We move into the fourth and final day of the 2012 Cheltenham Festival and all eyes will be on this year’s Gold Cup as Kauto Star and Long Run prepare for their eagerly awaited showdown at Prestbury Park.
There has been plenty of hype ahead of the big race and there will be plenty of punters wondering whether the duo can continue their domination in the world’s most prestigious race.
After Kauto Star’s will he or won’t he build up to the meeting, it is a relief that he is at Cheltenham at all and there wouldn’t be a dry eye on the Cotswolds if Kauto Star could regain his crown and land a remarkable third Gold Cup.
The rest of the day’s card looks fiercely competitive and thoroughly intriguing and there will be plenty of horse racing fanatics looking to end a fantastic week on a high.
If you are looking to back Kauto Star, then you can get 6/1 on the superstar in our exclusive offer
. Equally, Paddy Power
are currently top price on Long Run.
1.30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle
A fascinating renewal of the Triumph Hurdle gets us underway on Friday and we have three co-favourites in the two-mile showpiece.
Sadler’s Risk (6/1, Coral
), Grumeti (6/1, BetVictor
) and BABY MIX
(6/1, Paddy Power
), head the betting for the race, but it is the latter that looks to have the strongest claims and he can get punters off to a flyer on day four.
The selection had Sadler’s Risk behind him in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton last month and he conceded weight and beat him fair and square in the Grade Two. Philip Hobbs is confident that his horse can reverse the form but Baby Mix looks a fantastic prospect and it was great to see him bounce back from his blip in the Finesse in January.
It is clear that he still has a lot to learn about the trade, but it is impossible not to be impressed by the French import and he will relish the solid gallop he is sure to get on Friday.
Of the rest, it is very possible that Balder Success (8/1, bet365
) could fare better than his more fancied stablemate Grumeti and Pearl Swan (7/1, bet365
) would have a decent chance, even in light of the poor form of the Nicholls yard at this year’s meeting.
2.05 – Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle
This year’s County Hurdle looks a typically competitive contest and as a result, the betting for the race looks wide open.
Jessica Harrington’s Citizenship (8/1, Paddy Power
) heads the market despite a hike in the weights and the Irish raider is sure to be popular under the hands of Robbie Power. Moon Dice (9/1, Paddy Power)
is another fancied runner, while Snap Tie (14/1, BetVictor
) would be incredibly well treated if he was anything like his best after two and a half years off the track.
However, Alan King’s RAYA STAR
) brings some top class form to the table and he can continue his upward curve in handicaps with a victory at the Festival.
An impressive winner of the Ladbrokes at Ascot in December, the selection was last seen chasing very high class pair Zarkandar and Get Me Out Of Here home in the Betfair Hurdle.
That was a taking display against high class opposition and though he has been hit by the handicapper, his master trainer could easily have him ready to improve again.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Raya Star
each-way 11/1 ( Ladbrokes
2.40 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
We must wait until Friday for the best bet of the meeting and it comes in the shape of one of Ireland’s most exciting prospects at this year’s Festival – BOSTON BOB
(6/4, Paddy Power
Willie Mullins’ Hexham bumper winner has flourished since he made the move across the Irish Sea and three consecutive victories for his new trainer has seen him assume the role as Ireland’s leading novice hurdler.
Two facile victories at Navan, including one Grade One success over the highly regarded Mount Benbulben, saw him rocket the head of betting for the Festival’s novice hurdle races and it isn’t hard to see why he carries the faith of so many punters.
The selection’s jumping looks very deliberate at times and it is already clear his real future will undoubtedly lie of the larger obstacles, but he will be incredibly hard to beat in the Albert Bartlett, especially in light of his recent success over Lyreen Green in a Grade Two six weeks ago.
With Ruby Walsh in the saddle, Boston Bob defied a Grade One penalty at Leopardstown holding off some highly regarded rivals in the process and it is clear that the Mullins yard have a very classy individual in their ranks. Aside from looking like a gutsy operator, the raider also looks slick at his hurdles and every time he has been asked a question this season the seven-year-old has relished the battle.
He will resume his rivalry with Mount Benbulben (13/2, Stan James
) at Cheltenham and Paul Nicholls’ Rocky Creek (10/1,Paddy Power
) is a fascinating contender, but Boston Bob looks a thoroughly impressive horse and aside from the likes of Hurricane Fly, he could rate the banker of the meeting.
