The fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival plays host to arguably the biggest and most eagerly awaiting race of the entire week when the Gold Cup will go to post as the feature race of the last-day racecard.
The day represents one final chance for punters to get one over on the bookmakers and head for home in profit after another thrilling afternoon of horse racing action which not only sees the top-class contest go to post, but also further Grade One contests with the Triumph Hurdle and Albert Bartlett joined by the amateur riders’ own Gold Cup in the Foxhunters Chase.
13.30 - JCB Triumph Hurdle (2m 1f) (Grade 1)
DEFI DU SEUIL
) should be hard to beat as the Voix Du nord gelding seeks to extend his winning sequence and give some respite to favourite backers who have largely had their fingers burnt over the previous three days.
A French bumper winner for Emmanuel Clayeux prior to joining with this yard, the Hobbs runner has won all five starts over hurdles this term, which include three over course and distance.
An impressive winner of the Grade Two Finesse Hurdle here in January, he has also landed the Grade One Future Champions Hurdle by a wide margin, despite not always fluent at his hurdles. His form is far and away the best on offer and he has confirmed his reputation as the best juvenile hurdler around.
A strong traveller with a big engine, he should get punters and favourite backers off to a winning start on the final day, and he is likely to prove hard to beat.
Defi Du Seuil should prove hard to beat in the Triumph Hurdle.
14.10 - Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle Race (2m 1f) (Grade 3)
The drying ground will suit 2016 Triumph Hurdle winner IVANOVICH GORBATOV
) down to the ground, and Joseph O'Brien's charge can take his Festival tally to two wins from two runs.
The Montjeu gelding hasn't quite progressed from that win twelve months ago, but he has been set some very stiff tasks in Graded company behind the likes of Apple's Jade, Nichols Canyon and Petit Mouchoir; and he has largely acquitted himself well without ever really threatening to win.
He has his sights lowered considerably from the Grade One contests he has been contesting; and the reapplication of blinkers down in grade could well spark a revival. With a useful claimer on board taking off a handy 5lbs, he looks very well handicapped in this contest and with conditions in his favour a big run wouldn't surprise.
14.50 - Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Race (3m) (Grade 1)
A chance is taken that AUGUSTA KATE
(6/1, William Hill
) can atone for her fall last time in the Lawlor's Hotel Novices' Hurdle at Naas, where she looked a big danger to the eventual winner, Death Duty, who reopposes.
Willie Mullins' charge boasts some solid bumper form behind the likes of Ballyandy in the Champion Bumper last term, and when impressively seeing off Forge Meadow at Punchestown in a Listed bumper last April.
The Yeats mare made a taking hurdles debut at Thurles in November, readily scoring by three lengths from Ask Susan; that form is nothing special, but she looked a big threat in that Naas Grade One last time, where on terms with the winner over the last she caught the top bar and fell. Whether she would have won is debatable, but she would certainly have given Death Duty a race; but she is proven over this longer trip, while Gordon Elliott's charge has to show likewise that he gets this far.
Willie Mullins' charge won a bumper on good ground, so the drying conditions won't pose an issue; while the Elliot runner has raced only on a soft surface so he also has to prove he handles the ground; and in receipt of mares' allowance which sees the Yeats mare receiving 7lbs, she could prove the answer.
15.30 - Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase (3m 2½f) (Grade 1)
No Coneygree, Don Cossack or Thistlecrack in the latest renewal, leaving arguably the most open Gold Cup in years.
The Colin Tizzard pair of Native River and Cue Card are respected; as is Willie Mullins’ dual runner-up Djakadam; however, in a Festival of shock results, CHAMPAGNE WEST
(16/1, Paddy Power
) is chanced to put past jumping issues behind him and win this big price on the back of his impressive Theystes Chase perfomance earlier where he carried a huge weight around in soft ground to score by seven lengths.
The Theystes route has been used in the past by On His Own and Djakadam; while Arkle and Flyingbolt also feature on the roll-of-honour for that contest; Henry de Bromhead’s charge might not match up to those legends, but he was a classy novice chaser for Philip Hobbs before his jumping collapsed.
A dual-winner over the course, his new handler seems to have sharpened up his jumping which has also seen the Westerner gelding score a Listed success at Tramore. While it has to be taken on trust that his fencing problems have been ironed out, that most recent performance over Ucello Conti and Bonny Kate showed his mettle; and potentially still open to improvement over this longer trip, he can go well if his jumping holds up in this better company.
Theystes winner Champagne West (left) could run a big race in the Gold Cup if his jumping holds up.
16.10 - St. James’s Place Foxhunter Steeple Chase Challenge Cup (3m 2½f)
The amateur riders’ Gold Cup, this competitive contest could well go to WONDERFUL CHARM
(9/2, Paddy Power
) who has been rejuvenated since sent hunter chasing by Paul Nicholls, and the Poliglote gelding should go close with a clear round.
A high class chaser at his best, winning a pair of Grade Two contests as a novice, he has largely kept good company although his limitations at the top level have been exposed. Having failed to beat a rival home behind Menorah in last season’s Oaksey Chase, he has been sent hunting this term to good effect, winning easily at Musselburgh and Haydock and the winning margin in each case doesn’t tell the whole story as he’s not been seriously tested in either contest.
While Will Biddick, who has ridden him he last twice, has committed to partner Ask The Weatherman instead it needn’t be seen as a negative for the Nicholls runner who also faces the stalwart On The Fringe who won this race twelve months ago; and still only nine years old, he could have further days in the sun to come with Katie Walsh booked to ride.
16.50 - Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Race (2m 4½f)
) could be an interesting runner for Philip Hobbs, and the Sabrehill gelding could have more to offer over timber having been in good form for this yard since moving from James Ewart.
A winner on his second hurdles start at Newton Abbot, he followed up back at that venue next time, beating Wolftrap; and he lost nothing in defeat behind Clyne at Haydock in November. That form looks pretty strong now, and he ran out an easy winner of his next start at Taunton earlier in February when beating Willows Saviour by five lengths.
That was an impressive success, and it suggested that there was more under the bonnet; he’s been raised 10lbs in the wake of that effort, but he could still be well-treated ogiven he is open to further improvement, and he is one to be interested in if finding the anticipated progress.
Verni could contest the Martin Pipe Hurdle, where he boasts a good chance.
17.30 - Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Steeple Chase Challenge Cup (2m ½f) (Grade 3)
A competitive finale to another great Festival, and another tricky ‘get out’ stakes faces punters looking to go home on a winner.
) finished runner-up in this contest twelve months ago, and Arthur Moore's charge may be able to go one better from just 6lb higher in the weights.
The Doyen gelding built on that effort to go close at Aintree next time from just 1lb lower than his current mark, and he has largely run well in defeat this term without ever threatening to win on ground arguably softer than ideal.
Sixth to Lake Takapuna on his last chase start on Boxing Day, he has subsequently run well over hurdles back at Leopardstown when fifth to Grand Partner in February; and back over fences here with quicker ground to suit, it wouldn't be a surprise if he were to go close in this contest under Davy Russell who again partners Arthur Moore's charge in the race.
2017 CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL DAY FOUR SELECTIONS