The fourth and final Day of the Cheltenham Festival 2020 starts with the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle and, with no further rain forecast to hit the track on Gold Cup Day, there is the distinct possibility that conditions will have dried out to good to soft for the Blue Riband contest of the whole meeting.
Thirteen go to post for the opener and, in the same way I couldn’t have Asterion Forlonge on the opening day because of his tendency to jump out to his right, I will avoid Goshen who I know is held in the highest regard by connections. He jumped badly out to his right at Fontwell on his hurdle debut, however, and I wouldn’t want to on his outside going down to the first that’s for sure.
Solo should have the race run to suit with a number of front-runners in attendance, but I am a big admirer of Allmankind (1.30) and I hope jockey Dan Skelton can get the fractions right on the each way selection – best-priced 9/2 with Unibet – in the same way as he did aboard Politilogue in the Champion Chase on Wednesday. He gets the each way vote.
The following County Hurdle is one of the big betting races of the week. Willie Mullins has saddled the winner of the race four times in the last decade and leading owner JP McManus had four Festival winners on Wednesday. The pair team up with Betfair Hurdle second Ciel De Neige and Saint Roi (2.10) and the latter gets a narrow vote with Barry Geraghty in the plate on the each way selection.
Ciel De Neige – best priced 7/1 – has only been raised 3lbs for his Newbury run and is only 6lbs higher than when third in last year’s Fred Winter. He deserves to land a big prize and he looks sure to be there or thereabouts, but I felt Saint Roi – smashed off the boards on Thursday morning/early afternoon from 14s to a best-priced 9/1 with Unibet – looked potentially very smart when winning at Tramore on New Year’s Day and this looks to have been the target for some time.
I was disappointed with the runs of both Sporting John and Defi Du Seuil for the Philip Hobs yard on Wednesday and, for that reason alone, it is hard to be confident about the prospects of Thyme Hill in the Albert Bartlett. I am writing this column ahead of Thursday’s racing but will be closely monitoring the form of the stable. Without that knowledge I have jumped ship from Thyme Hill to Monkfish (2.50) who was going well when left clear at Thurles last time. The selection is likely to be back here for the RSA or NH Chase in 12 months’ time, but I hope he can reward each way support at 7/1 with bet365 – five places .
The Gold Cup is a terrific renewal – the ground is coming right for Lostintranslation but I am also concerned about the wellbeing of the Colin Tizzard yard who also had a modest opening couple of days.
Al Boum Photo is bidding to become the first horse since Best Mate to win the Gold Cup back-to-back but the each way vote goes to Delta Work (3.30). Mark Walsh takes over in the saddle with Davy Russell riding Presenting Percy and I hope to see Gordon Elliot’s seven-year-old reverse last season’s RSA Chase when he finished behind Santini.
I think that might be the key piece of form and felt at the time Russell should have kicked on three out. He was short of room going to the last and squeezed out before finishing well in a close third. The Irish Gold Cup winner is 5/1 with 10bet and is another each way recommendation.
Last year’s Foxhunters’ winner Hazel Hill blotted his copybook at Warwick last time by jumping out to his right – violently at times – and he was beaten by Jonjo O’Neill’s former top-class chaser Minella Rocco who heads the market at 9/2. Hazell Hill did jump out to his right on occasions 12 months ago, but not as badly as was the case at Warwick. He is reluctantly overlooked.
The each way vote goes to last season’s runner up Shantou Flyer (4.10) at 9/1 with bet365. The selection is unbeaten in two starts so far this season and do note most layers are betting five places on what is the Gold Cup for amateur riders.
In the Grand Annual the nod goes to Paloma Blue (4.50) for Henry De Bromhead and Aidan Coleman who was in the plate when Put The Kettle On landed the Arkle for the yard on the opening day. The 8-year-old has never quite fulfilled the promise he showed as a novice hurdler – fourth in the Supreme Novice Hurdle here two years ago. At 12/1 with Boylesports – five places – he still has a touch of class and I expect to see him produced fast and late.
I am a big fan of Pileon in the finale, but it has been a wonderful opening couple of days for owner JP McManus and there is every chance that Front View (5.30) could be very well treated of a mark of 139 and the booking of Jonjo O’Neill Jnr for this conditional jockey’s event is a big plus. At 5/1 with William Hill – 5 places – I would be disappointed if he did not run a very big race.
Over at Fakenham and I would prefer Ashutor to Homer in the 2m handicap hurdle on decent ground, but I have backed Onefortheroadtom (2.35) in the 3m Handicap Chase for Harry Fry in the colours of JP McManus. JP has won six races on the first three days of the Cheltenham Festival this week but small fish – arguably at least from a punting perspective – are equally as sweet and the selection is 11/8 with William Hill.
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