I love this acrylic painting of The Hot Favourite’ on boxed canvas (99 x 51cm) by Nick Pike who’d I like to thank for allowing us to re-produce here. Here are a few words from Nick about the painting: This painting was inspired by my first visit to the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2010. I had arrived late and couldn’t get close to the horses. All of a sudden, the lady in front of me began jumping up and down, waving her winning ticket in the air. I realised that I was standing right at the heart of the action! This is now my third painting depicting the blonde lady in her triumphant moment. Other horse racing paintings and prints are available at www.nick-pike-art.com
GOING: Following a dry night the going remains, good, good to soft in places. Clerk of the course Simon Claisse reported, “The chase ground is all fresh today. We’ve kept a few yards on the inside for them for today which we haven’t been on for 12 months.”
JCB Triumph Hurdle Grade 1 Cl1 2m1f
Tiger Roll jumped well and travelled like a dream through the race. On the long run to the final flight, it was clear he had the race won bar a fall. Jumping that flight and landing running, he surged clear to the line. His RPR was 4lb below that of the second horse home in 2013 and 3lb below the 2012 winner. Kentucky Hyden continued his consistent form since arriving in the UK. Slightly hampered at the second flight, he made one or two mistakes but remained in touch. Running to the final flight, he shared the lead with Guitar Pete; however, the winner had them firmly in his sights. Jumping the last fluently, he kept on for an honourable second place.It should be noted this effort pays a huge compliment to the sidelined Le Rocher who beat him ten-lengths on Trials Day at the end of January. Guitar Pete continued his excellent form over hurdles. Always prominent he led at the second last but was unable to find any extra pace. Calipto was slightly hampered at the second flight. Jumping well, he made progress down the hill towards the second last flight. Unfortunately, his stirrup iron broke and Mr Jacobs was left to ride without his irons. Despite trying to close on the leaders, a mistake at the final flight sealed his fate. He was travelling as well as the winner at the time of the incident. Rutherglen stayed on well into a never nearer fifth. He will stay further than this and should do well when reverting to the flat. Royal Irish Hussar raced on the outside and failed to settle. He was beaten after two out and looks the sort that needs smaller fields. Broughton failed to make any impression having been hampered at the third last. He may be the type to bounce back at Aintree.Plinth ran like a drain.
Vincent O´Brien County Handicap Hurdle Grade 3 Cl1 2m1f
Lac Fontana had previously shown his best form in smaller fields. Close to the leaders, he lost his position three from home. Rallying well under pressure, he came with a late, telling, run to snatch the race close to the line. He ran as though he will further if required. Arctic Fire was held up at the back of the field. Making steady headway from two out, he quickened into the lead with a furlong to run. Keeping on, he was denied by the winner close home. Montbazon showed a welcome return to form in third place equalling his 2012 Supreme Hurdle RPR. In the lead approaching the final flight he lacked the pace of the first two home up the run-in. Under top-weight Diakali recorded a career best RPR in fourth place. One imagines he will be hunting Euros in Ireland and France in the coming weeks. Flaxen Flareran up to his best in fifth place suggesting the form will hold-up. Minella Foru ran well for an inexperienced horse to finish sixth. Deep Trouble made good late headway to finish in seventh place. The handicapper appears to have him about right. However, his record in Class Three/Four races reads 2, 1, 2, 2, 1, 2. Alaivan ran another sound race to finish ninth. He remains well-handicapped with a drop in grade the suggested route. His record on right-handed tracks reads 1, 1, 1, 5, UP, 2. Lyvius ran a fair race if lacking the pace to trouble the leaders as the race developed. He is another that needs a slight drop in grade. Cash And Go displayed enough to suggest he retains the ability to win a handicap at some stage. Anay Turge never showed. Cheltenian was still in contention when pulled-up between the last two flights. One assumes something went amiss, though his trainer reports nothing has come to light. Never Enough Timeweakened out of contention at the second last. He looks to need soft ground.
