The Willie Mullins bandwagon started rolling in no uncertain terms yesterday and despite a trying first two days for the sport’s number one handler he could easily end up taking the trainer’s crown today as he has some strong chances in most of the races on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival 2017.
JCB Triumph Hurdle
The battle to be number one trainer is a three way go between Mullins, Nicky Henderson and Gordon Elliott, and the trio all have good chances in the traditional curtain racer on day four, the Triumph Hurdle.
We think Messrs Henderson and Elliott hold the stronger hand here. For Henderson, Charli Parcs could be anything as it is hard to read his last race at Kempton. He looked like he was coming back on the bridle when he fell and it is interesting that connections are preserving here.
We’d suggest backing him to win to cover bigger each way stakes on Elliott’s MEGA FORTUNE and LANDOFHOPEANDGLORY, who represents last year’s winning connections. The former is tough and stays well, two great qualities for a potential Triumph winner, whilst the latter was highest rated of these on the flat and can return to his best form on this more suitable ground.
|Mega Fortune (ew)||1.30 Cheltenham||11/1||Bet365, Sky Bet|
|Landofhopeandglory (ew)||1.30 Cheltenham||12/1||Paddy Power|
Next up is arguably the toughest race at the meeting to predict, The County Hurdle.
Elliott could be the man to follow again here as we like the angle of TELL US MORE returning to hurdles after a successful spell chasing. Crucially, he is significantly lower in the weights over the smaller obstacles and can take advantage of a potentially lenient mark here.
Another interesting Irish runner is JOEY SASA for a Noel Meade team that took one of the handicaps yesterday. This strong travelling sort should be ideally suited by the way the race looks set to be run and decent ground will strengthen his claims.
In terms of the best of the home contingent, it was a toss-up between VOSNE ROMANEE, SONG LIGHT and Mohaayed.
At the prices we can probably afford to back both Vosne Romanee and Song Light, with Mohaayed just missing the cut due to his inexperience.
Vosne Romanee has clearly been targeted at this race by one of the shrewdest handlers about, Richard Newland. He won on the flat recently to put him spot on for this.
Song Light has already been placed in two big handicaps this campaign and the better ground may seem him deservedly get his head in front.
|Tell Us More (ew)||2.10 Cheltenham||16/1||Bet365, Sky Bet|
|Joey Sasa (ew)||2.10 Cheltenham||28/1||Bet365|
|Vosne Romanee (ew)||2.10 Cheltenham||20/1||Bet365, Sky Bet|
|Song Light (ew)||2.10 Cheltenham||25/1||Bet365|
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Elliott and Mullins clash again in the Albert Bartlett with Death Duty and Augusta Kate dominating the market.
Elliott believes Death Duty to be the best novice he has trained, but the word is that Henry de Bromhead thinks the same about MONALEE and this could turn out to be the best novice race run at the meeting, as home contenders Wholestone and THE WORLDS END have also looked top class this season too.
Monalee is too good to ignore at the prices – crucially, he proved his stamina for this trip when trouncing a top bumper horse last time out.
The Worlds End has won for us before and looks the pick of the home runners. He beat a really good yardstick last time out, giving that runner plenty of weight to boot.
If anything is going to make the frame at big odds then it could be TOMMY RAPPER. The form of both of his last two starts has been franked at the Festival and he can improve again now stepping further up in trip.
|Monalee (ew)||2.50 Cheltenham||8/1||Bet365|
|The Worlds End (ew)||2.50 Cheltenham||9/1||Bet365|
|Tommy Rapper (ew)||2.50 Cheltenham||33/1||Bet365|
Cheltenham Gold Cup
The Gold Cup is next and the market has it down as a shoot-out between the Colin Tizzard pair of Cue Card and Native River, and Mullin’s Djakadam.
The confidence behind Djakadam is extraordinary with many Irish having him down as their banker of the meeting, but he’s had two goes at the sport’s biggest prize and come up short. No doubt he will do his usual thing of travelling extremely strongly throughout the race, but will something be too good for him again?
Of the Tizzard pair, we much prefer Cue Card and for us he is the one to beat. It is amazing to see 5/1 available about him this morning with Bet365, but the form of his yard is a real worry. They have endured a nightmare Festival with form figures reading 0P0PP02P06P00.
The value may lie elsewhere, therefore, and the one we like is SIZING JOHN. He has a similar profile to previous winners like Kicking King and War Of Attrition in that he was quick enough over hurdles and fences to take in races like the Supreme and the Arkle, but then had the scope to step up in trip and mix speed with stamina.
The horse proved his stamina when winning the Irish Gold Cup last time out and what we really like about him is that he only ever does just enough to get the job done and keeps something in reserve for another day. The ground should also bring out some further improvement and play to his strengths, and the yard is in good form having had a winner here already.
At the prices, the other two to back are the Jonjo pair of MORE OF THAT and MINELLA ROCCO. Both have no end of talent, but also have their quirks. The good news is that there is no finer trainer of staying chasers than O’Neill and the pair are showing signs of peaking at the right time.
Don’t forget, More Of That won the World Hurdle as a novice and O’Neill has called him the best horse he has trained, whilst Minella Rocco is a strong stayer and ran a blinder here under a massive weight in a staying contest in November.
|Sizing John (ew)||3.30 Cheltenham||9/1||Paddy Power|
|More Of That (ew)||3.30 Cheltenham||14/1||Sky Bet|
|Minella Rocco (ew)||3.30 Cheltenham||18/1||Bet365|
The Gold Cup for amateurs follows with On The Fringe bidding for a hat-trick of wins in the Foxhunters. This horse is hunter chasing royalty, but he isn’t a great price for the everyday punter so we suggest taking him on with the unexposed ASK THE WEATHERMAN for connections who always have to be respected in this sphere.
Wonderful Charm is another obvious danger, but has to prove his stamina, so back two outsiders instead in BLACK THUNDER, who will relish the trip as well as the ground and GRAND JESTURE, who has run well in a big handicap at the Festival in the past. Paddy Power and BetVictor are offering 4 places for each-way bets here.
|Ask The Weatherman (ew)||4.10 Cheltenham||9/1||BetVictor|
|Black Thunder (ew)||4.10 Cheltenham||33/1||Paddy Power|
|Grand Jesture (ew)||4.10 Cheltenham||40/1||BetVictor|
Our tips in the later races are as follows:
|Rather Be (ew)||4.50 Cheltenham||14/1||Bet365, Sky Bet|
|Lac Fontana (ew)||4.50 Cheltenham||22/1||Bet365|
|Coo Star Sivola (ew)||4.50 Cheltenham||12/1||Paddy Power|
|Velvet Maker (ew)||5.30 Cheltenham||12/1||Bet365|
|Solita (ew)||5.30 Cheltenham||28/1||Sky Bet|
|Calipto (ew)||5.30 Cheltenham||20/1||Bet365, Sky Bet|
Horses Fitted With First-Time Headgear
Below we list those horses wearing, or switching to, headgear (Blinkers, Visor, Hood) for the first time, given the recent trend for such horses to exceed expectations as a whole. For example Solar Impulse, fitted with first time blinkers, won the final race of last year’s Festival at 28/1.
|Magie Du Ma||1.30 Cheltenham||Hood (H1)||50/1||Bet365|
|Wait For Me||2.10 Cheltenham||Hood (H1)||18/1||Bet365|
|Turcugua||2.50 Cheltenham||Hood (H1)||50/1||Sky Bet|