 5 places & at around 12/1, can out run them odds….
That is the end of our festival coverage 2021, we would like to thank each & everyone of you for popping in & for your support. We wish you all the best & we hope we have helped in some way, add to your enjoyment of the festival & the fantastic horses that have graced the festival….
STAY SAFE & Thank you.
All the Best – The Arseonlineracing Team