Albert Bartlett Novices´ Hurdle (Registered As The Spa Novices´ Hurdle) Grade 1 Cl1 3m
Very Wood upped his game by around 14/15lb to take this event. Given a typically quiet “Carberry” ride he made headway down to join in the fun approaching the last flight. Jumping that in good style, he powered up the hill looking an out and out stayer. Possessing the scope to jump a fence, he should be a useful addition to the novice ranks next season. Deputy Dan travelled near the pace until taking over from Kings Palace after the second last. Kicked for home, he was joined at the last, which he jumped slowly. Unable to raise another effort he stuck on well for second. A fine run a ground that would have been faster than he cares for. Apache Jack made headway down the hill. Having jumped the second last, he chased the runner-up until the winner joined both horses at the final flight. Apache Jack kept on well without ever looking better than third best. Champagne West ran creditably to finish fourth equalling his best RPR rating. Kings Palace led or disputed the lead until the second last hurdle. He was well-beaten when falling at the last hurdle. His trainer suggested the ground was too quick. Briar Hill raced in behind the leaders until falling at the seventh flight. He sustained a broken bone under his eye and misses the remainder of the season. Urban Hymn made a lot of the running before fading. He is every inch a chaser for next season. Captain Cutter lost his action on the run to the last and was pulled-up.
Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase Grade 1 Cl1 3m2f110y
Lord Windermere’swinning RPR is 11lb below Bobs Worth in 2013 and 3lb below Synchronised’s 2012 win. Timeform have the winner 6lb below Bobs Worth’s 2012 win. Racing at the rear of the field, Lord Windermere began to make headway from the third last. At the second last, he was still in seventh place. Hard driven approaching the last fence, he ran on strongly to lead halfway up the run-in. Despite hanging to his right (under a correct right-hand drive), he held on grimly to the line.On His Own led or disputed the lead through the race. Joined at the third last, he was outpaced as the pack ran towards the second last. Having jumped the second last fence, he veered to his right hampering The Giant Bolster and Triolo D’Alene. Regaining his momentum, he jumped the last in fifth place. Carried to his right he rallied all the way to the line. The Giant Bolster was off and on the bit throughout the race. Making headway after the third last, he was bumped at the second last. Back on an even keel, he ran on gamely without ever looking as though he would win. This was his third good run in the race. Silviniaco Conti began to assert approaching the third last, turning for home looking the likely winner. Jumping the second last, he was still in front though under strong driving. Having jumped the last a length clear he wandered to his right appearing to run out of stamina in the closing half-furlong. A fine run, though his RPR was 10lb below his King George win. Bobs Worth was far from fluent through the race. Making progress after the fourth last, he was in a position to make his final assault after the third last fence. Pushed along he jumped the second last a length behind the leader. Challenging Silviniaco Conti on the run-in he wandered to his left and right finishing like a tired horse. Looking at his RPR’s since last year’s Gold Cup, one has to suggest that race has left an indelible mark. Lyreen Legend ran a blinder until hitting the second last. He appeared not to stay, but would be of interest back at three-miles. Teaforthree and Triolo D’Alene ran well up to a point, though both weakened disappointingly from the second last fence. Last Instalment was beaten when unseating his rider five from home. His tendon was damaged leading to an honourable retirement.
CGA Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup Cl2 3m2f110y
Tammys Hill appreciated the drying ground. Making headway from midfield, he move into contention at the second last and quickly asserted having jumped the final fence. Carsontown Boy outran his odds to finish second. Despite his year he appears to be improving. On The Fringe made headway three out and looked the likely winner jumping the second last. He was unable to quicken from that point. He was found out by the drying ground. Pearlysteps was an honourable fourth, whilst inexperience almost certainly found Harbour Court out as the race developed. He stayed on late in the day was reported to have finished distressed.
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys´ Handicap Hurdle Cl2 2m4f110y
Don Poli came through the field to join Thomas Crapper at the second last. Set alight by his above average pilot after the final flight, he scooted clear up the run-in. A fine big horse, he is all about chasing next season. Interestingly, Sir Des Champs, who won this race in 2011, recorded a 10lb lower RPR than Don Poli. Thomas Crapper, as with several horses that ran well during the week, showed good form in course and distance handicaps last October/November. He stayed on well without troubling the winner enjoying the good ground underhoof.Caid Du Berlais ran well to finish third without ever looking likely to win. Fences and hurdles come alike to this fellow, as do left and right-handed tracks. As a five-year-old, he looks sure to improve and win more races. Urbain De Sivola lost his race at the start. Making rapid progress down the hill, he had every chance until the effort of making up lost ground saw his challenge flatten out. He has run three good races this season and deserves a change of fortune. The first four home, were well clear of the fifth horse. Une Artiste ran a fair race only tiring as on the run to the final flight. Local Hero ran well. He is far more effective on conventional tracks. Full Shift never really got involved. He is a nice prospect that should do well over fences. Vieux Lion Rouge found this all too much after three wins in novice company.
