The feature race of the Cheltenham Festival is today’s Gold Cup and if his stamina holds I hope to see Cue Card (3.30) become the first 11-year-old since Mandarin in 1962 to win the Blue Riband of jump racing although it should be noted that What A Myth was a year older when scoring in 1969.
Cue Card came down three out when going every bit as well as the eventual winner Don Cossack in the corresponding race last year but would he have got home up the Cheltenham hill? One thing is for sure he has been a credit to connections and I wonder whether Colin Tizzard could have even dreamt that seven years on from saddling the horse to win the Bumper at the Festival back in 2010 he would be back with a leading chance in the big one.
The selection is 7/2 (1/4 odds first three) with BetVictor and his inherent class and fencing ability should ensure he is going as well as anything coming to two out – after that? fingers crossed. Jockey Paddy Brennan still blames himself for last year’s defeat but we will never know if on the day he could have lowered the colours of the winner.
No Don Cossack to worry about but stablemate Native Riverwill ensure a true test of stamina. The Hennessy/Welsh National winner he has never scored in three starts at Cheltenham and blundered his way around in the 4m NH Chase before finishing a remarkable second last year. The winner Minella Rocco reopposes this afternoon and all hold realistic chances of winning Gold but it is Cue Card to raise the Cheltenham roof about 3.40 this afternoon.
Gold Cup 1-2-3
1. Cue Card
2. More Of That
3. Native River
In the opening Triumph Hurdle I cannot desert Philip Hobbs’ Defi Du Seuil (1.30) who I know is considered superior to the yard’s 2006 winner of the race the ill-fated grey Detroit City. Lambourn handler Nicky Henderson has been telling all-and-sundry that Charlie Parcs is in a different class to Wednesday’s Fred Winter runner up Divin Bere and he looked very impressive when scoring on his British debut at Kempton over Christmas.
If his subsequent fall two out behind Master Blueyes back at Kempton has not knocked his confidence he must go close and I would not be surprised to see another JP McManus 1-2. Philip Hobbs and Nicky Henderson are not renowned for calling geese swans – Defi Du Seuil is 9/4 with BetVictor and gets a narrow vote.
BetVictor are ¼ odds 5 places in the County Hurdle and it will be interesting to see if the market speaks in favour of Ivanovic Gorbatov for Joseph O’Brien – if it does, I suggest we take the hint.
Dan Skelton saddled the County Hurdle winner (Superb Story) twelve months ago and I expect to see a bold show from North Hill Harvey but he is 8lbs higher than when winning the Greatwood Hurdle back in November when he had Winter Escape (2.10) well down the field.
I refuse to believe, however, that was the lightly-raced gelding’s true form and he looked a potential star when winning his first three starts on decent ground. Alan King’s runners have, at the time of writing, run well in defeat so far this Festival and Winter Escape has avoided the winter groundin recent months and should enjoy underfoot conditions.
Death Duty is reported by many in the Gordon Elliot camp as their banker of the meeting but I feel this is a top-class renewal of the Albert Bartlett and at 9/4 he may just be a shade skinny given he is stepping up to three miles for the first time.
I also think Penhill, in the colours of Brighton and Hove Albion owner Tony Bloom, can go close at 16/1 with BetVictor but I am going to take an each way chance on The Worlds End (2.50) who was very impressive when scoring at Doncaster last time. It is possible that the Irish form is vastly superior to that of the British but I have been impressed with the Tom George-trained runner (10/1 at BetVictor) and am pleased Adrian Heskin keeps the ride.
Jamie Codd takes over from Nina Carberry (in foal) on the great On The Fringe (4.10) in the Foxhunters’ and he cannot be opposed in his hat-trick attempt. Taking 11/8 in a 24-runner event might not sound like value but he is likely to drift out to something near the 2/1 mark and that would be a decent price.
Tim Vaughan has acquired the services of the excellent Harry Cobden for his Dadsintrouble in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s event and he must go close given he has looked a progressive sort in winning his last two starts at Haydock albeit over slightly further on soft ground.
The vote, however, goes to No Comment (4.50) who has won his last three starts and has been taken slowly-slowly by leading connections. His ability to handle this big field must be taken on trust but he did win a 24-runner Punchestown Bumper back in April and is thoroughly unexposed over hurdles. The selection is 6/1 with BetVictor and I will be disappointed if he is out of the frame.
The Festival finale is the Grand Annual Chase and Dandridge looks a worthy favourite but I have always thought there was a big race in Rock The World (5.30) and this might be the day. The selection finished third in the corresponding race in 2016 and there is little between him and likely favourite Dandridge at the revised terms. At 12/1 he can give the excellent Jessica Harrington another Festival winner.
For all your sporting odds check out BetVictor.com