There’s no day in racing quite like Gold Cup day. Up to 18 runners are pencilled in to tackle the 3m 2f slog as they attempt to emulate greats of the past, including Denman, Kauto Star and Arkle.
But that’s not all. There’s also action from the Triumph Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle amongst others as the Cheltenham Festival draws to a close.
We’ve put together a comprehensive hit list of fancied selections for all seven races on Gold Cup day, which you can read below…
1:30 JCB Triumph Hurdle – Apple’s Shakira (NAP)
The odds don’t lie for Apple’s Shakira. Nicky Henderson’s French star is three from three at Cheltenham since switching to the English trainer last September.
She’s destroyed all in her path so far and has leading claims for a yard in impeccable form. Redicean provides the danger to the enigmatic four-year-old, but we think the daughter of Saddler Maker will simply have too much quality this afternoon.
Henderson is the winning most trainer of this renewal, with six victories.
2:10 County Hurdle – Chesterfield (Lively Longshot)
Like yesterday’s handicaps, this renewal has chances all the way through the field. So it could pay to side with Seamus Mullins’ raider, Chesterfield. The eight-year-old battled to successive handicap triumphs in big fields last April, including in the Grade 2 Scottish Champion Hurdle.
He won on his last appearance at Kempton earlier in the month and will go off a fair mark for that success. Winners of this race tend to come at a big price, which makes the son of Pivotal a lively each-way chance if nothing else. Jockey Daniel Samson claims 5lb.
2:50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – Chef Des Obeaux
The Henderson yard get their second nod of the day in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle with Chef Des Obeaux. The French-bred raider has yet to finish out of the places since switching to the trainer last year. He’s won his last three in a row, including the Grade 2 Prestige Novices’ Hurdle last month.
He’s going for the four-timer here and his claims are boosted by jockey Noel Fehily, who has a 27% strike-rate in the past fortnight.
3:30 Cheltenham Gold Cup – Road to Respect (NB)
Earlier in the week, we suggested that Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red was the trend pick for the Gold Cup. But it’s hard to ignore the highly-impressive form of Road to Respect.
Noel Meade’s star has a record not too dissimilar to that of last year’s victor, Sizing John. After a string of close-run races, the seven-year-old is starting to show his potential on the big stage. He proved that emphatically in December by landing the ultra-competitive Christmas Chase at Leopardstown.
He downed Outlander, Sizing John, Yorkhill and Djakadam among others that afternoon. Balko Des Flos, who finished a narrow second, went on to win the Ryanair Chase yesterday ahead of Un De Sceaux. That makes Road to Respect’s victory look even more impressive.
With form on his side, the ground in his favour and one win at Cheltenham already under his belt, Meade’s raider is an obvious value pick for the Festival showpiece this afternoon.
4:10 Foxhunter Chase – Burning Ambition
Burning Ambition is bang in form. The seven-year-old has impressed over in Ireland and looks progressive enough to be able to land this prize for Pierce Michael Power. A close second to previous Grade 1 winner Gilgamboa last time out enhances his claims. As does the booking of top amateur jockey Jamie Codd.
If you’re following historical trends, Nina Carberry has ridden the winner in this race twice in the last three years and will go again aboard On The Fringe, who makes a tidy each-way shout.
4:50 Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle – Melrose Boy
After being pulled from a Grade 3 contest at Sandown on Saturday, Melrose Boy is one we have our eye on for the Martin Pipe. Harry Fry’s raider goes off a mark of 137 and looks well-suited to both ground and distance.
He was an excellent third behind Topofthegame in his last outing a month ago, and this reduction in trip should be to his liking. Connections have a good record so far this season and may fancy their chances at a handy price in the penultimate race of the Festival.
5:30 Grand Annual Chase – North Hill Harvey
There’s no runner in this field better suited to handle the Cheltenham gallops than North Hill Harvey. Dan Skelton’s runner has triumphed around this course four times in six runs for the trainer. His success over Sceau Royal in late-October was particularly impressive, as was his 18l beating of River Wylde in the Grade 2 Arkle Trial a month later.
It hasn’t quite gone to plan for the seven-year-old since. But with cheekpieces fitted for this one and back in surroundings he loves, we think that the son of Kayf Tara can round the Festival off in style for the British.
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.