Thursday, March 17, 2016

Cheltenham Festival 2016 - Friday

The Gold Cup (3.30) is the highlight of the meeting.
The picture has changed markedly during the week with the Mullins camp deciding to re-route Vautour to the Ryanair (which he wins today, even money favourite) and Bryan Cooper opting to ride Don Cossack rather than Don Poli for owners Gigginstown House Stud.

The principals all come with reservations...
There won't be a dry eye in the house should Cue Card win; connections will collect a £1 million bonus following his victories in Haydock's Betfair Chase and the King George at Kempton. A breathing operation has revitalised Colin Tizzard's charge but there's still a question in my mind whether he'll come up the hill and stay this extended three and a quarter mile trip.

At the age of ten, he's not getting any younger either - the last ten-year-old to win the Gold Cup was Cool Dawn in 1998.

Don Cossack's Cheltenham record doesn't inspire confidence. He fell in the 2014 running of the RSA Chase and then finished a disappointing third in last year's Ryanair when sent off the 5/2 favourite. In a full and frank post-race debrief connections admitted that ride wasn't Bryan Cooper's finest hour; this race offers a chance of redemption. He also fell in Cue Card's King George, coming to grief two from home when about to make his challenge - the suspicion is his jumping suffers when the chips are really down.  

That said, Don Cossack's seven length defeat of Djakadam in the 2015 Punchestown Gold Cup looks a key piece of form. 

Djakadam finished second, one and a half lengths behind Coneygree in last year's Gold Cup, but he comes to this on the back of a fall in the BetBright Trial here seven weeks ago. That day he sustained an injury that required a number of stitches and, although connections maintain he hasn't missed any work, it's hardly an ideal preparation.

Don Poli is a big old-fashioned chasing type who looks hard work, lazy almost, but who can get the job done; he'll certainly stay the trip! He won the RSA Chase last year but on official ratings has 12 pounds to find with Cue Card so looks short enough in the market. Although Bryan Cooper prefers Don Cossack, his chance is respected but would increase with ease underfoot.

Smad Place has to come into reckonings on the back of his front running display here in the BetBright Trial. Alan King's grey likes Cheltenham and jumped for fun that day; I'd imagine connections would be keen to use similar tactics again. He won the Hennessy that way in November but finished some 16 lengths behind Cue Card in the King George.

Don Cossack is the selection.

In my initial preview last Friday I indicated I'd given up betting in Festival handicaps and generally my wallet had felt the benefit. I strayed from the straight and narrow on Tuesday, supporting Carole's Destrier in the Ultima Handicap Chase; that one pulled up.

With fingers burned, I'm not tempted to follow up the two County Hurdle (2.10) 'whispers' mentioned -  Superb Story (second in the Greatwood last time) and Wait For Me (third in last year's bumper); both have crept in at the bottom of the handicap.

Apparently the former was touted on The Morning Line soon after that post so counts more as a 'shouting-from-the-rooftops' rather than a 'whisper' (and is now as low as 7/1 in places). For those interested Sky Bet stand out offering 14/1 about the latter who is talented but isn't the best at the hurdles.

The form for the Triumph (1.30) has been all over the place this season; Nicholls saddles five, Mullins and King three apiece.

Zubayr shot to the head of the market after collaring runaway leader Azzuri in the Adonis with previously unbeaten Gibralfaro fourth; beforehand Gibralfaro had beaten Connetable yet the former is now 25/1, the latter 10/1. Both runners sport first time cheekpieces.

Ivanovich Gorbatov was beaten ten lengths by Footpad at Leopardstown last month; Ivanovich is currently 9/2, Footpad 10/1.

I was prepared to forgive Gibralfaro his run in the Adonis and the 25/1 quoted looks big but reading Alan King's column in the Weekender, the gelding is hardly given a mention whereas of course and distance winner Sceau Royal the handler says:

"Sceau Royal schooled under Daryl Jacob last week and we were thrilled with him, he's right at the top of his game."

 Sceau Royal (7/1) gets the nod.

That's it, I'm afraid; time has caught up with me. Good luck for Gold Cup day!


TW said...

Thanks for an interesting set of posts during the festival and good luck on the final day.

FWIW I'm in the Cue Card camp.

GeeDee said...

Good luck TW!

GeeDee said...

Smad Place took them along in the Gold Cup but he fell away as the pace increased four out and coming to the next Don Cossack (9/4f) and Djakadam (9/2) were side by side with Cue Card (5/2) looking to split the pair. Brennan pushed his mount into the fence and that proved his undoing as he took a heavy fall. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but Cue Card looked full of running at the time and that looked plenty early enough to try to win the race. Selection Don Cossack went on before two out and crossed the line four and a half lengths in front of Djakadam with Dom Poli a further ten lengths behind in third.

Irish horses dominated the Triumph with Ivanovich Gorbatev (9/2f) beating Apple's Jade (12/1) and Footpad (5/1). I expected better from selection Sceau Royal who appeared to lose his pitch somewhat around halfway and then encountered some traffic problems off the home bend. He laboured thereafter beating just three home - Zubayr, stablemate Who Dares Wins and 150/1 outsider McIntosh.

I still haven't stopped beating myself up about not taking the chance with the locally-trained Superb Story (8/1) in the County who won in some style. He was a strong tip this time last week; several acquaintances struck wagers at 14/1.

That's racing!