13:30 – Triumph Hurdle
The JCB Triumph Hurdle is one of these races where even those in Racing’s circle of trust are left scratching their heads. Some esteemed Horseman have been quoted on the circuits saying “you may as well drop a pen on your racecard” to pick a horse for this but that’s not what we’re here for. A good starting point for races such as this is to look back at previous years and one thing that you can see quite evidently is that the front 4 in the market have always tended to do well and for that reason it’s not a bad place to start. Some would say a rating of 140+ is also a good cut off but trends as we all know are far from set in concrete.
We’ll stick our necks out here and say the favourite in this (Ivanovic Gorbatov – Not a Russian Oligarch but a horse) is potentially the worst priced favourite at the festival after bombing out last time. He was however highly rated on the flat and will improve for better ground, but we just can’t be backing him at 7/2 in a race such as this. The second favourite here is an expensive French import, Zubayr. This horse bolted up on his first appearance for Paul Nicholls, a man who has form with similar types in this race (Zarkander back in 2011). Nicholls has stated in previews that he thinks this guy is as good if not better than Zarkander and can only improve. For those reasons I wouldn’t put anyone off backing him, he is however a bit short at 5/1. Looking to the 3rd and 4th in the market you can find another two horses that have fantastic chances. Connetable took on older horses LTO and emerged victorious, with the second that day franking the form since. Sceau Royal has also done very little wrong since being turned over by horses he has since exacted revenge on, in Adrien De Pont and Leoncavallo.
Two trial races that have thrown up multiple prize winners in previous Triumphs are the Adonis (won by Zubayr) and the Spring Juvenile won by Footpad over at Leopardstown in soft ground (Both races are well worth a watch). The performance of Footpad was impressive as he ran on to claim the race by over 2 lengths from a strong field. Willie Mullins has since stated he thinks he’s his best chance and jockey bookings could see a flood of money for this lad. One to note from that race was another Mullins horse in Lets Dance, who stayed on very impressively in the final half a furlong. There’s a lot with chances at big prices here including Apple’s Jade, should she line up. Advice would be to wait until the morning as bookmakers are sure to offer extra places. That extra place could prove to be invaluable in an affair that has e/w value written all over it.
Our tentative selection is Footpad having beaten some good types LTO. Mullins sounded mighty impressed with him after that and we think he proves a good proposition at 12/1, even with the ground a slight concern. We have also taken an e/w punt on Leoncavallo at 33/1 who hasn’t been seen since unseating late on here. He should love the Spring ground and seems to be a bit of a forgotten horse (rated 140) in a wide open open contest.
14:10 – County Hurdle
This has to be one of the hardest betting races of the week. You have plot horses, the horses rising up weights and the juveniles. I could spend hours pouring over the form, collateral form and breeding. Put if this week has taught you anything it is not second guess yourself.
You need a good horse who will probably go on to bigger and better things. That leads me to the Bumper last year and the second and third line up in this race. Wait For Me was 1 and half lengths behind Modus in the bumper and has a lot to answer for in his jumping technique. The one I would be sweet on is the latter. He didn’t get the run of the race in the Betfair Hurdle and off 139 is a horse going in the right direction and off a very workable mark.
To be honest this is one of the hardest races of the week but it’s worth mentioning a plot horse/ a horse going in the right direction in Great Field. It left an impression after its win at Leopardstown. As we say is it’s not one to get too deep into but Great Field and Modus E/W seem to tick all the boxes TNS are looking for.
14:50 – Albert Bartlett
The Albert Bartlett is a fantastic novice hurdle to finish off what is a truly splendid week.
After three emotional days some of the crowd will be looking to hedge their bets on the final day. However the final day sees the biggest banker of the week by an absolute country mile in the shape of BARTERS HILL.
This horse is a horse that doesn’t know when it’s beat. Impressive, probably not, but this horse never ever lets anyone else head it never mind beat it.
TNS will be going absolutely massive on this horse and is the banker of the festival therefore there is no need to look anywhere else in the market!!!!
15:30 – Gold Cup
2015’s renewal provided the highlight of last year’s festival for many as novice Coneygree took apart the field with a superb display of jumping. Alas, racing can be a cruel game and the Bradstock’s learnt that first hand as their star was ruled out for the season. Such is the depth in this division however, we still have what looks a stellar race in prospect with plenty of intertwining narratives – even without the late, high-profile defection of star chaser Vautour to the Ryanair.
Few would have bet at the start of the season that Cue Card (9/2) would be nearing the head of the market after an undoubtedly disappointing previous campaign. People scoffed at the £1m bonus put up for the Triple Crown, but after Cue Card bounded clear of Sickbag Conti (sic) in the Betfair Chase and toughed it out on Boxing Day in the King George, he now stands an extended 3m 2f away from folklore. Cue Card needed every single yard at Kempton and surely silenced the stamina doubters for good. He’s struck up a wonderful partnership with Paddy Brennan this year, a jockey who will be keen to taste Gold Cup glory once again after Imperial Commander’s success in 2010.
