PREVIEW: Cheltenham Festival Day Four

13:30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1)

On the final day of the Cheltenham festival racing starts with the Triumph Hurdle. Recent trends show that a preparation race in February is ideal and horses at the fore of the market have a good chance of taking home the top prize. Of the February races, there are two that are good indicators for this race; the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle and the Spring Juvenile Hurdle. The Adonis winner, Beltor, has shortened significantly since that victory. This ex-flat horse is two from two over hurdles, with his latest victory being 5 lengths in the Adonis. This being said his stamina isn’t assured up the hill. He never ran over 1m2f on the flat and with the past 14 winners that had raced on the flat, all had run over at least 1m4f and that would be a worry here. Furthermore the second in that race, All Yours, was unplaced in the Fred Winter, and therefore he is opposable here. The Spring Juvenile winner, Petite Parisienne, beat Kalkir by just under 2 lengths. This was only her second run over fences and could be more to come. She does look vulnerable for win purposes but that manner of her victory in Leopardstown means she could represent good each-way value at 10/1. Of the Henderson horses it is difficult to look past Peace And Co. This young French hurdler has looked like a monster and has already won at Cheltenham this season. Even though he hasn’t run in February, the last horse to win this without a run in February was another Henderson horse, Zaynar. It should be trusted that Henderson has his horse primed and looks like one of the best bets of the day.

Best Bets:
2:05 – Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)

Most of the big handicaps at the festival are described as minefields and this is no different but there are a few significant areas to start looking. Ten of the last eleven where all novice hurdlers and five year olds do particularly well with nine wins in the last sixteen runnings. The Irish have also come to relish this race with their Boylesports hurdle a significant race when picking the winner here. With this in mind a great starting point is Modem. This year’s Boylesports second has been running well all year, not finishing outside the top three since November. His rating has been increasing steadily all season and could hit the festival in peak form. Another mention needs to go to Hawk High, this horse may be top weight but he has form worthy of it. With his only previous run at Cheltenham bringing a victory he could make it two from two.

Best Bets:
2:40 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Even though this race has only started in 2005, there are a number of pointers that can help pick the winner. Seven of the ten winners have all featured in the Hyde, Bristol or Classic Novice Hurdle events at Cheltenham, which accentuates the importance of previous course experience. Of these three races the Classic Novice Hurdle has become the top indicator, with three of the last 8 winners going on to win the Albert Bartlett. The winner of that race, Ordo Ab Chao, is not running at the festival but the one that finished second, Value At Risk is. He lost out by three parts of a length that day and even though he is only a first season hurdler, he has shown significant promise this season. Dan and Harry Skelton’s season deserves a Cheltenham winner and this could be the horse to bring it. Another horse that needs careful consideration is Caracci Apache. This Henderson hurdler has stepped up in distance and quality with every victory this year and looks better the further he goes. He doesn’t have the Cheltenham experience but on his latest run he beat Blaklion by a head after looking outpaced four out and hanging left up the run in. He looks like and out and out stayer and if he has come on for experience at Doncaster, the Cheltenham hill could bring out the best in him.

Best Bets:
3:20 – Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1)

