Thursday was a good day. Winning the Ryanair Chase at 12/1 and then following up with Penhill at an early 14/1 was rounded out by several long priced each way results (bet365 paid on 5/6 places – hint!).

Our Naps have been by far the worst of our selections this week, but we hope to turn that around on Gold Cup Friday!

Today’s Cheltenham Races – Quick Links

Race 1 – Triumph Hurdle – 1:30pm

2m1f (2m179y) (New) JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo)

In the opening Triumph Hurdle, we select Gary Moore’s SUSSEX RANGER (USA) which will be ridden by son Jamie Moore at a price of around 25/1. This one was “only” second last time out, to the super-impressive We Have a Dream which was going to run in this, but pulled out after being “off colour” early this week. Our selection put down the best of these against the clock, in one of two long distance wins, and was only beaten one and a half lengths last time out against what we believe will prove to be a class act. 25/1 is a great price, but the going is at least a question mark. We do not oppose APPLE’S SHAKIRA (FR) who has beaten everything faced to date, has done it on soft and heavy, and looks a great filly, but actually, STORMY IRELAND (FR) was slightly more impressive against the clock- on heavy going – on the only time seen on course (outside of France), so that could land an each-way touch for Willie Mullins and Noel Fehily.

Race 2 – County Hurdle – 2:10pm

2m1f (2m179y) (New) Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (Class 1) (5yo+)

27 runners are expected to line up for the County Hurdle, so we are looking at some great prices, on a big field. Our ratings suggest that the following three are the ones to be on: SPIRITOFTHEGAMES (IRE) who runs for Dan Skelton under brother Harry (10/1); WHISKEY SOUR (IRE) for Willie Mullins under David Mullins (10/1); and A HARE BREATH (IRE) for the impressive Ben Pauling under Daryl Jacob (18/1). Our preference is in the order mentioned, though all three have shown on course the best recent form. The favourite has been tapering up, though, and Gordon Elliot has been getting his horses firing this week, above previous performances, so this is an open and therefore difficult to predict race. Entertaining – certainly.

Race 3 – Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle – 2:50pm

3m (2m7f213y) (New) Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices’ Hurdle) (Class 1) (4yo+)

The Albert Bartlett we think will be taken out by SANTINI (GB) for Nicky Henderson under Nico de Boinville (3/1), though there is one gelding we are looking to take an each-way chance with: REAL STEEL (FR) put down a better performance first time out to anything in this race – before falling next time out and being blown away by Samcro last time out. Samcro is the real deal, we saw that earlier this week, so settling into a “not pushed” fifth place when up against that one could have been an off day. The stopwatch says give this Mullins trained gelding another chance – the class is there on paper, and the price may be around 25/1, David Mullins rides.

Race 4 – Cheltenham Gold Cup – 3:30pm

3m2½f (3m2f70y) (New) Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)

In the Gold Cup we are Napping ROAD TO RESPECT (IRE) which had form franked yesterday in the Ryanair by fellow Gigginstown member, Balco Des Flos. When two high class horses push each other on a strong pace, we learn who can actually run the fastest. MITE BITE (IRE) has done nothing but win, since falling in the King George, when pushed, but is a sliver behind the selection based on those performances, by our reckoning – and, this could prove important, is a known rougue when in front. Road to Respect looks better than anything Mite Bite has faced – if we see the same horse which appeared at Leopardstown last time, given a nice round of jumping (not always the case), we could be looking at a double figure Gold Cup winner.

Race 5 – Foxhunters Chase – 4:10pm

3m2½f (3m2f70y) (New) St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase (Class 2) (5yo+)

In the Foxhunters, we opt for two selections, for each-way interest: SIR JACK YEATS (IRE) trained by Richard Spencer and ridden by Mr James King (22/1) and VOLNAY DE THAIX (FR) (25/1) for trainer Stuart Morris under Mr Jack Andrews. This is wide open, and much depends on who arrives here fighting fit; and gets a clear run in a massive field amateur event.

Race 6 – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – 4:50pm

2m4½f (2m4f56y) (New) Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) (4yo+ 0-145)

FLAWLESS ESCAPE (GB) for the impressive Gordon Elliott under Jonathan Moore is our choice for the Martin Pipe. This one has not quite reproduced the type of eye-catching performance shown two starts ago on the heavy at Punchestown, but if he can, will take this race. The trainer seems to bring horses up for the Festival too, so the ability is there and the preparedness seems assured. Could be a cosy winner in truth. For the value seekers, we like BURROWS SAINT (FR) which is for team Mullins under Lizzie Kelly at a price of around 20/1. Looked a nice prospect on debut on the same day as the first choice, also on heavy ground.

Race 7 – Grand Annual Chase – 5:30pm

2m½f (2m62y) (New) Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (5yo+)

The last race, and we have two each-way selections to see off the Festival. DRESDEN (IRE) from the Henry Oliver stable, under James Davies, and DOLOS (FR) for Paul Nicholls under Harry Cobden may see the English get a consolation prize in a week their Irish counterparts have dominated.

Good luck if you are going to Cheltenham on Gold Cup day!

Published by Robin Scott

Software developer, Robin Scott helps to run the Little Blue Pen website, in order to publish the product of two decades worth of software driven UK & Irish racehorse ratings.

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