We’ve had four good winners this week with Frodon’s dramatic Ryanair win the undoubted highlight, and it’ll be a profitable Cheltenham regardless of what happens on Friday. However, with 25% of the Festival left to go there’s still time to make a good Cheltenham into a great one.
Gold Cup day looks tough as ever, with a devilishly tricky Albert Bartlett and a lottery of a County Hurdle to unpick. However, the Triumph Hurdle is not looking so tough if you are of the opinion Sir Erec is a good thing – which I am.
He looks the real deal – and his stablemates Fakir D’oudairies and Band Of Outlaws have both run excellent races in their alternative targets, so I’m not sure there’s much merit taking him on even though Quel Destin is sorely tempting.
In the County Hurdle I’ve got a 40/1 ante-post ticket on Crooks Peak, now 12/1, but unfortunately Unibet only allowed a maximum stake of £30 at the time I backed it and quickly clipped those odds so I couldn’t put him up on here. I’m not convinced he wants the slower ground and therefore couldn’t say with any confidence that his revised price is a good one.
On to the Albert Bartlett which is, as ever, wide open and historically a graveyard for favourites -particularly inexperienced hurdlers as plenty of big-priced winners and hard b***ards generally land the spoils. However, I’m not a punter that pays much attention to trends – rightly or wrongly – so I wouldn’t let stats about a minimum number of hurdles runs put me off one.
I’m with Joseph O’Brien’s RHINESTONE at 14/1, who ran a very tidy race behind Commander Of Fleet last time out and steps up to three miles for the first time. He might have been just outstayed but that’s not clear cut, as he hit the line hard and shaped like another few furlongs would be a plus rather than a minus. The ground is no issue and he simply looks a very puntable price with Coral offering a generous five places each-way.
In the Gold Cup itself our 10/1 ante-post selection CLAN DES OBEAUX is still very much the bet. I simply think this horse is pure class and remains a very fair price at 5/1, so it’s certainly not too late to get involved. His stamina has been questioned – as it should be as it’s unproven beyond three miles – but first and foremost I prefer to judge horses visually, as opposed to the cold facts of the form book.
Visually, Clan Des Obeaux is an impeccable jumper – other than a little tendency to jump to his right – who can travel behind the bridle at even the most testing Grade 1 gallops and, on the evidence of his last two runs, looks a monstrous stayer. He didn’t even come off the bridle in the King George. Think about that.
I’m very sweet on his Gold Cup chances and can see the race being run perfectly to suit, with Native River sure to go from the front and stay the distance all the way to the last. We already know Clan Des Obeaux has far more pace than the reigning champ, so I see no reason why he can’t pick him off if staying the trip.
I’m less worried about him not staying as I am Presenting Percy also confirming himself a star. Another impeccable jumper with cast-iron course form and proven stamina, no-one, myself included, will be surprised if he can win a Gold Cup.
Many are questioning his preparation as he’s not had a chase start this season, but I’m simply questioning whether his beating of Monalee in last year’s RSA Chase is anywhere near as good as it looked at the time. His recent hurdle win is also easy to knock and he’s been beaten plenty of times in the past by horses I wouldn’t back at 50/1 for a Gold Cup, so I simply think he’s too short a price and needs to beat Clan Des Obeaux to claim superior form.
I’m wary of old favourite Might Bite bouncing back to form, while Kemboy and Al Boum Photo have their best days ahead of them, so it’s a fantastic Gold Cup that will have to be won by a real top-notcher – hopefully by the name of Clan Des Obeaux.
Best of luck.
1pt each-way Rhinestone @14/1, 14:50 Cheltenham, Friday (1-5, 1/5 with Coral)
1pt win Clan Des Obeaux @10/1, 15:30 Cheltenham, Friday (advised ante-post)