After a terrific week at Prestbury Park, we arrive at Gold Cup Day and after several winners already this week, here are our tips on St Patrick's Day.
As is traditionally the case, it kicks off with the Triumph Hurdle for juveniles and whilst a decent size field is set to go to post, an extraordinary seven of the eleven runners are trained by Willie Mullins, including the first four in the market.
There is little to choose between BLOOD DESTINY and Lossiemouth at the top of the betting, and their form looks comparable too, based on a line through Nusret. However, BLOOD DESTINY arguably has the more scope for improvement and he narrowly gets the vote here.
There’s every chance of one at a big price hitting the frame, given that only three runners have been chalked up at single figure prices by the bookies.
GUST OF WIND was well beaten by both Gala Marceau and Lossiemouth at Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival, but that was only his second start over hurdles and his first for Mullins. He could easily outrun his big odds here, whilst Rightsotom is one to keep an eye on for the future.
COUNTY HANDICAP HURDLE
The County Hurdle is next, and Mullins has another four runners here, all of whom can be given some sort of chance.
The classy Sharjah looks sure to be in the mix despite his top weight, but equally interesting at a much bigger price is SAINT SAM, who is quirky and talented in equal measure. He has run well at the Festival in the past and has looked in need of this drop back in trip when running too freely over longer distances on his last two starts.
Ballyadam is another Irish raider to consider, whilst we think the pick of the home contingent may prove to be GIN COCO.
He was second in the Greatwood here in November and looks to have been laid out for this since then. Although his best form so far has been on good ground, connections took him out of the Betfair Hurdle as they thought the ground may be too lively, so they clearly think he will relish these softer conditions.
The other British runner to back is PEMBROKE. He was beaten here on Trials Day over a longer trip, when his stamina just seemed to give out. Prior to that, he’d travelled really strongly in winning races at Ludlow and Wetherby.
Petit Tonnerre is another to consider.
ALBERT BARTLETT NOVICES’ HURDLE
Reserves of stamina are going to be required in the Albert Bartlett at 2.50 and one horse who is certainly bred to relish the trip is THREE CARD BRAG.
Given his pedigree, he has been able to achieve an excellent level of form over shorter trips, but he looks certain to improve considerably for the step up to three miles here.
Ex flat performer, DAWN RISING is also worth an interest as all of his runs over hurdles have seen him doing his best work at the end of those contests. He was a stayer on the level and has a similar profile to Penhill who won this in 2017.
For those looking for one at a monster price, there could be a big run in SAINT PALAIS.
He reached a decent level of from over fences last season and comes here with plenty of experience under his belt. His trainer felt that he was starting to regain top form last time out, when he may have won a decent race at Haydock had he not fallen at the last.
Monty’s Star, Hiddenvalley Lake and Embassy Gardens were others on the shortlist.
CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP
An outstanding renewal of the Gold Cup tops the bill at 3.30, with thirteen seriously good chasers set to face the starter.
They include a Grand National winner, an American Grand National winner and two previous Gold Cup winners, as well as this season’s Betfair Chase and King George winners.
Incredibly, none of those horses heads the market here, as that honour goes to the hugely exciting Galopin De Champs. This horse could be anything, but today really is judgment day for him.
We don’t think stamina will be an issue based on his performance at the Dublin Festival last time out, and he looks the one to beat. However, his price is far from attractive in such a competitive renewal.
At much juicy odds, AHOY SENOR is surely worth an each way interest. This horse just seems to be getting better and better as the campaign goes on and there was a lot to like about his win on Trials Day here in January, when he had several of these behind him.
He will need to improve again, but this longer trip should play to his strengths and his yard is in fine form at the moment.
Stamina will be a key prerequisite this afternoon, which brings the likes of Nobel Yeats and STATTLER right into contention. Narrow preference is for the latter who won at the Festival last season and has clearly been trained to come to the boil today.
Bravemansgame also comes he a fresh horse and should be a big player, whilst don’t rule out our ante post tip, Hewick, at a monster price if the rain stays away.
There’s a hugely competitive looking renewal of the St James’s Place Hunter Chase at 4.10 and the apparent strength in depth in the line up means it is hard to recommend backing the favourite, Vaucelet, at such a short price.
The field is a mix of some top class former chasers (and hurdlers in the shape of Brain Power, in particular) taking on a host of up and coming point to pointers, so we have chosen one from each camp.
FAMOUS CLAREMONT could be the pick of the youngsters (and of the British) although he did run poorly on his one visit here last April. Of the veterans, THE STORYTELLER makes plenty of appeal given his love of the track / the Festival.
Others to consider include Chris’ Dream and Rocky’s Howya, whilst PREMIER MAGIC could prove best of those at bigger prices.
Our fancy for the Mares' Chase is IMPERVIOUS.
MARTIN PIPE HANDICAP HURDLE
Our fancies in the lucky last, the Martin Pipe Hurdle, are IROKO and IMAGINE.