The feature race of the festival brings an intriguing race and a much stronger renewal than last year. The 22 fences over a gruelling 3m2f takes some getting  and a horse with real class already shown is a must. The last 15 winners had already won a Grade 1 at some point in its career and an official rating of 166+ is beneficial. Quality festival experience is also helpful with 11 of the last 14 winners had finished first or second at the festival before. However, Gold Cup experience is not essential as 9 of the last 10 winners where running in the Gold Cup for the first time. The King George VI and Lexus Chase are invaluable indicators with 14 of the last 15 winners had contested one of these races. This leads to Silviniaco Conti who could follow up his King George win with a victory here. If he does follow up he will be the sixth horse in 12 years to win both races in the same season. Silviniaco has had his chances though, he fell two years ago and finished fourth last year. He was travelling fantastic last year and just didn’t get home up the hill. He did really well in the King George and is going to the race in better form, but there is no reason why he should get up the hill if he didn’t last year and at the price of 4/1 there is no value there. The next in the market is Djakadam. Mullins has had a fantastic festival and with the stable in the form that they are, it would be no surprise if he did win. However, stable form is clearly represented in the price and with slight worries about his jumping that could easily be exposed around Cheltenham his is also opposable. Another horse with questionable jumping is Carlingford Lough. This would be the magical festival farewell for AP if he could win his final Gold Cup but the jumping is key in this race and poses to much of a risk to back. The Lexus winner, Road to Riches, looks a good bet at 12/1. He beat many of today’s rivals in that race including; Bob’s Worth, Lord Windermere, Boston Bob, Carlingford Lough, On His Own and Sam Winner, by staying on dourly at the end. The only negative is that he has never run at the course before but if he does take to the course, could easily be taking home the festivals greatest prize. The main threat could surface in the form of Coneygree. This was another horse tipped earlier in the week and was directed at this race in the hope of softer ground. He is three from three chasing and knows his way around Cheltenham. However, it cannot be emphasised how much this horse needs rain and if the forecasted rain does come he could easily win, if not he is best left alone. The each-way punt of the race is Houblon Des Obeaux. This plucky little horse ran very well for a long way last year before fading at the end. This being said his form is considerably better than it has ever been coming into the festival, finishing second in some top handicaps with a big weight, and at 50/1 is too good to pass over.

Best Bets:
4:00 – St. James’s Place Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup (Class 2)

At a glance this doesn’t look a particularly strong renewal of this race and it is difficult to get past the horses at the front of the market. The horse topping the betting is Paint The Clouds, a horse that is unbeaten in all his hunter chases. He won the key British indicator of this race the W&S Recycling Stratford Foxhunters Champion Hunters’ Chase, that has produced three of the last five winners. He hails from the same stable as World Hurdle winner Cole Harden and could go unbeaten for the season and top off a memorable festival for Sheehan and Greatrex. Other key things to look at are previous runners that have contested the race. On The Fringe has been fourth and third in this race the last two seasons and with continually consistent form this year of 1-1-2-2 he could finally get his head in front. Two-time winner Salsify does have the credentials to win again, just his remote fourth last time is somewhat off putting. For the value in the race, Universal Solider could be a decent bet. His stamina is assured and has performed well enough since he pulled up twice in 2013. The stable seem to have got things right and his only defeat since then coming in his latest run but that looks like it was on unfavourable heavy ground.

Best Bets:
16:40 – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

This is only the seventh renewal of this race and the usual 3lb allowance for stable jockeys being discarded there aren’t many statistics to go off. The only prominent one is that every winner where novice hurdlers this season or the season before. Even though the race is a handicap, weight hasn’t been a major decisive factor and the class of the horse has usually shone through as RSA Chase winner, Don Poli, showed last year. Double figure odds usually provide the winner with only one winning favourite having ever prevailed. One of the class horses in the race is Jolly’s Cracked It. This progressive hurdler has been stepping up in class on every run and apart from his very creditable fifth in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, has never finished outside the top two over hurdles. At a larger price it is tempting to side with Shelford. This is a decent ex-flat competitor and has made himself into a pretty useful hurdler. This is another horse that fell in its latest race, but this was over the smaller obstacles so hopefully its confidence shouldn’t be too shaken.

Best Bets:
5:15 – A.P. McCoy Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup (Grade 3)

The last race of festival and the favourite in the market, Ned Buntline, ridden by the man himself and it would be a fitting end to a fantastic it festival. This horse was fancied long before McCoy was declared to ride and obviously his priced has contracted accordingly. Apart from being the fairy tale ending to the festival there are a number of factors favouring the McCoy mount. Novice chasers have a very good record in this race and consequently as do lightly raced chasers. Out of the last sixteen winners fifteen had contested no more than twelve steeplechases. A preparation run last time over hurdles is desirable as is contesting the Grand Annual previously. Ned Buntline possesses all of these prerequisites for being a winner and can go one better than last year’s second. Looking for a value pick, Grumeti stands out. Even though this pick goes against many of the trends he was a high class novice hurdler and has made a pleasing transition to fences. If it wasn’t for his less convincing run last time would definitely be a much shorter price.

Best Bets:


NAP – Ned Buntline @ 5/1 – Click HERE to bet!

NB – Peace And Co @ 11/4 – Click HERE to bet!