A cracking renewal of the Triumph Hurdle and the market is finding it hard to split the first three. Allmankind has done nothing wrong, winning all three starts to date, but he is likely to go off very hard again, and could prove vulnerable to the likes of GOSHEN and Solo in the closing stages.
The former has won his last six starts both on the Flat and over hurdles by wide margins, and sets the standard on form, for all there is room for improvement in the jumping department. Conditions should be in his favour and he looks a solid contender.
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Ultra competitive as usual but CIEL DE NIEGE has been threatening to land a big pot and can go one better than in the Betfair Hurdle last month. Admittedly, he remains a maiden over hurdles, but is more than capable from this mark, and can provide J.P. McManus with yet another winner this week.
The County Hurdle is sure to be run at a break-neck gallop and Aramon, one of last season’s top novices, is also high on the shortlist.
THYME HILL arguably has the best form on show and, given the manner of his success in the Challow Hurdle last time, probably hasn’t reached his limited as a hurdler, so last year’s Champion Bumper third is taken to put up another big Festival showing.
The Albert Bartlett is always a thorough test of stamina for largely unexposed horses, and Latest Exhibition shapes as though he will relish the demands of this race, so he is also considered.
A wide-open renewal of the Gold Cup where you can make a good case for half a dozen. It is hard to steer away from last year’s winner AL BOUM PHOTO, though. History tells you that it is incredibly hard to win back-to-back Gold Cups, but he has been lightly campaigned since, and has followed the exact same path as 12 months ago.
Moreover, he remains relatively lightly-raced, is still only and eight-year-old, and won with more in hand than the margin suggests 12 months ago.
The Mullins runner BILLAWAY has a different profile to the bulk of his rivals, lightly raced and firmly on the up. He can improve further to account for the likes of Minella Rocco and last year’s winner Hazel Hill, the pair having pulled a long way clear as they fought out the finish at Wetherby earlier in the year. Caid du Berlais also warrants a mention.
The one horse that stands out in the Grand Annual is GREANETEEN, who has made an excellent transition to fences this season. His slick and accurate jumping is a standout, showing a natural ability to jump fences that not many horses have, and he wouldn’t have been out of place if contesting the Arkle earlier in the week.
Therefore he is a strong bet to win this from a mark of 150, the sort to progress into a graded performer sooner rather than later.
FRONT VIEW represents last year’s winning connections and with Jonjo O’Neill Jnr booked everything looks set for a huge run from the promising five-year-old. He chased down Envoi Allen on his hurdling debut and, for all he hasn’t progressed much since, he appeals as being on a fair mark on handicap debut, so is a strong fancy.
His old rival Five O’Clock likely has a bigger effort in him also and demands close attention. Pileon, with the excellent Ben Jones up, looks the clear pick of the British challengers. Column of Fire heads up the Gordon Elliott battalion.