Michael Dorgan looks ahead to the third day of the Cheltenham Festival, the highlight of which is the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The festival comes to its conclusion today and with the bookmakers on top, punters will be out to recoup some hard earned cash today. The so-called Irish ‘banker’ of the week Briar Hill runs in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle (2:40pm) and will go off the short-priced favourite at around the 6/4 mark.
Representing the Willie Mullins/ Ruby Walsh partnership, Briar Hill is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles and was an impressive seven-length winner of last year’s Champion Bumper. However, with his jumping far from convincing and unproven over three miles, Kings Palace seems a far safer betting prospect at 10/3 for the in-form Tom Scudamore and David Pipe yard. Kings Palace won emphatically on his last two starts at Cheltenham over the three-mile mark and on similar ground; he would be a sound each way bet. Others of interest are CaptainCutter and DeputyDan but they may prefer more demanding ground conditions.
The other horse considered to be ‘banker’ material is defending Gold Cup (3:20pm) Champion Bobs Worth. The Nicky Henderson mount of Barry Geraghty was most impressive when scooting clear to win the Lexus at Leopardstown and will be a tough nut to crack especially being unbeaten in five starts at Cheltenham. Philip Fenton’s Last Instalment has been nursed back to rude health and made his Hennessey Gold Cup win look easy last month but he comes with strings attached as he is injury prone and the ground has probably gone against him at this stage. King George winner Silviniaco Conti is another with a real chance and travelled very well in last year’s race before falling three out; but again has reservations about the ground.
Sixteen go to post for the opening Triumph Hurdle (1:30pm) which was won so impressively last year by the ill-fated Our Conor. It is another open affair where the well regarded Calipto heads the market for Paul Nicholls who’s had a dreadful festival so far. Fancied Irish runner Guitar Pete won the Grade 1 Spring Hurdle in Leopardstown recently which is a significant benchmark as the last three Irish trained winners of the Triumph had also won the Spring Hurdle and he has firm each way prospects. Royal Irish Hussar who beat Guitar Pete here in November is also a major player.
Twenty-eight go to post for the County Hurdle (2:05pm) where the Irish have a very good record in recent years having won the last four runnings, and six of the last seven. Willie Mullins won the race in 2010 and 2011 and is represented by three runners, the pick of which is Ruby Walsh’s mount, Arctic Fire.
In the Foxhunter Chase (4:00pm) it would be terrific if Oscar Delta could make amends for last year’s incredible yet unfortunate incident where the horse was home and hosed but for jinking and unseating Jane Mangan near the ‘tape rail’ halfway up the run-in. Alarmingly Oscar Delta has been beaten at odds against in its last two races but a proper railing has been installed this year.
Racing concludes with two wide-open affairs, the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle (4:40pm) and the Grand Annual Handicap Chase (5:15pm).
This article first appeared in Pundit Arena on March 14, 2014. To see the original version, click here.