While all the attention at the final day of the Cheltenham Festival is always on the Gold Cup, we shouldn’t forget that there is a quality undercard either side of the big race as four fabulous days of racing comes to a close on Friday.
Among the races which are not handicaps are the eagerly awaited Triumph Hurdle, the Albert Bartlett and the Foxhunters. We’ve scoured the card and come up with bets in all of those races at decent prices.
13.30 Cheltenham: Triumph Hurdle
The opener on the final day is the Triumph where the Irish are responsible for the front 5 in the market. Vauban is the favourite after having won the Spring Juvenile Hurdle & he had Fil D’Or back in 2nd with Il Etait Temps 3rd & Icare Allen 5th. The other Irish runner in the front 5 is Pied Piper who narrowly beat Vauban first time up before coming here to win the Triumph Trial next time up. I wasn’t overly impressed with that Spring Juvenile form so cannot really get involved in any of the Irish contenders here as none represent obvious value to me. Of the British, Gary Moore has a pair of contenders in Porticello & Teddy Blue but it’s another Brit I’m siding with here.
Knight Salute bids to give his trainer his first ever Cheltenham Festival winner but he has a chance after winning his first 5 starts over hurdles. He won at Sedgefield & Kempton before coming here to win another trial in November where he travelled well, jumped best & stayed on really well up the hill. Course form cannot be underestimated so that’s a massive positive in a race with question marks against many. He then won the Grade 2 Summit at Doncaster beating Porticello and then gave Teddy Blue 5lbs & a 3 length beating in the Adonis. Admittedly this is much tougher but you cannot do more than win 5 on the spin including one at this track. If he was trained by a Nicholls or a Henderson, he would be single figure odds so at the prices, I’m happy to have a bit on each way.
Back Knight Salute (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 19.00 Bet365 BOG (⅕ odds 1-4)
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14.55 Cheltenham: Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle
This is a proper stamina test for novice hurdlers & with a field of 19, I’m not one to be taking a short price although both Ginto & Hillcrest should go very well. Ginto is 3 from 3 over hurdles but has to go this far whilst Hillcrest has won all of his completed starts but did unseat 2 starts ago here. The other thing I like to look for is a horse that is battle hardened & it’s worth noting that the front 4 in the market have won 10 races between them with 8 of them where they went off at 7/5 or shorter. In fact, Hillcrest was responsible for the 2 wins at longer prices & even those were just at 11/4 & 3/1.
The one I like is Good Time Jonny & whilst he’s a handicapper stepping into Grade 1 company, his credentials are solid. He came here for the November meeting where he finished 6th behind Gowel Road but he was pushed along & stayed on really well. He looks the one that would be suited by a longer trip. Next time up, he won a novice handicap hurdle at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting over two & a half miles where he came from midfield to stay on best of all to mow down Mars Harper, winning a shade comfortably. Stepped up to 3 miles on his last start, he followed up in another big field handicap & his record this term in big fields reads 3rd of 16, 1st of 15 & 1st of 24. Whether he’s quite up to stepping up in grade is questionable but he still looks like there’s more to come & conditions look perfect for him to run a big race.
Back Good Time Jonny (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 17.00 Coral BOG (⅕ odds 1-5)
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16.10 Cheltenham: Hunter Chase
The Hunter Chase is run over the same trip as the Gold Cup & as always has attracted a big field, with 19 runners taking their chance. Billaway is the current market leader, justified as he’s finished runner up in the last 2 runnings of this race. However, he was sent off favourite for both so, whilst he has the most solid credentials, he’s not one I’d want to be taking a short price about. Both Winged Leader & Bob And Co have beaten Billaway in the last 12 months, with the latter going really well here last year before coming to grief 3 from home. It’s hard to split the trio but none are particularly appealing at the prices.
At slightly bigger odds, I like the chances of Dubai Quest. A winner of 6 of his 10 point to points, he is also unbeaten in 2 starts under rules & has won his last 7 overall. Just over 12 months ago, he won as easy as you like at Fakenham on rules debut despite clouting a fence really hard where the jockey briefly lost her irons. A year on, he again won under rules, this time at Wetherby. He had to be pushed along for a few yards down the back straight when a slow jump didn’t help but after coming back on the bridle, the result was never in much doubt. Many suggest his jumping won’t hold up but I actually think it gets some unfair criticism. He’s quite low over his fences but in my mind, I’d say he’s efficient. Admittedly, he can make a mistake but we’ve said that about a few this week whose jumping has more than stood up to the test, Sir Gerhard being a great example. I genuinely cannot see a reason why he won’t trouble the market principles if jumping round so at the current odds, I’m happy to be on each way.
Back Dubai Quest (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 11.00 Bet365 BOG (⅕ odds 1-5)
16.50 Cheltenham: Mares Chase
The Mares Chase has attracted the smallest field of the day with just the bare 8 runners but the market is struggling to split Elimay & Mount Ida at the head. Concertista, with a Festival record of 2-1-2, is next best & these 3 look way ahead of the rest. At odds of around 2/1 the front pair & 9/2 the third favourite, I’m happy to sit this one out.