Race 1: Triumph Hurdle – 13:30
Plenty of judges weren’t impressed with Apple’s Shakira when she won the Triumph Hurdle trial in January but I am really excited about her and I feel Barry Geraghty was doing his best to educate her that day. I think she will relish the strong pace that the Triumph almost always produces and I expect her to power up the hill to give Nicky Henderson his seventh Triumph Hurdle.
Race 2: County Hurdle – 14:10
Willie Mullins has won this race four times in the past eight years and he could well improve that record here with the relatively lightly raced Meri Devie. She finished second in a grade 3 hurdle at Naas in November before a gallant second-place in a valuable handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse. She disappointed on unsuitable ground at Limerick at Christmas but was an impressive winner of a Listed Mares Hurdle at Punchestown last month, and you get the feeling that one of these big handicaps has been the plan ever since the Fairyhouse run. As a result she makes great each-way appeal at a rewarding price.
Race 3: Albert Bartlett – 14:50
Talkischeap is likely to be an outsider here but it was difficult not to be impressed with the way he travelled through his race when winning a competitive Newbury handicap very easily. He looks like the type that will relish the relentless pace you get in an Albert Bartlett and as he settles beautifully and travels strongly, he could easily surprise some of the more fancied runners here.
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Race 4: Timico Gold Cup – 15:30
Killultagh Vic was extremely unfortunate not to win the Irish Gold Cup last time out, falling at the last fence when it seemed he was coming with a winning run. He is very inexperienced for the test of a Gold Cup but his Irish Gold Cup run, on just his third ever chase start, shows what talent this horse has. I think he can finally give Willie Mullins a first Gold Cup win.
Race 5: Foxhunter Chase – 16:10
Caid Du Berlais has plenty of Cheltenham form, having been second in a Fred Winter, third in a Martin Pipe and also taking a Paddy Power Gold Cup. He has won three points easily enough and looks sure to play a big part in a race where Burning Ambition looks the biggest danger.
Race 6: Martin Pipe Handicap – 16:50
Sire Du Berlais was a huge eyecatcher on his reappearance at Fairyhouse, running on late for second without being given too hard of a ride. That run suggests he sits on a very good handicap mark and with Donie McInerney booked to ride that would only increase my confidence.
Race 7: Grand Annual – 17:30
Don’t Touch It was a grade 1 winning novice hurdler and won the Punchestown equivalent of this race last season. He hasn’t been in the best of form in two runs this year but one suspects that this race has been the plan and he is being aimed to peak for this for last year’s winning trainer Jessica Harrington.Head over to paddypower.com for the latest betting on the 2018 Cheltenham Festival