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First of all, happy St Patrick’s Day to all those who are going to be drinking their weight in Guinness and wearing ridiculous hats and ginger wigs. And also, happy last day of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival. Yesterday was finally a day for the punters, with Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins obliging in good style with four winners, Nichols Canyon being the biggest one of the day for them. It was a stunning return to form, and it certainly showed me that there is no doubts about the stable, their other fancied runners were just not good enough on the day or, in the case of Douvan, struggling with fitness.
Today being the last day of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, it is, of course, headlined by the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which feels like it’s lost a bit of its lustre with a host of big names being withdrawn over the last couple of months, specifically the hotshot Thistlecrack, which had beaten all and sundry on his route to the Chelteham Festival. Still, we do have a cracking race in prospect, but before that that have the Triumph Hurdle, one of my favourite races of the festival, followed by the County Hurdle, which I’m not as big a fan of, and then the Albert Bartlett, before the big race at 3:30. The meeting is finished by the Foxhunter Cup, the Martin Pipe Hurdle and finally the Grand Annual, a fittingly horrible way to finish the meeting!
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As I said at the start, I love the Triumph Hurdle, as we get to see some starts of the future, which is always exciting. Defi Du Seuil will be well fancied, and he’s not put a foot wrong all year, notching up five wins out of five over hurdles, with three of them coming at Cheltenham. However, he’ll be plenty short enough, and I’m hoping there’s a bit more value out there.
A chance is taken on smart flat performer Landofhopeandglory to hit the highs he showed at the start of his racing career and turn the tables on Dinaria Des Obeaux. He really didn’t cope with the heavy ground in Ireland, so a return to better ground is definitely going to be in his favour. He should be real value given his exceptional form in Group races on the flat.
The County Hurdle is another of those cavalry charge races, and interestingly we have last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner, Ivanovich Gorbatov sitting at third in the handicap. However, he seems to have lost his way this year and couldn’t be backed with any confidence. North Hill Harvey will be well fancied after his win last time out at Cheltenham, but I think he might need the ground to come up a bit softer.
I actually see a lot of vaule in Mohaayed, right at the bottom of the handicap, who has raced against some smart horses, finishing second to Elgin, and also having form between the classy Neon Wolf. If Mohaayed can replicate that kind of form, he could be a real handicap rick here, as I have him at least half a stone better than the current mark. A win last time out will also help improve confidence. Mohaayed could go off at a fancy enough price, so an each-way punt is the play here.
The Albert Bartlett is another fun one, and we have some great novices lining up for this. Death Duty leads the way on form, undefeated over hurdles, but Gordon Elliott’s charge seems to be more of a soft ground horse, and the ground at Cheltenham might just be a bit too much on the fast side. Constantine Bay looks a quality sort for a great yard, but the win over No Hassle Hoff is eclipsed by The Worlds End.
The Worlds End gave No Hassle Hoff a nine length beating, giving away weight, too. We know he’ll get the trip, too, which is important in this race. He has the second best form in terms of ratings, and seems to tick all the boxes for me. Augusta Kate also appeals, but her form in her one run at Cheltenham leaves question marks over her ability to handle the course.
The shine has gone off this race somewhat, but we still have a great line-up to get stuck into for the feature race of the Cheltenham Festival. Djakadam has finished second twice and will be well fancied to finally get the win for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh. However, his form this year has been all over the place and can’t be backed with any real confidence. Cue Card will also be a popular winner, but I feel like it was his year last year, when he fell and he isn’t getting any younger.
I’m going to be taking a bit of a chance on Sizing John the winner of the Irish Gold Cup. He’s improving all the time and should give a good account in a wide open race at a great price. More of That interests me, too, but there is a question on whether he’ll get the trip in such a quickly-run race.
The Foxhunter Chase is full of old stalwarts and point-to-pointers, and unless you follow that scene, it can be a minefield trying to find the winner. Paint the Clouds finished third in this race last year and should go well again, after a decent year. Wonderful Charm has some good form in the book and being nine has a bit of youth compared to the market leaders.
However, course form counts for so much at the Cheltenham Festival, and last year’s winner, On the Fringe, should be in with a great chance with the booking of Jamie Codd, too, who has lit up the festival this year. Enda Bolger knows what it takes to win the Foxhunters so I can see On the Fringe becoming a repeat winner of this race.
The penultimate race of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, the Martin Pipe Hurdle, is for conditional jockeys and is another one of those races that is wide open. No Comment has some solid form this year and looks likely to go off favourite. Runfordave looks likely to need softer ground.
Thomas Campbell has been running in decent company and with Nicky Henderson training him, there’s a lot to like. He could be well handicapped on his last run, even though he finished in fifth, as it was a decent Group 2. A win at Cheltenham also adds another tick to the box.
The last race, the Grand Annual, and it’s another “stick the pin in the paper” races, to be honest. Le Prezien sets the standard, winning an Arkle trial here back in November. However, he seems well enough handicapped for this one. Dandridge finished second in this race last year, but is 3lbs higher than this time last year, which might just make it a bit more difficult. Rock the World, who finished third, is up 1lb from last year and has struggled for form this year.
The Game Changer looks intersting for Gordon Elliott. He has solid form in Ireland and might just make Irish eyes smile on St Paddy’s Day in the last race of the festival. An each-way suggestion here, but there’s a lot to like about The Game Changer and he should give a good showing for rock solid connections.