13.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle
- A victory last time out preferably in a Graded event, 22 of the last 28 winners lto
- Raced in the last 50 days
- Sire to be a Grade 1 winner
- Prominent market position. 12 of the last 17 front 4 in the betting.
Spring, Finesse, or Adonis Hurdles 9 of the last 12 winners last time ran in one of them
Nicky Henderson 7 winners and Gordon Elliot 2 wins in the last 8 years
The front four in the market are two Mullins and two Elliot-trained runners and I expect them to have this between them with English based runners looking below that level.
Pied Piper gives us some form correlation when trouncing his field over course and distance when last seen.
He was visually impressive that day but I’m not sure that was much of a race and I think his beating of Vauban adds more strength to his claims.
Vauban himself has since come out and won the Spring Juvenile in good style having the reopposing Fil Dor beaten fairly in second.
That was certainly a step forward and I just feel he has more progression in him than the main Elliot fancy and he’s a confident selection.
The other horse who I want to have on my side is his stablemate Il Etatit Temps; he finished third in the Leopardstown event but wasn’t really fancied that day based on the market.
It was some performance on his debut in Ireland and for his new trainer to finish as close as he did, doing all his best work late.
If conditions prove to be demanding still by Friday, then that looks in his favour also and he looks the most value for each way support as the market stands currently.
Selection Vauban – Il Etait Temps
14.10 County Handicap Hurdle
- Novice or second season hurdler, 17 of the last 21
- Experience in a high-class handicap
- Rated between 132 – 139. 12 of the last 15
- Not a winner last time out
- Won less than 2 handicap hurdles, last 10
2-mile early February handicaps at Newbury or Leopardstown.
Irish have now won 10 of the last 15. A race though that Paul Nicholls, Willie Mullins (5 of last 12) and Dan Skelton have an excellent record in, with the latter winning 3 of the last 6.
A maximum field for one of the most competitive handicap hurdles of the season.
State Man heads the market current after being somewhat of a talking horse in recent months and comes here completely unexposed with just the 2 starts in Ireland to date.
He is no doubt going to prove better than his current handicap mark in time but similar to the Mullins horse in the boodles earlier this week has to be taken on at short odds.
The yard also runs another unexposed type in the shape Tax For Max; a useful flat horse, he’s not been seen since disappointing at Galway in the summer but he has potential in handicaps and at fancy odds is worth having on your side.
Top Bandit looks the main hope for Gordon Elliot; he’s three from four over hurdles and has been kept fresh for this step into handicap company.
He ticks a lot of the profile for this race and should go well. Dan Skelton has tasted success in this race recently and whilst he has a more fancied runner in Greatwood Hurdle third West Cork it’s his other runner Stepney Casueway who I want to take a chance on at fancy odds.
He ran up a sequence of wins as a juvenile hurdler before finishing 9 lengths behind I like To Move It on seasonal reappearance this year.
That’s solid enough form to suggest he can still be competitive off 134 and now reverts back to hurdles after an unsuccessful chase campaign.
Cheekpieces go on for the first time and Jack Andrews, who takes a handy 5lbs off, can keep tactics pretty simple from the front which has seemed to be advantageous so far this week.
The before mentioned I Like To Move It has since looked a really progressive hurdler including a fine effort to finish second in the Betfair Hurdle.
He is another who is likely to race handy and this straight forward type should be thereabouts.
I do however think that the third that day First Street is open to more improvement now tasting large field handicap for the first time.
He finished his race well that day and is expected to reverse the form here and give Nicky Henderson another winner this week.
Selection First Street – Stepney Causeway – Tax For Max
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14.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices’ Hurdle)
- Graded form, 12 of the 17 had been 1st or 2nd last time out in Graded Class
- 6 or 7 years old. 14 of the last 16
- Starting career in a Point to Point. 7 of the last 10 winners
The grade 2m 6f grade 1 at Leopardstown seems to be the new go to prep race. Minella Cocooner
That man again. Willie Mullins has won 3 of the last 7 renewals
This has an open feel to it for me so and with it being a race where we have seen plenty of big priced winners in the past I’m happy to look that way once more.
Stag Horn was a 100 rated horse on the flat and has mixed it with some of the best stayers around.
He’s won both his hurdles starts including a Grade 2 at Warwick which generally speaking normally works out pretty well.
He’s not proven over a trip this far but as mentioned he was strong stayer on the flat and the suggestion is the extra yardage should and at the prices is worth taking a chance on.
One who should have no stamina doubts is the 3 times point winner Ballygrifincottage. The Dan Skelton trained gelding was pitched in at the deep end on rules debut but ran a very respectable race in finishing third in a grade 2 here at the Cheltenham.
He’s since relished soft conditions to win comfortably at Lingfield last time out. Open to further improvement, a big run would not surprise.
In a race where I think the English novices might just hold sway for once Hillcrest would be my pick of those at the front of the market.
This lovely big imposing type looks more of chasing type but that’s not held him back over the smaller obstacles and arguably comes here with the strongest form credentials.
He looked all about stamina when winning here over shorter and that proved the case when winning comfortably stepping up to 3 miles last time in Grade 2 at Haydock.
He looks the ideal type for this race and should take some beating. Ireland is well represented with the likes of Ginto, Minella Cocooner the former is already a grade 1 winner but I would like to have seen him proven at this distance given his price.
Selection Ballygrifincottage – Stag Horn
15.30 Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase
- Will have previous Festival form, 17 of the last 21 at worst placed prior.
- Previous Grade 1 winner. 21 or the last 22
- Ran 3 or less times this season and not on heavy ground
- 2nd or 3rd season chasers with no more than 12 runs over fences, 18 of the last 22
- Top 2 finish last time.18 of the last 21.
