After a week that has flown by, the last day of Cheltenham is here and with it comes the festival highlight, the Gold Cup! Steven Dowler previews the action to try and tackle the £20,000 Place 6. If you agree with his selections, join his Syndicate here.
13.30 – Triumph Hurdle
ALLMANKIND has looked a freak along with Goshen on all starts to date but the Dan Skelton trained front-runner is the one to side with out of the two as he as already proven himself at the track in a grade two before winning a grade one at Chepstow. He looks a proper smart horse, who has looked complete solid on all three runs over hurdles and he must have a strong chance of remaining unbeaten especially if he goes off like a rocket again as his speed has burnt off every rival to date.
Despite falling last time, I am still siding with ASPIRE TOWER, who bolted up on his first two starts over hurdles, winning both events by a combination of 31 lengths. Although he fell at the last hurdle when challenged last time out in a grade one, you could see he was finding loads for pressure and he looked to be pulling away slightly when hitting the deck over the last. I just think he become lazy and was dossing in front when the challengers tackled him before he fell as it was the first time he had to battle which was completely new to him but he was finding more once challenged and I am sure he would have won if he stood up. I really do believe this is a serious horse and I think he will have a good pace to aim at in the triumph hurdle which will only help matters as he doesn’t have to lead and I am fairly confident he can make amends.
Laat but not least I think BURNING VICTORY has been overlooked in the market. He won very nicely on his stable debut last time out in a grade 3 and that is very good form for one who would have needed the run and connections know what it takes to have a good horse in this race. Paul Townend takes the ride so if the those front-runners end up cutting each other’s throat out, they could easily set it up for this promising sort.
Selections – ASPIRE TOWER, ALLMANKIND, BURNING VICTORY
14.10 – County Hurdle
Joseph O’Brien has already said that EMBITTERED has been long aimed at the county hurdle and I really fancy him to run a huge race. He was one of the best bumper horses of last season and made a bright start to hurdles career when beating Blackbow. He tried to go with Envoi Allen next time in a grade one but managed still managed a fair fifth and was then only third in another grade one next time behind Abacadbras. He made his handicap debut last time out in the Ladbroke hurdle last time off a mark 140 and ran really well to finish sixth of 22 to not be beaten far considering he was sandwiched approaching the last hurdle and lost valuable momentum. He is up 6LB for that effort in defeat which looks quite harsh but he is a very good horse and I think he’s going to go extremely well.
SIR VALENTINE looks a good shout here near the bottom of the weights. He remains completely unexposed having shown really strong form which includes a good fourth of 24 in the Betfair hurdle last time out when beaten just under one length on only his fifth start. He is only up 4LB tomorrow and i think he is a big player with more improvement to come.
ARAMON is the class horse in the race. He is a grade one winner despite just missing top-class and was a good sixth at this meeting last year in the supreme and ran with credit to not be beaten far in the Irish champion hurdle last time which has worked out very well. The yard do well in this race and there leading hope Aramon has a big chance taking a huge drop down in class.
It is significant Barry Geraghty has chosen to ride SAINT ROI over Ciel De Neige, meaning he feels the selection has the stronger chance. He is a lightly raced 5yo, who absolutely bolted up when last seen at Tramore and the form is strong due to the runner up winning twice since. The way he won the last day suggests he could be ahead of this opening handicap mark and I can see this promising 5yo having a big say in the finish on a low weight.
Selections – EMBITTERED, SIR VALENTINE, ARAMON, SAINT ROI
14.50 – Albert Bartlett
LATEST EXHIBITION will be hard to beat and is definitely worth siding with here. He looks to have all the attributes in his armour because he was so tough to win his grade one last time out against good opposition and has won three of his four starts over hurdles. He’s a high-class horse who will absolutely relish the Cheltenham hill as he will love the three mile distance and I am finding it hard to find anything that can beat him because we clearly haven’t seen the best of this very talented horse and his form so far has been boosted this week at Cheltenham.
I do like the chances of COBBLER’S WAY and Fury Road, who were both second and fourth behind Latest Exhibition last time out in that strong grade one at Leopardstown. Cobbler’s Way ran a brilliant race to be beaten two lengths as he battled on gamely all the way to the line once headed. He looks a very strong high-class stayer in the making, who will relish this track and he must have a good each way chance representing past years winning rider and jockey, who landed the spoils with Minella Indo.
