It was the Rachael Blackmore show at Cheltenham again yesterday and this remarkable Festival for probably the greatest female jockey of all time could get even better this afternoon as she takes the ride on A Plus Tard, currently joint-favourite for the Gold Cup with some bookmakers.
She may have ridden a winner or two before we even get that far as she has fancied rides in the first two races today.
The first of them is the Triumph, where the betting is dominated by three horses, two from Ireland and one from Alan King’s yard. It is hard to look beyond this trio, but picking the best of them isn’t easy.
Quilixios’ price has come in overnight, probably as a result of the Blackmore factor, but we think TRITONIC can buck the trends and be one of the few British trained winners of a novice event at this year’s Festival.
He was the best of these on the flat and a strong pace here should really play to his strengths. His running style should be suited to these top-class races, as long as he doesn’t hit too much of a flat spot mid-race.
If there is to be a shock, then one of the Willie Mullins outsiders could provide it with slight preference for TAX FOR MAX who can improve significantly from his first start in Ireland / for his new yard. He too was classy on the flat.
COUNTY HANDICAP HURDLE
The toughest puzzle to solve at most Festivals is up next with a huge field going to post for the County Hurdle.
As ever, there are dark horses lurking everywhere with some like You Raised Me Up and Ganapathi having already been found in the market.
That leaves ECLAIR DE BEAUFEU as the most tempting of the Irish runners.
He has good course form having been second in last season’s Grand Annual over fences. He is 10lbs lower today now back hurdling and showed he can cope with the smaller obstacles just as well when sixth in the Ladbrokes Hurdle last month on unsuitably soft ground.
There are a number of strong home-trained challengers too, pick of which could be the novice, GOWEL ROAD.
His yard does well with novices running in handicaps and this horse is a strong stayer over two miles, which should be a real plus. First-time cheekpieces could eke out further improvement and he is narrowly preferred to Third Time Lucki and Thyme White.
It would be no surprise were something to hit the frame at a monster price and with that in mind we can’t resist having a few quid each-way on MENGLI KHAN. This horse used to be top class in his early days in Ireland, where his wins included Grade 1 and Grade 3 novice hurdles.
He is now with Nicky Henderson and is thrown in if back to his best. Two good recent runs in bumpers offer plenty of encouragement.
Shop around as some bookmakers are offering 7 or even 8 places each-way.
ALBERT BARTLETT NOVICES' HURDLE
The Albert Bartlett is next, and the Irish’s dominance of the novice divisions looks set to continue here.
Both Stattler and Fakiera look to have solid claims, but the pick of those from the Emerald Isle could prove to be TORYGRAPH.
He has already proven his stamina, which is a real plus and the fact that cheekpieces are applied for the first time shows connections mean business. He also has the perfect man on board as, Rachael Blackmore aside, Jack Kennedy has been the most impressive jockey riding at the Festival so far.
The British challenge is led by Paul Nicholls who has two strong contenders.
Pick of the pair could be BARBADOS BUCK’S who hails from the family of the mighty Big Buck’s. He has also already proven his stamina and should enjoy the decent ground.
This is a race that can throw up a surprise or two, so it is probably also worth backing one at a big price, in case that trend continues.
Pats Fancy is interesting, but his odds have shrunk dramatically this morning, so go instead for OSCAR ELITE. His up and down season to date mirrors that of his yard generally, but if he could recapture the form of his first two runs now back up in trip then he could be in the mix. The first time tongue tie could be the key that unlocks a revival.
You can get 5 places for each-way bets on this race with Betfair.
CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP
The highlight of the week is next, with Al Boum Photo looking for an historic third win in the Gold Cup. We tipped him the first year he won, but didn’t expect him to follow up last year. We will take him on again here, with some new challengers bringing added depth to the contest.
Chief amongst those horses that tackle the race for the first time is A Plus Tard, who loves it here and looks to have a massive chance based on his win in the Savills Chase last time out. The ground is perfect and he has the sport’s latest star on board, but his price has come in dramatically in recent days meaning the value has long gone.
A Plus Tard also has to conclusively prove his stamina for this trip, which isn’t true of the horses that fought out the finish in last season’s RSA - CHAMP & MINELLA INDO.
That looked a top class race at the time and Allaho further underlined the value of the form when romping to victory in the Ryanair here yesterday.
Champ couldn’t have run a better comeback race than he did at Newbury in the Game Spirit recently. That run over two miles should have put him spot on for this, whilst Minella Indo comes alive here having also won the 2019 Albert Bartlett.
Of those at double figure prices, Kemboy could certainly run into a place at least with conditions to suit.
There is a question mark over whether he really likes this track though, so a better option would be Frodon, whose price looks a bit insulting for a horse with such good course form and a King George win to his name this season.
Conditions may not favour the strong stayers like Santini, Native River and Royale Pagaille, whilst a return to form for Lostintranslation hasn’t looked likely at any point so far this season.