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    Cheltenham Blog  -  Day Four, Friday 16th March 2012    
    DATE POSTED: 15/03/2012    

Arguably everything has been building up to this day, and one race - Kauto Star's Gold Cup.  One of the largest audiences for jump racing ever will watch Nicholls' star chaser go up against Long Run, hoping that the veteran can make racing history...


Has Cheltenham saved the best for last? We certainly hope so, as we have the much-hyped Gold Cup with the (elderly?) superstar and a young pretender. We also have a race for the best 4YO hurdlers around and we start with another top race, the Triumph Hurdle.

The last Irish trained Triumph Hurdle winner was back in 2002 and his handler was Willie Mullins (who is having a quiet Festival by his standards) and who will be hoping that his 140,000 Euros purchase DARROUN (1.30pm) will bolster his account tomorrow. The horse was a Flat winner in good ground in France and has gone well on softer ground in his two Irish hurdle races. We would have preferred him to have had at least one more run over the sticks but he still looks a live contender who is sure to last up the final hill. BABY MIX was made favourite for this on the strength of a course and distance win in November but then ran a stinker in another Triumph trial which included several of tomorrow's runners. However he bounced back with a comfortable win in decent at Kempton and looks worth the odds of 6-1.

The Irish will be desperate to have the winner in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle which goes off at 2:05pm, and we would dearly love to wait until afterwards before posting a selection for this highly competitive race. However if pressed we put forward IFYOULETMEFINISH (2.05pm), who was 4l behind Pearl Swan but gave him 11lb in a novice event (Pearl Swan runs in the opener so we may get a clue from that). Our selection was also in a dead heat with a horse rated 144 last time out at Taunton, and as a result there's been quite a bit of money for him in the ring. SNAP TIE has been off the course since winning a race here in October 2009 but Philip Hobbs wouldn't run him if he was not ready and there has been a lot of support in the market for this top class hurdler. Although as a 10YO he may not be the force he was, nevertheless the omens look reasonable for a good run off 10st 2lb.

Boston Bob is a very well-backed favourite in the Albert Bartlett Novice's hurdle and owners Andrea and Graham Wylie will be hoping for a trip into the winner's enclosure. Noel Meade's IPSOS DE BEARLAIS (2-40) may however give the Irish some cheer after a very moderate hit rate dominated by Willie Mullins.

The race we've all been waiting for is the Gold Cup and the first question to be answered is 'Is this just a two-horse race' and the answer seems to be yes because in a handicap Kauto Star and Long Run would be giving at least a stone in weight to the others. At 12 years old, It's going to be very tough for KAUTO STAR (3.20pm) to defy father time but the heart hopes he can, and more importantly so does Paul Nicholls, so he gets the vote. A good each-way wager could be with QUEL ESPRIT who seems to have sorted out his jumping problems. Of course, we can't rule out last year's winner Long Run, but it would be great to see the roof of the stands blow off if Kauto could win his 17th Grade 1 race.

Hopefully, The following Foxhunter's Chase shouldn't be too much of an anticlimax to the Gold Cup. Another sentimental bet would be on the Queen's Barber's Shop who seems to be relishing Hunter Chasing. However, Donald McCain has been very bullish about the chances of CLOUDY LANE (4.00pm) and he's usually pretty close to the mark so he gets the vote. CHAPEAUTURGEON is part-owned by Paul Nicholls but now trained as a hunter by Richard Barber. He's done nothing wrong this year and this makes for a good ride around here for the trainer's grandson Jack.

Next up is the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle for Conditional Jockey's and is probably one of the most difficult races to call. We think that BOURNE (4.40pm) can win this one but the race is really too open for words. We hope that Brian Ellison's BOCCIANI can give Lucy Alexander a good ride.

Nicky Henderson would of course like to win the race, named after his Father, and with no less than five runners all of whom must be respected, has a good chance to add to his fantastic Festival record. FRENCH OPERA (5.15pm) thoroughly deserves his place as top weight, he has a good Cheltenham record and ran an excellent pipe-opener last month in the Newbury Game Spirit Chase, when 2nd to Stablemate Sprinter Sacre (won the Arkle on Tuesday) so we will saddle him with our selection. If Nicky doesn't make it, then Paul Nicholls' TOUBAB could be the one to do it.

That's it for another year, hope you found some winners, roll on Aintree!


The NAP of the day is CLOUDY LANE (4.00pm) and we are hoping that  IFYOULETMEFINISH (2.05pm) will reward an each-way wager. each-way reward. Good luck!


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