Redicean has really caught the eye since switching both trainers and to hurdles. His three starts over timber have resulted in three comprehensive victories, though they have all been on Kempton’s flat, speedy track. The strength of those races may not have been the strongest but the manner in which he’s one definitely puts him in the picture especially if handling this stiffer test. Mr Adjudicator beat Farglas by a length in a Grade One at Leopardstown and both enter the picture here whilst Stormy Ireland left a favourable impression when winning at a canter in a maiden hurdle and is another with credentials. Nicky Henderson has two cracking chances of landing this again (has won three of last ten runnings). We Have A Dream showed a nice turn of foot when winning in heavy ground at Chepstow and followed that up when making it 4/4 when heavy odds-on next time. He, like the others mentioned, are going to throw down a hefty challenge but it’s Henderson’s other runner who I’ve had on my shortlist for most the season for this race. APPLES SHAKIRA is 3/3 at Cheltenham with two of those coming over this track and trip on the new course and on each occasion has been in complete control over the last. She had to be niggled at on her most recent of those outings but soon asserted and that was in ground in which she wouldn’t have enjoyed too much. The going may be soft on the day but it won’t be as bad as it was on Trials Day and she’s definitely the one to beat in my eyes to hopefully give owner JP McManus a third consecutive win in the race after Defi De Seuil & Ivanovich Gorbatjov in the past two years.
Recommended Bet: APPLES SHAKIRA (10/3) – 1pt win
- Apples Shakira (10/3)
- Redicean (7/2)
- Stormy Ireland (9/1)
It was a shame to see the long time ante-post favourite Cracking Smart suffer a setback and subsequently ruled out of the race. It’s looking increasingly likely that the Willie Mullins-trained Next Destination will be going for the Ballymore instead of this so Duc De Genievres will be his trainer’s main hope. He’s yet to win in two starts since arriving from France (where he won over 2m2f in testing ground) but hasn’t been beaten far having chased home Samcro and Next Destination on separate occasions so has the form to figure if seeing out this trip. Chris’s Dream demolished his rivals in a Grade 3 the last day though it’s hard to assess how strong that form is but it was in heavy ground over three miles so has the stamina required here and this former point-to-point winner has credentials. Nicky Henderson has two strong chances with Santini and Chef Des Obeaux. The former just held on to victory here on Trials Day over a half-mile shorter though should get this longer trip. He beat this stablemate at Newbury in November pretty cosily in the end so out of the two I’d be preferring Santini but wouldn’t rule out the latter who has subsequently won a couple of heavy-ground races over this three-mile trip with the most recent being a Grade 2 success, quicker ground would be a worry. The bet for me here though comes from local-trainer Fergal O’Brien’s yard in the form of seven-year old POETIC RHYTHM. He won the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle in testing ground and was previously beaten just over two-lengths by Ballymore fancy On The Blind Side here. He’s got plenty of form at this track having won a bumper along with solid placed efforts and for me will be better suited with this longer trip the way he kept on to win the Persian War at Chepstow. He should go well and can see him getting into the places at worst.
Recommended Bet: POETIC RHYTHM (14/1) – 1pt ew
- Poetic Rhythm (14/1)
- Santini (9/2)
- Chris’s Dream (12/1)
The blue ribband event of the festival and you don’t need me to tell you how prestigious the Gold Cup is to all involved in horse-racing. This year’s race is again a wide open contest with Might Bite heading the market. He won the RSA last year after giving backers a heart-attack on the run-in but was easily the best horse in that race and he’s gone on from that by winning the King George VI at Kempton. He’s a worthy favourite though this is his stiffest task to date over a trip he’s yet to encounter which makes him opposable at the prices. Sizing John won this well last year but was very underwhelming on his most recent start over Christmas. He’s been given a break and is reportedly in good shape ahead of his defence and if fully revved up will play a massive role. Although Killultagh Vic has made jumping errors in the past he’s got decent form and I have no doubt that he’ll stay this extra yardage. He won the Martin Pipe in 2015 before defeating Thistlecrack at Punchestown the same year and you’d have to think that all he had to do in the Irish Gold Cup the last day was jump the last to win but unfortunately he came down. If that fall hasn’t left it’s mark he’ll go well with a clear round whilst Irish National winner Our Duke makes his UK debut and should enjoy this stamina test but with possible soft ground on the day I’m leaning towards last year’s third NATIVE RIVER for Colin Tizzard to turn the form round with Sizing John. There was a suspicion that he may struggle on his comeback run after a ligament injury but if anything he was better than ever in the Denman Chase at Newbury. He jumped beautifully and galloped away from his two rivals with minimal fuss. If the forecast rain comes I think he’s got a serious chance as he stays and relishes the softer ground, something that most his rivals wouldn’t want. Road To Respect boasts course form and was a Grade One winner last time over three-miles but Djakadam has had numerous opportunities and his chance of winning this for Rich Ricci has come and gone.
Recommended Bet: NATIVE RIVER (6/1) – 1pt win
- Native River (6/1)
- Might Bite (4/1)
- Killultagh Vic (10/1)