Gold Cup Day starts with the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle and the form of the unbeaten Tritonic’s two wins took a knock at Stratford on Monday when the runner up Casa Loupi was beaten at Stratford. Yes, Jamie Moore lost his irons coming around the final bend, but he looked beaten at the time and the Irish juvenile form looks far superior.
Zanahiyr (1.20) readily brushed aside Saint Sam in a Grade 3 at Fairyhouse back in November and has been market leader for today since that date although Tritonic was vying for favouritism earlier in the week. Saint Sam finished runner up in the Boodles earlier in the week but travelled like the best horse in the race and he was beaten 14L by the selection. The form of his most recent win was let down by the second Busselton in the 4-y-o handicap on Tuesday, but he made a bad mistake four out and never got competitive. The selection is 5/4 with William Hill.
Quilixios – a former stablemate of Zanahiyr – has a bit to find with the selection on a line through Saint Sam but he is unbeaten in four starts over timber and is the sole Grade 1 winner in the field. He is a big danger.
I have backed a couple in the County Hurdle. Dan Skelton and Willie Mullins have shared the last six renewals of the County Hurdle and I think they can fight out the finish again today with Mullins saddling five including Ganapathi (1.55) who travelled very well before tiring behind stablemate Gaillard Du Mesnil in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown last time over 2m 6f. This will be the fastest ground the ew selection – 13/2 with BetVictor 5 places – has encountered but I am not overly concerned with that and he has a similar profile to last year’s winner Saint Roi.
Third Time Lucki finished fourth in the Champion Bumper 12 months ago for Dan Skelton and that form was franked when runner up Appreciate It ran away with the Supreme on Tuesday. He will need luck in running given he likes to be held up, but he will enjoy the forecast good ground and there should be plenty of pace in the race. He was 10/1 earlier in the week but has been backed into 7s at the time of writing.
The Albert Bartlett would not be one of my highlights of the meeting, but I hope to see Fakiera (2.30) improve past Stattler stepping up to three miles for the first time. The ew selection – 11/2 with William Hill 4 places – finished best of all when fourth at Leopardstown over 2m 6f last time although he does have 2L to find with the Mullins’ trained market leader.
The Gold Cup is the Blue Riband event of the week, and I was impressed with the reappearance of Champ (3.05) over an inadequate trip at Newbury last month when his jumping was fast and fluent save the last. He was beaten just 2L by Sceau Royal on that occasion and the winner would have gone very close in the Champion Chase on Wednesday had he not been badly interfered with at a vital stage. He jumped poorly but still got up close home in the RSA Chase 12 months ago and he gets the each way vote – 6s with Boylesports 4 places – for Nicky Henderson in the famous colours of JP McManus.
Al Boum Photo will have his ground and is a worthy favourite as he bids for an historic treble, but this is a slightly better race than the last two renewals and a bigger danger could be Minella Indo who was mugged close home by Champ 12 months ago but has failed to fire in his last couple of starts. His Festival record reads 12 and it is possible that a change of scenery will see a return to his best. Rachel Blackmore prefers A Plus Tard and underfoot conditions have come right for the other Henry De Bromhead charge.
My each way recommendation in the Hunter Chase is Chameron (3.40) who impressed me when scoring at Leicester last month and that form has been franked by the runner up Cousin Pascal who dotted up at Catterick earlier in the month. This could be another race dominated by the Irish with last season’s 1-2 It Came To Pass and Billaway locking horns again but I hope to see Chameron keep the prize on home soil. The ew recommendation is 16s with MansionBet 4 places.
In the inaugural running of the mares’ chase Elimay (4.15) jumped slightly out to her right when scoring at Naas last time but she is a very talented mare, and she receives 2lbs from stablemate Colreevy. The selection – 5/4 with Unibet – finished runner up to Alaho on her penultimate start and a good run from that stablemate in the Ryanair on Wednesday would increase confidence behind the grey in another race that looks destined to cross the Irish Sea.
Langer Dan carries a 5lbs penalty in the concluding Martin Pipe Hurdle for sluicing up in the Imperial Cup at Sandown at the weekend but that was run on desperate ground, and he would surely have had a hard race although it looked a cakewalk visually.
The unexposed Gentleman De Mee (4.50) is fitted with a first-time hood by Mullins and steps up in trip having easily landed the odds over the minimum trip at Naas last month on his first start for the yard. The ew selection – 9/2 with 10bet 5 places – finished second on both starts in his native France and he is certainly bred to appreciate today’s additional half-mile. His inexperience in this big field is a slight concern but Simon Torrens has been having a terrific season in these big handicaps in Ireland.