King George or Irish Gold Cup form, 18 of the last 22
Last season’s RSA Chase
British trained runners hold Ireland 16 to 8 in the last 24 years but Irish based runners have won 4 of the last 6
The feature race of the week and it looks an excellent renewal with the last 2 winners both set to take their chance.
The 2019 and 2020 winner Al Boum Photo again ran a cracker last year when a creditable third to Minella Indo and A Plus Tard.
The Willie Mullins runner has had his usual prep for this winning his fourth successive win in Tramore Grade 3 on New Year’s Day. Cheekpieces go on for the first time but it’s going to be some achievement to retain his crown.
Last year’s winner Minella Indo has struggled with his form this season but he did at least bounce back from a disappointing in the King George when second in the Irish Gold Cup.
He seems to come alive round Cheltenham which is a huge plus but I can’t help thinking last season’s huge performance has left something of a mark and we know it’s such a huge task to achieve back-to-back victories in this race.
A Plus Tard is also back for more he was impressive at Haydock on return before just being picked up by Galvin at Leopardstown.
His form is rock solid and looks sure to go well again for top connections however I’m always concerned with his ability to really see things out under likely conditions and I think that will be the case once more.
We have no such worries with Galvin, he’s been my long-term fancy for the race and conditions look to have turned ideal for him The Gordon Elliott runner won the NH Chase over 3m6f here last season and has already shown he can mix it with the top-level performers when beating A Plus Tard and couple more of these at Leopardstown in the Savills Chase.
He arrives here a fresh horse and the understanding is his preparation has all gone to plan so he is expected to be very tough to beat.
Protektorat looks the main hope for a English based victory. He was grade 1 winner at Aintree last season and returned this season with a good second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
He’s proved himself over a trip this far when winning a Grade 2 back at Aintree last time. The Dan Skelton runner is still open to further improvement and is worth saving on especially if the ground was to dry up.
Selection Galvin – Protektorat
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16.10 St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase
- Doesn’t need to be proven over this trip
- Last 7 winners aged 10 or 11
- Rated 134+ 10 of the last 12
- Winner or at worst placed last time out
5 of the last 10 winners ran in the Leopardstown Inn Hunters’ Chase
A race which can often take some sorting out with various form lines coming together.
Billaway has been around a fair bit now in this division and he looked good in the first-time headgear recently. Second in this last year he has a favourites chance once more.
Winged Leader looks to be the other main hope for an Irish winner; he’s won his last 3 starts including beating Billaway and could have more to offer.
The race in which Cousin Pascal beat Bob and Co is the key English based form for me and given the likely odds of the pair its worth having both on your side.
The Paul Nicholls trained runner was going well still in this last season and no doubt a repeat attempt has always been the plan this year so he can be expected to come on considerably for last time.
Cousin Pascal just appeals as a solid type who should run his race, which is sometimes enough to take this.
He was somewhat of a surprise winner at Aintree last year but that proved he was up to this level and should be in the mix.
Selection Bob And Co – Cousin Pascal
16.50 Mares’ Chase (Registered as The Liberthine Mares’ Chase)
Second running of the race no surprise to see Willie Mullins win last season and his record with mares at the meeting suggest his runners are likely to be hard to beat once again.
The newest race added to the festival programme for the Mares over the larger obstacles.
Willie Mullins won the inaugural running of the race but it’s his second-place finisher from that race Elimay who looks to be his main hope this time around.
A reproduction of that effort will no doubt see her in the mix once again she looks to have had similar prep this season winning the Mares Listed Chase at Navan last time.
Mount Ida managed to give weight and beating to the Willie Mullins runner when the meat at Fariyhouse earlier this season.
The Gordon Elliot runner is already a festival winner coming from a long way back to win the Kim Muir.
She might be slightly better over further but with conditions on the testing side and with that Fairyhouse run still fresh in the memory she is one to be with here.
Concertista is unbeaten in two starts this season and the Willie Mullins runner is the other runner in the line-up likely to be involved come the business end.
Selection – Mount Ida
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17.30 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
- Graded race form, 11 of the 13 winners had run in one
- Large field experience, 12 of the 13 winners won a hurdle race with 11 runners or more
- Second season hurdlers, 12 of the 13 winners
- Carried 11-1 or more. All winners
- Aged 7 or younger. All winners
Again, a race for the four big for yards of Nicholls, Mullins, Henderson & Elliot. Owners Giggingstown have a strong record with 4 winners and numerous placed runners
A fiercely competitive race to end the meeting and it’s normally a case of finding out the future graded horse hiding in this handicap.
Langer Dan currently heads the market and looks the main English hope for trainer Dan Skelton.
He was Runner-up in this event last year and probably was just having a prep when finishing last at Taunton on sole start. Since he’s dropped 3 lb for that run and if bouncing back should go close.
Gordon Elliot has tasted success in this race in recent years but it’s a bit of guess work to figure which of his runners is the main hope for this season’s event.
Chemical Energy and The Goffer should be ahead of their marks in time however it’s the more proven Hollow Games who will be carrying my support.
He’s been consistent in graded company this season managing to win at Grade 3 level before finishing third behind Ginto and Minelle Crooner at the top level. That’s high-class form for me, he’s a nice way of racing and a mark of 143 looks fair from what we have seen.
Willie Mullins runs Five O’Clock for the first time after finishing seventh in this not beaten far two years ago. It’s a bit of a leap of faith to support him after the 735 lay off but his trainer has previous and there is enough juice in the price.
Selection Hollow Games – Five O’Clock
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