Contributing Tennis, Golf, and Soccer Editor
Contributing Tennis, Golf, and Soccer Editor
You find yourself reading our Cheltenham day four preview, including all the action from Gold Cup day at the Festival. National Hunt horse racing doesn’t get any better than this. See our picks for all seven races in our Cheltenham Friday preview for the final day of the meeting.
A strong Irish challenge headed by Zanahiyr and Quilixios who won most of the graded juvenile events held in the Emerald Isle commands respect. What these raiders lack, however, is course form and experience.
ADAGIO fits the bill instead and has clearly progressed since chasing home Duffle Coat in a trial at the track. He looks more than capable of holding his own against the market principals. Tritonic is another leading British contender and also improving.
His smart Flat form and rating means Alan King’s charge should be there or thereabouts if building on a 10-length win in the Adonis at Kempton. Of those at bigger odds, Tax For Max could be anything. He will need to learn to settle better, but an encouraging second in a Fairyhouse Grade 3 on Irish debut is something he can build on.
This wide-open handicap has any number in with chances, but GOWEL ROAD is the Cheltenham preview day 4 selection after a couple of fine efforts at Newbury. He is trained locally by Nigel Twiston-Davies and, prior to winning under 12st, chased home Ballymore contender Bear Ghylls at Ffos Las.
You Raised Me Up has won both of his starts for shrewd Irish trainer Martin Brassil this season. He was declared for this race last year, but didn’t make it to the track. You Raised Me Up remains unexposed and a real dark horse, so rates a big danger in the contest.
Champagne Gold is another Emerald Isle raider with each-way claims. His trainer, Henry De Bromhead, kicked off the Festival in real style with victory in the Champion Hurdle. At the revised weights, both Champagne Gold and Saint D’Oroux could well have the beating of Leopardstown conqueror Drop The Anchor.
FAKIERA has been staying on strongly at the end of his races, so stepping up in trip to 3m here could be the making of him. He has certainly shaped better than the favourite Stattler, who folded tamely at the Dublin Racing Festival and lost second on the run-in, for this stamina test.
Paul Nicholls saddles leading British contenders Barbados Buck’s and Threeunderthrufive. The latter has seen the form of his last two wins advertised by those who chased him home. The Cob has been supplemented, but this is very different going to his win in a Doncaster trial.
Streets Of Doyen could also go well at a big price. He’s won at the course before, so don’t be put off by his unusual prep run over 2m last time out. Torygraph came in for ante post support but the form looks mixed, so caution is advised with him.
And now, for the centrepiece of the Cheltenham day four preview, the Gold Cup itself. Al Boum Photo bids for a hat-trick after a typically light chase campaign. Last year’s form doesn’t really stack up with so many in-behind him disappointing. There are new dangers for Willie Mullins to worry about, however.
We haven’t seen much of Champ since powering up the Cheltenham hill and winning the old RSA Chase 12 months ago. He did run well on his belated return in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury over a trip that was way too short. Champ looked to have brushed up on his jumping, so has solid claims for Nicky Henderson and JP McManus,
Royale Pagaille has been a revelation this season. He tries to emulate Coneygree and win the Gold Cup as a novice. As impressive and progressive as Venetia Williams’ charge has been, these are very deep waters. The Peter Marsh Chase was an easy one to win last time out.
A PLUS TARD is unexposed as a stayer, meanwhile, and surged past his rivals when landing the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. Runner-up Kemboy franked the form in his absence when taking the Irish Gold Cup. A strong pace looks assured thanks to the presence of front-running duo Frodon, who won the King George, and Cotswold Chase scorer Native River.
Last year’s runner-up Billaway has been in winning form again this season, but he has not always been fluent at his fences. The fact that Hunter Chase hero It Came To Pass has been so out of sorts is also a concern.
Instead, our Cheltenham Friday preview points to McManus’ Enda Bolger trained pair IT CAME TO PASS and STAKER WALLACE as each-way alternatives. The way in which the later stayed on into second behind Billaway last time out suggests he might turn the tables over an extra furlong here.
Stand Up And Fight, meanwhile, was a never nearer fourth over an inadequate trip on his penultimate sart behind that one. He can give a much better account now tackling a longer distance, and was an unlucky runner-up to Jurt Duty last time out when hampered at the final fence.
A match on paper between Mullins duo ELIMAY and Colreevy. Our Cheltenham preview day 4 has clear preference for the former at the weights. This is because Elimay gets 2lb from her stable companion and has 5lb in hand on official figures.
Her form with Agusta Gold from last season has been advertised nicely. There’s also no reason why Elimay shouldn’t beat previous Festival winner Shattered Love in the inaugural running of this race after firmly putting her in her place at Naas.
Colreevy, meanwhile, carries a Grade 1 penalty for her success in the Faugheen Novice Chase at Limerick over Christmas. She has backed up that race, which fell apart, when giving weight and a thrashing to other Irish mares at this level. Colreevy is a novice, however, and carrying top-weight in this is tougher.
Lastly in our Cheltenham day four preview, MARTINHAL gets in off bottom weight and that will make a pleasant change from giving it away to others. This in-form horse is one of three in race for David Pipe, the son of the trainer who this event is named for.
Martinhal has back-to-back wins at Exeter, and the way he toughed things out there the last twice suggests he will not be lacking. The step up in trip should also suit him. Gentleman De Mee is a very unexposed horse for Mullins and, although the handicapper has taken no chances, he is open to any amount of further improvement.
Imperial Cup winner Langer Dan is 5lb well-in on his revised rating following his Sandown success on Saturday, and also sneaks in towards the foot of the weights. His eye-catching fourth over this trip at Market Rasen marked him out as one to follow, and he could be the each-way value now quickly turned out again.