A frustrating third day, with only Eamon An Cnoic running any sort of race, as Doitforthevillage was incredibly badly hampered and Captain Chaos went miles too fast, doing well to stay in the race for as long as he actually did – that he was sixth is a testament to his ability, but also a source of immense frustration. Such is the Festival, and we have one last chance to go at this week.
Sir Erec sets an imposing standard in the Triumph (1.30), although Joseph O’Brien’s charge had everything go right in a Spring Juvenile Hurdle where he got to set his own pace before kicking around the turn. For a flat horse that won over 10 furlongs and who was good enough to finish third to Stradivarius, that is a dream situation. The stone bruise that he had last week is also a slight spanner in the works, and even if he still wins, there are two other places.
The Paul Nicholls pair of Pic D’Orhy and Quel Destin ought to be thereabouts at the finish, with the former having fascinating claims on his second in the Prix Cambaceres at Auteuil in November, but this test could end up suiting another O’Brien inmate, Gardens Of Babylon, even more. He was an eye-catching winner on New Year’s Day when just getting to the lead in the nick of time, and whilst he had that form reversed (by a nose no less) at Fairyhouse, he was second to Sir Erec last time when he couldn’t live with the speed of his stablemate in the Spring Juvenile, but today stamina ought to be much more important than it was then and the way he stayed into second suggests he can go well. Tiger Tap Tap makes appeal for the same reasons in a race where many have realistic place aspirations.
It is hard to know just how much ability Pingshou retains in the County Hurdle (2.10), but if it’s anything like the amount that he showed when bolting up in the Crabbie’s Top Novices’ Hurdle or when third in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle of 2017 then he’d be brilliantly treated off 142 and whilst he didn’t cut much ice last time out, it’s interesting to note that today he has the first-time tongue-tie and blinkers – along with being dropped 5lbs.
Willie Mullins has had another fine week with three winners and his record in this contest is extremely notable, with four winners since 2010 and plenty of placed horses to boot since. His Mr Adjudicator’s Triumph second isn’t the strongest form in the world, but he’s still lightly raced over hurdles and his one start this season looks a fair bit better through the eyes of Espoir D’Allen. He’s got form over the course and distance on this ground, and it’s possible that this has been the plan too.
The Albert Bartlett (2.50) is fiercely competitive, with a number at the head of the market having very strong claims. This has been a race where experience has counted for plenty – six of the 14 winners had run over hurdles the previous season despite the fact this is a novice race – and Derrinross could make a bold bid. He’s been around longer than most of these but he’s had just the two runs at 3 miles and has won both of them, the first time getting the better of the useful Sams Profile in uncertain terms. He followed that up with a hard-fought win a Grade 2 and what’s more, both of those successes took place on ground with cut.
Just to watch the Gold Cup (3.30) will be a privilege with all of Native River, Presenting Percy and Clan Des Obeaux having big claims, but this is an extremely competitive renewal where you can give a chance to over half the field. Last year’s third Anibale Fly – who was then fourth in the National – is 22/1 here despite a fine recent run in the Red Mills Chase. He’d missed a few chances to have a run beforehand but he stayed on really well there and is still only nine, having made up great ground in a Gold Cup on extremely similar ground last year.
There are at least 10 potential winners of the Foxhunter (4.50) but Caid du Berlais – with a better trip round this year than last – does catch the eye. However it’s possible that might be too competitive event for us and in the Grand Annual (4.50) Le Prezien appeals as being too well handicapped to miss out on. He was dreadful at Sandown last time out but had been too highly tried before that and it’s interesting that he was well beaten in his penultimate start before beating No Trail by 4 and a half lengths in this contest last season and he’s just 1lb higher now.
The lucky last, the Martin Pipe (5.30), has gone to either Gordon Elliott or Willie Mullins on six occasions and Getareason and Defi Bleu are interesting for the pair. The former was third in the Lawlor’s Novice Hurdle (and second in the Navan Novice Hurdle before that), but the latter – who has been behind him on two recent occasions – has the better form on soft including a convincing bumper win and an excellent second to Derinross.
RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
1.30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle
BACK Gardens Of Babylon 1 pt each/way at 11/1 with starsports.bet
2.50 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
BACK Derrinross 1 pt each/way at 10/1 with starsports.bet
3.30 – Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup
BACK Anibale Fly 1 pt each/way at 22/1 with starsports.bet
4.50 – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup
BACK Le Prezien 1 pt each/way at 10/1 with starsports.bet
5.30 – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
BACK Defi Bleu 1 pt each/way at 11/1 with starsports.bet
PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 216.91 points
(excluding Premier League ante-post and Six Nations ante-post)