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup Handicap Grade 3 Cl1 2m110y
Savello rounded the meeting off with a convincing win despite being far from fluent on the way round. The fourth win on the day for Gigginstown Stud. Ned Buntline had his chance and ran well. Despite wearing a hood, I am not sure he was putting it all in when asked for his final effort. Claret Cloak made stealthy headway into the race taking second on the run to the penultimate fence. Unfortunately, he made a bad mistake and did well to rally for third place. Next Sensation made a brave effort to make all the running. He stayed at the head of affaires until after the last fence keeping on at the same pace close home. Relatively fresh, he would be hard to peg back at Aintree. French Opera and Eastlake were not disgraced in fifth and sixth. The latter already has a win at Aintree on his c.v.
(Photo by Kerry Hendry of http://www.lovetheimage.co.uk)
Cheltenham Gold Cup is always hotly anticipated with the race providing a test of class and stamina over three miles, two furlongs. As usual, it will be run on the Friday and there are currently thirty six entries. Previous Gold Cups and last year’s RSA Chase, as well as last weekend’s Irish Hennessy and Denman Chase will provide many of the clues.
Last year’s winner was the Irish-bred Bob’s Worth. He rounded a hat trick of wins for Barry Geraghty at the Festival. Bob’s Worth is five from five around the Gloucestershire track, and comes into the race this year as favourite. A poor showing at Haydock was followed up by victory in the Lexus Chase.
Only four remain from last year’s field, which includes Long Run, fourth-placed The Giant Bolster, and Monbeg Dude who was pulled up. Winning the Argento in January gave The Giant Bolster his third win round Cheltenham, and it looks like he could put in another good round. Long Run, while getting on a bit in age, won the race back in 2011. His usually very consistent performances have dropped off this season, including an unseating, while Monbeg Dude has won two Grade 3s round Prestbury Park. Knockara Beau saw off At Fisher’s Cross and Big Buck’s on his comeback recently, and both him and Long Run are engaged to run at Kelso next Thursday.
Katenko won on his first and only start round the undulating Cheltenham course and he picked up a Group 3 just over twelve months ago. His reappearance in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury saw him fall when travelling okay but he was very disappointing at the Berkshire track on Saturday. The winner of Hennessy, Triolo D’Alene, is a proven jumper, having also previously won the Topham Chase over the Aintree fences. He is the third of Nicky Henderson’s runners after Bob’s Worth and Long Run.
Last year’s first and second placed horses in the RSA Chase have also been entered. Lord Windermere went past Lyreen Legend as they battled it out up the hill last year. The former gave Jim Culloty a first winner at Cheltenham as a trainer, with Bryan Cooper in second in a week where he announced himself to the racing public as a future star. Boston Bob, who fell at the last, is also entered.
Cooper’s retainer with Gigginstown will likely see him ride one of their five entries, which are First Lieutenant, Last Instalment, Dedigout, Bog Warrior, and Roi Du Mee. Of those, Last Instalment could be the one he plumps for following his terrific win in the Irish Hennessy on Sunday.
The field as it stands is unlikely to have as many come March, with doubly-entered Teaforthree, Time for Rupert and Medermit unlikely to run. The latter two have entries for the Ryanair.
A revival of the form, which saw Captain Chris win two Grade 1s in 2011, including an Arkle in front of Finian’s Rainbow, could see him run well. Dynaste, meanwhile, has recorded nearly all his wins on flatter tracks. Last year’s hopes for him have faded and he may also go for the Ryanair.
Owner John Hales, who’s Azertyuiop won the Queen Mother ten years ago, is represented this year by Al Ferof and Unioniste. The former previously won the Supreme Novices’ and the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase but was very disappointing at Newbury on Saturday, while the six-year-old Unioniste finished fourth in the RSA.