Selections – LATEST EXHIBITION, COBBLER’S WAY
15.30 – Cheltenham Gold Cup
Three stand out for me. Firstly, SANTINI who won the cotswold chase last time at Cheltenham in good style. As mentioned previously, he reminds me a lot like Best Mate as he doesn’t look the flashiest of horses but he has a huge engine with plenty of guts and I do believe this is his year to finally put those doubters away. Nicky Henderson will have him at the top of his game for the gold cup, fitter then he has ever had him before and I am confident we will see a very good performance from Santini.
AL BOUM PHOTO will take a lot of beating even though stats are against him as we haven’t seen a back to back winner of the gold cup since Best Mate and look at all the top-class horses that have failed to do that. He’s a very good horse who won this really well last year but I have a suspicion something will nab him of winning it consecutive years but he is almost certain to be thereabouts at the finish.
I also think MONALEE can be bought into the mix. He was runner-up in the Albert Bartlett in 2017, runner-up in the RSA two years ago and was fourth in the Ryanair last year showing he handles the track without problem. Monalee was very unfortunate to not win the savills chase last time when beaten a head by Delta Work. Rachael Blackmore even lost her iron in the closing stages which probably cost him the race. Henry De Bromhead has kept him fresh for the gold cup since which is interesting that they have done the patient approach with just three runs this term. The nature of the gold cup will suit Monalee as he is a good jumper, who will be ridden up with the pace and definitely has as good chance as anything else in the race to be honest.
Selections – SANTINI, AL BOUM PHOTO, MONALEE
16.10 – Foxhunters
Enda Bolger is no stranger to success in the race having trained On The Fringe to win the race twice. He runs STAKER WALLACE, who has an outstanding chance of winning this. He has run just four times under rules in five years and back in 2017 he made his hunter chase debut at Leopardstown on just his third start and finished a creditable third behind stablemate On The Fringe and Foxrock with Salsify back in fourth and at that time those three horses he faced where the best Irish hunter chase horses around. He wasn’t seen for three years under rules after that before returning to finish second behind the smart Billaway, who had race fitness on his side.
Staker Wallace then was sent for a PTP last time out and won very easily, which will put him spot on for the Foxhunters. You don’t often see any trainer let alone Enda Bolger keep hold on a horse for so long who has run just four times in five years but that tells me this horse is held in the highest regard and it is obvious the Foxhunters at Cheltenham has been the plan for a very long time. Derek O’Connor will most likely take the ride, which is a huge positive as he’s ridden the horse before and I am really excited to see him in the Foxhunters as I think he will reverse the form with Billaway and is one of the best each way bets of the entire festival.
SHANTOU FLYER must be mentioned. He was second in this last year and his record around Cheltenham is exceptional with form figures reading 1-F-1-4-2-2-2-2. He has finished second at the Cheltenham festival for the last two years so he deserves a change of luck which he could get here because he looked better than ever when winning by 23 lengths on his reappearance recently and will be the choice of David Maxwell. If David Maxwell can ride him a bit closer to the pace this year, this 10yo course specialist has a very good chance.
DON POLI was a high-class horse in his prime and has a good record at the Cheltenham Festival having won the 2014 Martin Pipe and 2015 RSA before finishing third in the 2016 Gold Cup. He lost his way afterwards but has returned to form with two good wins in PTP races and it seems like this race has been a long term target so he could go very well here due to his back-class, which is head and shoulders above this field.
Selections – STAKER WALLACE, SHANTOU FLYER, DON POLI
16.50 – Grand Annual
I am glad to see US AND THEM back over two miles, which is his best trip as he shown his best form over the distance, placing in multiple grade one events before his form took a halt when stepped up in trip. However, back over the minimum trip carrying 11-5 this time, I can see him being a lively contender and shouldn’t be dismissed despite him not being at his best his last few starts.
GREAT FIELD looks interesting now in the hands of Jonjo O’Neill. He was a former top-class two miler, who was a grade one winner and looked a serious race horse but things didn’t go to plan and his form tailed off. However, he could be well handicapped off 155 and it’s interesting Jonjo O’Neill sends him straight for the grand annual without a prep run. If he gets into a good jumping rhythm, Great Field could be hard to catch.
Davy Russell has chosen to ride CHOSEN MATE over Paloma Blue which is interesting and this horse bolted up last time out nicely having been a previous grade two winner. Connections have targeted him at this race for a very long time so although he is now higher up in the handicap, this 7yo could get competitive here being unexposed over fences for a yard and rider in great form.
Selections – US AND THEM, GREAT FIELD, CHOSEN MATE