Rich Ricci’s sole representative in the blue riband event is last year’s runner up Djakadam (7/2) sitting 3rd in the market. By my reckoning he rated a far better bet than Vautour with stamina guaranteed anyway, although horses rarely go one better after the first stab at the Gold Cup. The real doubt comes over his most recent outing at Cheltenham which resulted in him and Ruby parting company at the tenth. The 5/6 shot that day likely would not have been good enough for the eventual winner Smad Place (10/1) given how full of running he finished. Ideal preparation it is not.
Now we turn to the big two, the Dons. The current fav Don Cossack (3/1) is Timeform top rated chaser in training, a rating he acquired after tipping up 2 out in the King George with many shrewd heads suggesting he was looking the likely winner. He assuaged some fears next time out in the Kinloch Brae with a win at 1/8 and in reality, deserves his place in the market. That said, his two visits to Prestbury Park have resulted in a disappointing 3rd behind runaway winner Uxizandre in the Ryanair and fall in the 2014 RSA chase. Course form is vital here, and this boy doesn’t have it. The apple of Gordon Elliot’s eye has certainly been progressive over the last couple of years, the only real blips have come at Cheltenham. He’ll have his backers, but he’s not for me.
This leaves the only real winner, Don Poli. Bred for the race, and with two Cheltenham festival winners to his name, it’s hard to know why anyone would look elsewhere. He’s not the quickest, but he jumps well, and he stays.
Don Poli isn’t the flashy type of last year, but he’ll work his way into the race and be finishing strongest of all. Even with Vautour’s defection he rates a great bet at 9/2. There wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house were Cue Card to win so my heart goes with Colin Tizzard’s inmate, but my head can’t look anywhere other than Don Poli.
16:10 – Foxhunter
Nina Carberry has a fantastic record with On The Fringe with a 66% strike rate and having never finishing out of the top 3. No horse has won this race in the 140s and with a rating of 147 this could well be the first horse too do so. A horse that has been talked about in the preview circuits and looks like he could well come in for a little bit of money is a horse called It Came To Pass travelling over the Irish Sea for Jim Culloty. Being a young horse he could well have bundles of improvement in him and is one to look out for.
There’s been a lot of talk about Victoria Pendleton and we wish the very best for her as she’s done the national hunt a world of good. Her ride Pacha Du Polder came close to On The Fringe last April and as a 9 year old who will have come on from that, along with the stats of 9 year olds having the most winners in this race, she’s an excellent choice.
We’ve looked and we’ve looked but we really can’t find anything else with the same calibre as these two. The stats also say you have to have ran in the last 60 days and there’s a lot of horses without even one run this season. So for what looks a competitive handicap, we’re placing our faith in two fantastic sportswomen in Nina Carberry and Victoria Pendleton.
16:50 – Martin Pipe
When you break the Friday down there isn’t much to like and as your licking your wounds after Don Cossack didn’t stay the trip you have to find a winner in one of the harder races of the week.
It’s time for the amateurs and after Jamie Codd successfully (and magnificently may we add) rode Cause Of Causes, it’s worth sticking with the best jockeys.
Jack Kennedy is on the well gambled favourite and he fully deserves to be at the front of the market. Barry lad would be glad for the ride on this JP McManus horse.
Another Jack is worth a mention and that’s Sherwood on Ibis Du Rheu who shapes well in this race.
We may even avoid this race all together but these two may be small stakes bets.
17:30 – Grand Annual
Yes it’s finally here, the curtain call, the final piece in the majestical jigsaw that is the Cheltenham Festival. With it being the last race of the week lets hope the TNS boys can leave ourselves and you guys with a sweet taste in your mouth, whilst walking away and giving yourself a good old pat on the back for a tough weeks work.
We don’t mean to get your hopes up but we think we’ve found that very ticket. The Grand Annual is a race that in years gone by had proved pretty fruitful for your single figured horses. However in the past 9/10 years we’ve seen a whole host of double figure prices take this prize to leave many a torn up bet slip thrown to the floor in disgust. Looking back through the years and it see,s as though lightly raced types have a distinct advantage here with 16 out of the last 17 winners all having contested no more than 12 steeplechases. A horse that we believe stands a good chance and fits that trend is Rock The World. This horse has not been seen since impressively winning at the course back in October, meaning it’s been very hard for the handicapped to assess just how good he is. He comes in off a rating of 147, which we are more than happy with as he left the 147 rated Dormello Mo behind that day at level weights. You’d imagine he will come on for that run and for that reason you can deal us in.
Last years winner returns here in the shape of Next Sensation. He’s a horse that’s struggled for form this season but appears to be on a very workable mark and he will certainly be backed. Neil Mulholland’s Minella Present is of Presenting and for that reason is likely to want the drying ground he’s going to get, which will inevitably make him a real danger. Neil Mulholland has also made no secrets of this being their plan for a long time. We would have to question his form lines though and for that reason will look beyond him for our second pick. Looking further down the market you can see a horse we talked about in our day 3 previews in The Saint James and there is absolutely no reason we couldn’t fancy him for this. He was a solid second to Vyta Du Roc on his chase debut and was set to challenge when falling in his last appearance leaving him on an interesting mark for a Wiley old trainer in Mr Jonjo O’Neil.
So that leaves us with a teary eyed goodbye. We would like to say a huge thank you for following us through this emotional roller coaster of a week and hope we have been of benefit to your bank balance. Best of luck on day 4, here’s to hoping we all leave Cheltenham with a heavy wallet and memories for a lifetime.