Al Ferof and Unioniste make up two fifths of Paul Nicholls’ trained entries. He also has Silviniaco Conti, who will be going straight to the Gold Cup. He lacks a race since last year, as well as recording most of his wins on flatter tracks, such as Newbury and Kempton.
Fellow owner Rich Ricci, who owns the versatile Annie Power, has only one entry in Arvika Ligeonnaire. A big concern for him will be going left-handed; he distinctly jumped to the right in a Grade 1 Novice Chase at Leopardstown in December 2012.
Barry Connell, who has Our Conor to look forward to in the Champion Hurdle, is represented by Mount Benbulben. He won the Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown last year and is likely to be ridden by Danny Mullins, in what will be his second start in the UK, following on from a seventeen length fourth in the King George round Kempton.
Last year’s Ryanair winner, and recent winner of the Betfair Chase at Haydock, Cue Card is surely going to be a live contender, while stablemate Theatre Guide also holds an entry.
Last weekend gave us more form to digest in the run up to the Gold Cup. The Denman Chase over three miles at Newbury was run in heavy conditions and four of the five runners hold an entry for the March showpiece. Harry Topper prevailed by twenty five lengths, from Al Ferof, with Katenko in third, and Vino Griego pulled up for the Moore team. Harry Topper was following up from his win in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November.
The conditions in the Irish Hennessy came up soft-to-heavy with the field containing a further six Gold Cup entries. The Fort Leney form was confirmed as Last Instalment went eight lengths clear under Brian O’Connell. Philip Fenton, whose Tullow Tank was beaten earlier in the Novice Hurdle, trained the winner. Tidal Bay is unlikely to race in the Gold Cup, and he came in half a length in front of the other Gigginstown runner First Lieutenant. The RSA Form took a bit of a hammering, with Lyreen Legend and Lord Windermere in 5th and 6th, with Roi du Mee bringing up the rear.
Houblon des Obeaux and Cloudy Too make up the remainder of the field. The former won a good handicap at Ascot in November, while Cloudy Too won a listed race the same month in front of Tap Night.
As such, it is still a wide open Gold Cup. With plenty of double entries to negotiate, it might be adviseable to avoid any ante-post wagers. With Al Ferof and Last Instalment are still being considered for the Ryanair, I will play it safe and opt for last year’s winner Bob’s Worth to put in a repeat performance, and join the exclusive club of multiple-time winners of the great race.
Tip: Bob’s Worth
Feature photo by Kerry Hendry of Love The Image Stephen Smith takes a look at the big races on each day of Cheltenham Festival 2014. We start off with a look at the big race on Tuesday 11 March, which is a hurdle race over 2 miles.
Stan James Champion Hurdle
In what promises to be the race of the Festival, Hurricane Fly seeks to repeat last year’s triumph and win a third Champion Hurdle crown. Willie Mullins promises to have his charge primed for the Tuesday showpiece, but many argue that they stare down the barrel of a who’s-who of new hurdling blood. Favouritism is shared with The New One, the precocious 2013 Neptune winner who aligns genuine two mile speed with a proven ability to power up the Cheltenham hill. Amid a season of setbacks, Nicky Henderson concedes his best chance across the festival may constitute the impressive My Tent or Yours. After defeating The New One this season, the 7/2 currently available is certainly tempting, with last year’s second behind Champagne Fever doing little to diminish this season’s credentials. However preference is for the talented Our Conor, so impressive in securing the 2013 Triumph Hurdle in blistering fashion. Whilst the form of that race hasn’t been covered in glory this term, the progression in his Irish performances shows enough promise to believe a reversal with Hurricane Fly is inevitable. Jezki has done little to convince he’s of the class to line up here and can be dismissed. Depending on conditions, Melodic Rendezvous could arrive on the scene but would require bottomless ground. Selection – Our Conor – 9/2 (Win) Next up is Ladies Day where off the track the brave and beautiful ladies will compete for the title of the ‘Most Stylish Lad’ and a first prize of £5000 of Joules vouchers. On the track the big race is a chase run at a furious pace over 2 miles.
BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase
With Sprinter Sacre being rested until next season, Gary Moore’s Sire De Grugy is in pole position to pick up the considerable pieces on offer. Entering the race with a RPR of 174, it would appear that there’s no better two-miler in the country at the moment. Holes in his candidacy become gaping chasms under scrutiny. headlined by a defeat to Kid Cassidy in November, a horse who would surely have too much to find to win here. Ante Post gamblers have a few curveballs to negotiate here. Al Ferof’s disappointing comeback season has saw hints he could arrive here – heavy ground permitting. Connections of 2011 winner Sizing Europe are suddenly enthused by Sprinter Sacre’s withdrawl, but is the ability still there? No. The classiest animal in the race comes in the form of Willie Mullins Arvika Ligeonniere. The 11/2 on offer would be far shorter if his form went left-handed, but he’s oozed style and class too often not to contend here. Selection – Arvika Ligeonniere – 11/2 (Win) On Thursday, it’s the long distance hurdle Championship in which Big Bucks aims to win for an astonishing 5th time.
Ladbrokes World Hurdle
If the Champion Hurdle promises to be the race of the Festival, the showdown between Big Bucks & Willie Mullins champion-elect Annie Power won’t be far behind. After last year’s open renewal won by Solwhit, the 11 year old Big Bucks has it all to do to claim a historic fifth crown. With defeat tasted in his comeback, connections are still bullish on Paul Nicholls ability to get the great horse back to his imperious best. Regardless of the 2/1 being short, he could be 20/1 and opposable. He’s simply not demonstrated his ability and can’t be backed. But is Annie Power the heir apparent? Not for me. She’s beaten Zarkander twice this season, utilising a mares allowance. Those victories weren’t impressive enough to hand her the title, and has she peaked already? Memories of Pont Alexandre loom large and we should look elsewhere for the winner. A positive word is had for Rule The World, so impressive last year but has too much to find in this company. My idea of the winner is the horse described by some as the biggest disappointment of this season – At Fishers Cross. Rebecca Curtis has brought the horse back from a shaky start by beating Big Bucks in the Cleeve Hurdle, and has aimed the horse towards this race all year. The 6/1 is far too short considering his earlier season form, but the bookmakers sense the animal’s class. Selection – At Fishers Cross – 6/1 (Win) On Friday, it’s the week’s showpiece event and climax to the meeting where the best chasers from England and Ireland do battle to take the crown in Jump Racing’s Blue Riband event.
BetFred Cheltenham Gold Cup
Dubbed as the ‘cash machine’ by Cheltenham backers, Nicky Henderson looks to guide Bobs Worth to a second consecutive Gold Cup – and a sixth Cheltenham win on the bounce. Putting a disappointing Betfair Chase behind him, Henderson’s charge returned to form with a resounding Irish Lexus victory, seeing his price tumble into today’s 7/4. An out and out Cheltenham horse, bookmakers dread the consequences of a successful defence. The winner of an Albert Bartlett, RSA Chase and Gold Cup, it’s only the brave who would desert such a reliable animal. Braver still as this year’s renewal lacks the firepower of the last six years. With the withdrawals of Sir De Champs and Cue Card, Dynaste’s preference to go back in trip and Long Run’s capitulation, only Silviniaco Conti lays down a serious challenge. The King George winner dug deep to overhaul Cue Card that day, and while the Nicholls horse has no Cheltenham form, he lacks the obvious flaws that every other rival has. For me, Silviniaco Conti is the likely winner, but at a short 3/1 it’s a gamble which I won’t be making. Value lies elsewhere in a race that’s cutting up badly. Last week’s performance by Captain Chris has given hope that he’s the best he’s ever been. Groans are heard from those who remember his recent left-handed form, but the horse is an Arkle winner and has earned his RPR of 170. His price is being trimmed all the time, and the 14/1 available today is great value to finish on the premises. Selection – Captain Chris – 14/1 (E/W)
Name: Cathryn Fry Twitter: @CathrynFry Racing start: I went Racing and Pointing from an early age. First winning bet was on Forgive N’ Forget in the 1983 Coral Golden Hurdle (I was seven). I first went to the Cheltenham Festival on Gold Cup day 1986. As Dawn Run crossed the line, I knew that I was hooked. Three years later, the apple of my eye Desert Orchid won the Gold Cup. As I watched the joyous aftermath, I realised what I wanted to do with my life – twenty four years later, here I am. Experience: After working for the likes of Ascot, Aintree, Bangor, Chester and Haydock on racedays, I started writing for a now defunct local magazine as their Racing Correspondent. It was through this that I met JP and in November 2010 he asked me to come on board JPFestival.com. Current roles: Writer and Broadcaster for JPfestival.com Presenter on William Hill Radio Presenter/Pundit for Bet Racing Nation Racing Correspondent to Radio Winchcombe Pundit for BBC Radio Gloucestershire at the Open and the Festival Racing Correspondent for Cotswold Style Magazine Raceday Pundit for Cheltenham Racecourse for the 2013-2014 NH Season Area of expertise: British and Irish National Hunt Racing. Words of Wisdom: “Everybody loses a couple, but you either pack up and go home, or you keep fighting.” – (Seabiscuit The Movie)