3.20 – Cheltenham Gold Cup
A tantalising clash between Long Run (2/1, Ladbrokes
) and KAUTO STAR
) can go the way of Paul Nicholls’ legendary chaser in one of the most eagerly anticipated Gold Cups in recent memory.
Kauto Star has bounced back to his sensational best this season and victories over Long Run in the Betfair Chase at Ascot and the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day were both proof that he had put the troubles from last season behind him.
The superstar will now return to Cheltenham looking to regain his Gold Cup crown for the second time and the most popular racehorse in training would send Cheltenham into raptures if he could leap his way back into the winner’s enclosure.
His last minute injury worries following a crashing fall when schooling two weeks ago will worry many of his followers, but Nicholls wouldn’t be running his stable flagbearer if he wasn’t 100% prepared for the task in hand and he can uphold the form with Long Run.
Long Run is undoubtedly massive on talent and the French import miraculously won this race twelve months ago after a poor round of jumping under the hands of amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen.
At seven years of age, he is a massive five years younger than Kauto Star but he hasn’t really kicked on from his 2011 Gold Cup success. A very pleasing trial victory over stablemate Burton Port (15/2, Stan James
) in February will have him spot on for this and trainer Nicky Henderson has been incredible form at this year’s meeting, but he will have to be back to his very best if he is to spoil the party and lower the colours of Kauto Star for the third time in five attempts.
Weird Al (11/1, BetVictor
) is a very classy individual and he has the ability to give the two market leaders a scare, while Nick Williams’ Diamond Harry (33/1, Betfred
) could be a different horse following his wind operation in January.
4.00 – Foxhunter Chase
The Foxhunter Chase follows the Gold Cup and it is another fiercely competitive race on the final day of proceedings.
Salisify (6/1, bet365
) is the market leader and the Irish raider is on a firm upward curve, while 2007 Kim Muir hero Cloudy Lane (6/1, Coral
) has also been attracting plenty of money ahead of the race.
) had the latter behind him when he cruised to victory at Newbury in January and the 2009 Jewson Novices’ Chase winner looks like he could really take to hunter chasing.
A very talented handicapper when under the wing of Paul Nicholls, he is still only an eight-year-old and he is by far and away one of the classiest horses in the division.
He was entitled to score at the weights when he bolted up on his debut in the sphere, but he can improve again and he rates a good each-way bet.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Chapoturgeon
6/1 (Paddy Power
4.40 – Festival Handicap
Another fiercely competitive race for punters to sink their teeth into and not the sort of race you want to be relying on if you’ve had a hard week.
13lbs covers the whole field with any number of horses look like they could be in with a chance and Donald McCain’s flat recruit Bourne (11/2, BetVictor
) heads the betting for the race.
The market leader was a very useful horse on the flat and an impressive victory at Ascot last month marked him down as a horse to stay on the right side of.
The likes of Tonder D’oudairies (8/1, William Hill
) and Street Entertainer (7/1, Ladbrokes
) are in with a huge shout, but it could be worth siding with Nicky Henderson’s OPEN HEARTED
(14/1, Paddy Power
) who can help cap a fantastic week for his trainer.
The selection has some top class form to his name after chasing home Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero Cinders And Ashes earlier in the season and he looks to be an improving horse that should relish the step up in trip.
Nick Wilby's selection – Open Hearted
, each way 14/1 (Paddy Power
5.15 – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase
The Grand Annual represents another wide open race to end the day and plenty in with chances, none more so than Nicky Henderson’s Kid Cassidy (6/1, Paddy Power
) who heads the betting for the two-mile finale.
He is likely to be very popular, especially in light of his Grade Two victory at Doncaster last time out, while stablemate Tanks For That (14/1, BetVictor
) looks to be Barry Geraghty’s pick of the Henderson team.
However, his stablemate FRENCH OPERA
) could easily make a mockery of his generous odds in the final race of the Festival and the very capable Jeremiah McGrath could put his claim to good use on the talented nine-year-old.
Last seen finished second to Sprinter Sacre in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury, he is a horse that loves it around Cheltenham and he has some fantastic form to his name. He can outclass his rivals and finish the Festival on a high with his backers.
Nick Wilby’s selection – French Opera
, each-way 18/1 (BetVictor