It’s Gold Cup day – the very pinnacle of the sport.
While the Irish v English narrative that we peddle can be quite exaggerated, I do believe it completely intensifies for the Cheltenham Gold Cup – in my mind, the height of national hunt racing.
We’ve already been treated to incredible entertainment levels throughout – just think of the finishes to the RSA, to the Marsh Chase and the 50/1 shot landing the Stayers on Thursday.
But it all boils down to this – and what a supporting cast of races we can provide prior to the main highlight of the week.
I’ve a very strong fancy in one of them, too. Bear with me.
Triumph Hurdle – Allmankind E/W (5/1)
While the money has come from Goshen, it’s worth telling you why, even though he may win, why 5/2 is a ludicrous price.
I accept that most of you backing him haven’t seen him race before, but let me tell you this: he jumps out to his right, he runs left, right and rarely ever keeps a straight line.
He could be the last horse in this race by ten pounds, but he’ll have to be to win it.
Instead, I want to side with Allmankind, whose run at Chepstow was enough to make him my NAP of the entire Festival. He goes off in front like a lunatic and you have to judge the fractions correctly.
But I suspect Harry Skelton has it down to a tee. This horse is my idea of a festival favourite and I fully suspect he’ll win this. The fact he’s an each-way price now just sweetens the deal.
Albert Bartlett – Latest Exhibition (9/2)
This race is a gruelling test and while the ground may well be acting as good to soft now, you’ll still need a fair stayer to win this.
Generally, the more experience you have, the more likely you are to win this race. That’s not always true of every novice hurdle, but trends certainly suggest it for the three-miler.
Latest Exhibition is a Grade 1 winner and while his jumping sometimes leaves a lot to be desired, if he gets cover midpack, I’d fancy him to outstay the rest.
While Thyme Hill can also boast Grade 1 form, he’s never raced beyond 21f and to ask him to do so in the biggest race for three-mile novices in the world is quite something.
Given the Irish novice hurdle form only gets stronger by the day – look at the Ballymore – it’s clear to me that this is the one to beat.
Cheltenham Gold Cup – Delta Work E/W (9/2)
I am trying everything in my power to get Al Boum Photo beaten here and I think I’ve finally landed on a reason to oppose.
Last year’s winner did everything right when you consider the end result, but if you look at it, he hasn’t jumped superbly and given how tacky the ground is on course, I don’t know if I want to side him with at a touch over 3/1.
What I am exceptionally happy with is the chance of an improving horse dethroning him. Look at it this way – have we seen the best of Delta Work yet? I’m not so sure.
Everyone else in the final, bar perhaps Lostintranslation, is an open book. And while this English mount could cause problems, I’m not sure he’s a stout stayer.
I think Gigginstown will repeat their Don Cossack trick.
County Hurdle – Aramon E/W (7/1)
Foxhunters’ – Hazel Hill E/W (6/1)
Grand Annual – Gino Trail E/W (16/1)
Martin Pipe – Column Of Fire E/W (13/2)