To the sensitive soul, nostalgia is brought about by certain scents, songs, places and even objects…
Two weeks ago I decided to tackle the daunting task of clearing out my storage unit. Sifting through one of the various boxed chapters of my life, I came across an extremely heavy sealed envelope. Through the paper I could feel bubble wrap and metal; suddenly a jolt of realisation struck me – I had found some of my Dad’s old Cheltenham member badges. They had lived in this particular box since I carried them like they were a baby to the Undertakers in the hope that I could place them in my Dad’s coffin, I learned that day that you are not allowed to put metal objects in coffins that are set for cremation.
When I had lovingly wrapped them for what I thought was their final journey, I was too lost in the melee of grief to fully appreciate the stories that they held. So, right there in the dusty, poorly lit unit, I sat on the floor, took the badges out and placed each one out in front of me. Looking at each of them in turn provoked so many memories. Right from 1988 when Kribensis won the Triumph Hurdle, thus kick starting my love affair for flashy hurdlers – through to 2005 which was the last Festival that my Dad attended, where we had absolutely cleaned up with Contraband, Trabolgan, King Harald, Thisthatandtother, Kicking King, Sleeping Night and Fota Island. As I put the badges back in the envelope it was Gold Cup day 2005 that was the enduring thought, the last hurrah for the man that set me on my life’s path.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, strangely enough I unearthed the badges around about the same time that Cheltenham launched a video depicting how their annual members’ badges are made. If you love Cheltenham and you love jumping, which if you’re reading this the chances are fairly high that you do, you should definitely take a look at it.
The badges are hand made in the exact same way that they were 181 years ago. In this ever changing world where technology and innovation reign supreme, it’s wonderful to see the same process in use today.
When you get your Cheltenham member’s badge through this season, think of this video and think of the memory that your badge will hold in years to come.
If you wish to buy Cheltenham annual membership or tickets for the 2013/14 season visit the Cheltenham Racecourse website.
There were two unfortunate jockeys who missed out on their rides in the Gold Cup; Davy Russell who suffered a punctured lung on Thursday and Paul Carberry whose horse was brought down in the third. AP McCoy stepped into the breach for Russell’s mount Sir Des Champs and Sam Twiston-Davies took over on Monbeg Dude. As they went down to the start for the big race Bobs Worth with Barry Geraghty up was favourite with Sir Des Champs, Long Run. Silviniaco Conti and The Giant Bolster all well fancied. the first mile. Coming down to the last it was Bobs Worth, Sir Des Champs and Long Run all in with a fighting chance but Bobs Worth continued his unbeaten record at Cheltenham and stormed up the hill to take it, giving Nicky Henderson his 50th Festival winner. Sir Des Champs was in second with Long Run holding on for the third. The JCB Triumph Hurdle saw Our Conor take it by an impressive 15 lengths from Far West; the first time in 11 years the Irish have been victorious. 20 year old jockey Brian Cooper made it two for two in the second, partnering Ted Veale in the County Hurdle when snatching it from Tennis Cap who was running well and looked to have everyone else in trouble. In the third race favourite At Fisher’s Cross gave AP McCoy his first win of the Festival with his stamina shining through. There was a photo finish for second which was awarded to African Gold over Inish Island. Earlier on in the contest, I Shot the Sheriff fell bringing down Our Vinnie which aggravated Paul Carberry’s already injured shoulder putting him out of the Gold Cup. In the Foxhunter Salsify repeated his first from last year. But he was lucky that Oscar Delta ducked in towards the tape with Jane Managan who was unseated. Salisfy was struggling to catch Oscar Delta when Managan went out the side door leaving him free to score. The Martin Pipe gave Paul Nicholls his first festival winner this year as Salubrious cruised up and won by seven lengths from Nagpur. The final race of the Festival 2013 was another Irish victory as Alderwood led home Kid Cassidy giving JP McManus a one two and the Irish a record 14 victories over 13 British. There was a shadow over the day as JT McNamara is still in hospital seriously ill but the latest news is that he is stable after an operation on vertebrae in his neck. Best wishes to him from me and all at JPFestival.com. Four action-packed days with stunning victories, record-breaking feats, heartache and a lot of fantastic horses. Roll on next year.
