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    Cheltenham Festival : Day Four, the Gold Cup and Triumph Hurdle take centre stage    
    DATE POSTED: 17/03/2016    
    Finally, the last day of the meeting, and what a finish - The Triumph Hurdle, The County Hurdle and the Gold Cup...  It doesn't get much better than this...

It’s almost time to pull up the stakes, take down the big top, and say goodbye to the 2016 Cheltenham Festival carnival. But first there are seven more chances to witness the best racing around, and hopefully lighten the bookmaker satchels just a little. We hope have enjoyed it as much as we have.

1:30 JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Alan King has three, Willie Mullins four, and Paul Nicolls no less than five of the 15 youngsters in the race, so it looks like they are all uncertain of where the winner will come from. Likewise, we have no real opinions on their runners although we know Paul was very taken with Zubayr at the sales, to the extent that he was bought for 380,000 Euros. We propose taking a chance with IVANOVICH GORBATOV, trained by Aidan O’Brien. The horse has ran well on the Flat (rated 103) and also taken well to hurdles. His handler doesn’t raid Cheltenham often, but when he does he’s dangerous. For the placings, we tentatively offer Sceau Royal as he is the most experienced hurdler, and Paul Nicholls’ Connetable who looked good when winning at Sandown last month.

2:10 County Handicap Hurdle
We like the look of Philip Hobbs runner Wait for me, who has made a couple of jumping errors in previous races but looks well handicapped if he puts in a clear round. Willie Mullins won this race last year with a 25-1 shot and a repeat of that with Diocosimo would not be shock. There seems to be something of a gamble on STARCHITECT and David Pip places his horses very shrewdly in the big handicap. However this is a twenty-six runner race and many a good plan goes astray in the hurly-burly.

2:50 Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle
This looks like another one for the best hurdles rider Cheltenham has ever known, and we fully expect Ruby Walsh and LONG DOG to take some beating. The tough unbeaten Barter’s Hill, from trainer Ben Pauling, should give him plenty to think about. Definite Outcome is our idea of a long-priced place contender.

3:30 Cheltenham Gold Cup
The whole Gold Cup picture changed when two highly-rated contenders were switched from this race to Thursday’s Ryanair Chase, and it is undoubtedly the poorer for this. However it does increase the opportunity for Cue Card to complete the Betfair/ King George/Gold Cup treble that would fetch connections a mouth-watering £1,000,000 bonus in addition to the £300,000 prize money.

One fly in the ointment might be Don Cossack, who at 7yo, is 3 years younger and was the betting favourite in the King George but falling when still in contention. His trainer Gordon Elliott is convinced that the horse is better on a sound surface. We worry that his tendency to run in snatches counts against him here but his chance is undeniable. There is quite a mix of abilities amongst the remaining runners. For example horses over the age of ten rarely win the Gold cup and the last time a 12yo won was 1951, yet we have 12yo On His Own having a go. Not only is the statistic well against him but he is just a journeyman chaser, and it would be a real shock if he won.

No 10 year-old has won since 1998 but both Carlingford Lough and Cue Card will be trying to buck the trend for younger horses to win. The former is basically another journeyman and despite a fortunate win at Leopardstown last month, we cannot see him repeating that here. Cue Card should have the beating of relentless galloper and front-runner, Smad Place, but must not allow him to get too far ahead. The biggest threat is likely to come from second-season chasers Djakadam and Don Poli from the all-conquering Mullins yard, Both have proven credentials as the former was 2nd in the Gold Cup last year while Don Poli took the RSA. Ruby Walsh has opted to ride DJAKADAM and we will respect his judgement, but we really hope that Cue Card can continue to roll back the years to win that huge jackpot for Charlie Tizzard and owners. It would be certain bring the house down.

4:10 Foxhunter Chase
Experience counts for a lot in this race (horses and Jockeys) and we are looking for a good run from PAINT THE CLOUDS, who was 2nd last year but has the ground he needs to show his best. Sam Waley-Cohen has of course won the Gold Cup on Long Run and shouldn’t be found wanting in the saddle tomorrow. Mendip Express is likely to go well, while Shropshire trained by Sheila Crow, Mr Mercurial could see the race out and still be around at the finish.

4:50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle Hurdle
Lightly-raced 5yo, SQUAUATEUR from trainer Gordon Elliott is the likely favourite, and rightly so, on the basis of a trio of easy wins in Ireland from a total of five outings. However, with 24 Conditional (apprentice) jockeys charging adown the Cheltenham hill, anything is possible. Gordon’s other runner Jetstream Jack caught our eye with a game win at Musselburgh earlier this year and is an improver to watch out for. Montdragon has crept in at the bottom of the handicap and could go close for Jonjo O’Neill.

5:30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase
We tipped The St James when he finished 3rd in the Fred Winter last year and are inclined to give him another chance, now chasing. He’s only a novice but he will have been prepped with this race in mind and could be a decent price for a place. ROCK THE WORLD is our idea of the winner, having this race in mind for a long time and having beaten a few decent horses along the way. Red Spinner has had a rest since finishing 4th at Doncaster in December following a run of four consecutive wins. This front-runner should be fresh enough to put on a bold show.  

Well, that finishes the Festival for another year, and what a good one it has been! Hope to see you again next year. In the meantime roll-on Aintree!

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