Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Galopin is the short-priced favourite for Friday’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. Photo: Inpho.

The Triumph Hurdle always opens proceedings on the final day of the Festival and this looks like a Willie Mullins benefit as he has the top three in the market and it’s very hard to see past them. Lossiemouth was the long time favourite for this but since she has been headed in the market following her defeat at the DRF. I think she was unlucky that day when losing to another mare, Gala Marceau (third in the betting for this) and I’ll be giving her another chance. I think she’s really good. The fly in the ointment could be the new favourite, Blood Destiny. He’s won two from two at Cork and Fairyhouse but the form from those races is working out well. Lossiemouth getting seven pounds is huge for me but of course it will be a big boost for whichever Paul Townend chooses. Hard to see beyond the first three.

The County Hurdle is next and this looks a wide open affair. He’s owned by JP McManus and trained by Emmett Mullins but his three runs this season have all been in England where he’s won two and come second in the other. Has to have a big chance for very shrewd trainer. Emmett’s uncle Willie has Hunters Yard who looks useful and ten year old Sharjah who’s been supported in recent weeks but the one I like is an English horse, Gin Coco, from the Harry Fry yard who will most likely be ridden by East Cork jockey Johnny Burke at around 8/1.

As in the previous race, the Albert Bartlett also has an Emmett Mullins/JP McManus favourite in the shape of Corbett’s Cross. He’s been very impressive this season and is a worthy favourite. The Irish dominate the betting for this and in behind the fav are Gordon Elliott’s Three Card Brag, for the McNeill family (who will almost certainly need it on the soft side) and Willie Mullins’ Embassy Gardens who absolutely hacked up at Thurles the last day, but what did he beat? Henry de Bromhead has a live chance here too with Hiddenvalley Lake, who despite being beaten by a stablemate last time out still has to have a big chance.

The Gold Cup is obviously the feature of the final day, and the whole meeting, and unlike recent editions there’s a strong favourite in the shape of Willie Mullins’ Galopin Des Champs. Since falling in the Turners at last year’s Festival he hasn’t looked back, winning at Fairyhouse, Punchestown and Leopardstown. He looks really good and is definitely the one they all have to beat but my one worry is that he’s never run over the Gold Cup distance and until he does you can’t be certain that he stays. They think he will but will he?
King George winner, Bravemansgame, from the Paul Nicholls yard, is second in the betting but again he’s unproven at this distance but he looks like a good jumper and has to have a chance for a man that knows all about winning this race. Then you have last year’s winner, Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard. He was very impressive in winning this last year and was a short priced favourite after that to go back to back but he ran a stinker in Haydock in November and the fact that he hasn’t been since leaves far more questions than answers to his chances.
There seems to be plenty of good horses in this that could get into the mix or definitely run into a place. The likes of Grand National winner, Noble Yeats, Conflated, Ahoy Senor and of course Henry de Bromhead’s other Gold Cup winner, Minella Indo who is set to be ridden by Mark Walsh.
In summing up, Galopin Des Champs, should win but I’m not totally convinced he’ll get the trip. If he does he wins.

The St. James’s Palace Hunters Chase or the Foxhunters to you and me is a race I have a brilliant record in and last year I was sick when Winged Leader was collared close home by Billaway. This year’s race is easy in that it should be won by trainer David Christie. He has the first three in the betting and they look well clear of the rest. Top amateur, Bon O’Neill, has ridden all three in all their starts this season so one would imagine he’ll have the choice and whichever he choses should be hard to beat. Vaucelet is currently favourite, followed by Ferns Lock and Winged Leader. Henry de Bromhead’s Chris’s Dream won’t be without a chance either, while another Waterford runner, Declan Queally’s Rocky’s Howya, has been in brilliant form in Point-to-Points this term.

This Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase is the penultimate race of the week and it’s just the third running of this race. Willie Mullins has won the two previous runnings, including Colreevy (owned by the Flynn family from Dungarvan) in 2021 and he has the favourite once again this time around in Allegorie De Vassy. But this is a tough race. Colm Murphy’s Impervious has a lot of supporters and Gavin Cromwell’s Jeremys Flame is no mug either. Henry de Bromhead’s Magic Daze is entered here too and wherever she runs she should have a chance. I don’t think I’ll be having a bet in this, too tight to call for me.

And so we arrive at the final race of the week, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle and hopefully we’re all well in front by this stage. Again it’s a 6 or 7/1 the field race so plenty of value to be had here. This race has been won by some very nice horses over the years including Banbridge last year and Galopin Des Champs in 2021. Gordon Elliott has a good record in this too and they like their runner, Imagine, who has been well backed in recent weeks. Spanish Harlem, especially if Willie Mullins is after the brilliant week that most expect, is likely to go off as favourite.
So there you have it, another epic Cheltenham preview in the can. Now all we have to do is back a few winners and hopefully next week we’ll be reporting on plenty of Waterford successes as we’ve been very luck to do over recent years.

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