Take a walk to the pylons on top of Cleeve Hill; stand there, close your eyes and travel back in time. This very spot was the original home of Cheltenham Racecourse. In 1819 the first Cheltenham Gold Cup was run there, a three mile race on the flat. Spectre was victorious for his owner Mr Brodenham and the race that was to become the Blue Riband of steeplechasing was born. So, look down the hill towards the natural amphitheatre that the Racecourse has been seated in since 1898, and cast your eyes on the contenders for the . At the six day stage I am concentrating on four horses. They are: First Lieutenant, Sir Des Champs, The Giant Bolster and Long Run. Two notable omissions; namely Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti. If you had told me at the start of the season that I would be leaving Bobs Worth out of a Gold Cup preview, I would have said you were barking mad. However, as impressed as I was with his Hennessy victory, his absence and the subsequent doubts on his well -being concern me greatly. He is unbeaten at Cheltenham and a dual Festival winner but the vibes behind him are not great. Therefore, I have ruled him out of my calculations. I am aware that the decision that may well return to haunt me! Silviniaco Conti is a talented and progressive horse, but I do not feel Cheltenham will suit and it will certainly not play to his strengths. Flat tracks yes, undulations no. I still hold a glimmer of hope that First Lieutenant lines up in the Gold Cup. He loves Cheltenham and although he hasn’t won since a victory at Cork in 2011, he maintains form at the highest level. Don’t forget that only a dream Ruby Walsh ride on Tidal Bay, prevented him from winning the Lexus. His 2011 Neptune win and his second to Bobs Worth in last year’s RSA give him valuable Festival form. I keep hearing that he doesn’t stay but he stays just fine. Watch the RSA again and then watch the Lexus. I have become a believer that there has been a grand plan at work with Sir Des Champs from the maestro that is Willie Mullins. I watched the 2012 Jewson again the other day where his jumping was electric. This dual Festival winner did not jump at all well when coming second to Flemenstar on his first start of the season, or when finishing like a train into fourth in the Lexus. What we saw in the Irish Hennessy was an altogether different horse; the jumping was back and we were at the races! Rewind to the Lexus, to hit the birch like he did and finish so close, means he has a serious engine. The Giant Bolster was second in last year’s Gold Cup to Synchronised, thus defying his 50/1 odds. He and 2011 winner Long Run are big players in this year’s renewal. The Giant Bolster eats the Cheltenham undulations for breakfast and his previous sketchy jumping is a distant memory. Full marks to team Bridgewater for sorting that one. Haydock, Kempton and Newbury have been his three starts this season but none of those will have suited as well as Prestbury Park does. You cannot leave him out of calculations. What to make of Long Run? Well, what a tenacious horse he is. I was a little late to the table of the Long Run appreciation society, but his win in the 2012 King George shot an arrow through my heart as he was so brave. He’s been to Cheltenham and he’s got the t-shirt and even with his new headgear he will be in there fighting; he’s that kind of guy. So who wins the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup trophy as pictured? That’s a tough one. If First Lieutenant runs, I cannot split him and Sir Des Champs. All I know is either way the tricolours will be flying high and the Irish will sing long into the night as the Gold Cup heads back across the pond for the first time since 2006. The Giant Bolster and Long Run will not give up the battle very easily though.