Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh are on a roll now, but I still expect Native River to deny Djakadam in Friday’s feature, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Defi du Seuil looks the one to beat. I’m not sure though if he’ll be as effective on better ground and we’ll need to watch the skies as there’s rain forecast for Friday. Philip Hobbs’ runner is unbeaten over hurdles but I like Charli Parcs as an alternative. He took a heavy fall at Kempton but I saw him schooling recently and he seems to be over that tumble.
One thing to remember about the Triumph Hurdle is that it’s completely different from Supreme Novices Hurdle run on the Old Course. There you’ve got three hurdles in the last half mile. On the New Course, there’s only two hurdles over the final 7f furlongs. Even if yours makes a mistake – there’s still loads of time to get back into the game.
If someone had told me that last year’s impressive Triumph Hurdle winner Ivanovich Gorbatov would be running in the County Hurdle 12 months later, I’d have laughed.
However, the handicapper has given JP McManus’s runner a real chance off 11-4 and JJ Slevin takes another 5lb off his back. Don’t forget he beat Apples Jade and Lets Dance and we’ve seen how they’ve performed this week. At bigger prices for the places, Noel Meade’s Joey Sasa brings some graded form into the contest, while Diego Du Charmil won the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle last year and could be underestimated.
This Grade 1 3m contest isn’t always won by the best horse. It’s a grind and those that try to lead from the front can get beaten. I like Death Duty, who is down as one of the Irish bankers of the meeting and should be hard to beat.
Augusta Kate, who fell when challenging him at the last at Navan in January, is very interesting. Her style of racing should be suited to this test as she’ll creep into it late and try to pounce.
Henry de Bromhead’s Monalee is held by Death Duty on their Navan run in December over 2m 4f but was a ready winner at Clonmel on his last start. Tommy Rapper ran Tuesday’s winner Willoughby Court close at Warwick and is a massive price each-way.
I’m all over Colin Tizzard’s Native River. He was one of the unluckiest losers at the Festival when beaten in the 4m National Hunt Chase last year after losing his position with a bad mistake at the 13th. That would have stopped most horses, but he flew home after that to finish second to Minella Rocco.
This season he’s just been exceptional with victories in the Hennessy Gold Cup, Welsh Grand National and the Denman Chase at Newbury on his last start.
I’d love to see stablemate and national treasure Cue Card win – but the stats don’t lie.
Since 1950, only three 11 years olds and upwards have won a Gold Cup with What a Myth the last double digit runner to do so in 1969. Since then, 65 have tried and failed to win jumps racing’s premier prize.
Djakadam has to better than he was last year if he’s to finally win it at his third attempt. When I saw him schooling at Leopardswon a couple of weeks ago he was in the best condition I’d ever seen him. His preparation has gone very smoothly according to connections.
Playing for places
The Fellow won it at his fourth attempt, but I just feel that if Djakadam is ever going to win a Gold Cup, it has to be this year.
Personally, I don’t think Sizing John will see out the 3m 2f trip and I can’t see Bristol De Mai bouncing back after his Newbury defeat by Native River either.
Gordon Elliott’s has such a good week that his Lexus Chase winner Outlander wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world at an each-way price. Jonjo O’Neill’s record with staying chasers means More of That and Minella Rocco can out-run their odds – but they’re all playing for places behind Native River.
On the Fringe is going for three wins in this race and his price reflects that. It all depends how your day (and Festival!) is going, as you’re likely to be backing another short-price favourite here. The obvious alternative looks to be Paul Nicholls’ Wonderful Charm who is the highest-rated in the field and Katie Walsh has been booked to ride.
Willie Mullins has a great record in this race and has last year’s Champion Bumper second and fourth, Battleford and Castello Sforza.
However, I’ve been waiting for Coo Star Sivola who had entries in a couple of races and he looks a value play to me in the penultimate race of Cheltenham 2017. He was a close third to Diego Du Charmil (see County Hurdle earlier) in the Fred Winter last year and the five-year-old looks handicapped competitively. He bolted up at Warwick last time by 38 lengths and Nick Williams has his first Festival winner on Tuesday with Flying Tiger.
The grand finale and it could go the way of the market leaders. I’m taking the hint on Le Prezien. Sam Twiston-Davies has chosen him over stablemate Dodging Bullets. Le Prezien was third to Top Notch in the Scilly Isle Novices at Sandown and that one chased Yorkhill home yesterday in the JLT Chase.
He looks a big player as does Arthue Moore’s Dandridge. He made a mistake last year early on and still managed to finish second to Solar Impulse. If he can stay in contention early on he might just get his revenge at the business end.