Cheltenham Festival tips from Alex Hammond for Friday
Sir Des Champs can surprise Bobs Worth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, says Alex Hammond.
Last Updated: 15/03/13 6:50am
But there is still plenty of great racing to enjoy. Here are my picks for day four. Let's hope they are winners!
Triumph Hurdle - 2m 1f
The Triumph has become a much classier race with the introduction of the Fred Winter for the handicappers. Our Conor is my fancy to give Dessie Hughes a winner at the festival. This horse is 3/3 over hurdles and stepped up to win a Grade 1 at Leopardstown last time out. He handles soft ground, but if it dried out at all that wouldn't inconvenience him either. Far West represents the champion trainer Paul Nicholls. This horse has won all four starts since joining him from France. He has proved to be very effective on testing ground but has to prove he handles better and his pedigree wouldn't suggest good ground would bring out the best in him and also shows a knee action. He would be of more interest if it's still soft by Friday. Rolling Star is the Henderson hope. He is 2/2 over hurdles with one of those wins coming in a maiden hurdle at Auteuil and the other on debut for new stable in Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham in January. He should improve for that run, but has to prove he handles better ground if that's what he encounters. Kashmir Peak is a horse I like for Yorkshire based handler John Quinn. I fancied him to win on the valuable Musselburgh card but he unseated rider when almost falling four hurdles from home. He is my each way selection in this. Diakali is the Mullins raider, he was beaten by Our Conor at Leopardstown last time out and I can't see him reversing those placings.
SELECTION: Our Conor, Kashmir Peak (each way)
County Handicap Hurdle - 2m 1f
Cotton Mill is the favourite at the time of writing for John Ferguson. This horse threw his race away in the Neptune here last year when almost running out and unseating his rider. He was a decent second to My Tent or Yours in the Betfair Hurdle last time out and he is also in the Coral Cup on Wednesday. Court Minstrel would be making his handicap debut if running here. He has some fair form in graded races for Evan Williams, but may need better ground than he will get here if it remains soft. Ifandbutwhynot is a runner I'd rather have on my side than not. Trained by David O'Meara this horse won at Musselburgh last time out. I'm not sure that soft ground will be ideal though. I like David Pipe's mare Swing Bowler at the prices. She is out of the top class jumping mare Lady Cricket and seems to have inherited her tenacity. Also she lost her unbeaten tag in the Betfair Hurdle it was a good run and if anything she enhanced her reputation at Newbury. She is also in the Mares' Hurdle, but I hope she runs here. It's brave to discount a Willie Mullins runner at the festival and he has Tennis Cap entered. This horse comes here on a roll having won a couple of handicap hurdles on testing ground. He has been transformed by front running tactics, but that is something that will be hard to achieve in a race like this. David Pipe also has Tanerko Emery who was second in the Imperial Cup last Saturday and would be interesting if turning out again, he has three entries this week.
SELECTION: Selection: Swing Bowler (each way)
Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle - 3m
The ground has come right for At Fishers Cross and he is a popular selection for this race now given the likely conditions. Rebecca Curtis has trained him to win 4/6 over hurdles and it was a tough performance when he beat The New One (runs Wednesday in the Neptune) in a great finish in a 2m 4 ½ f Novices' hurdle at Cheltenham last time out. He was given a great ride by AP there, but his jumping is slick and that stands him in good stead. Ballycasey is trained by Willie Mullins and also has a good record over hurdles with 2 from 2. He wasn't extended when winning a 2m 6f Novice Hurdle at Thurles latest. African Gold hails from the Nigel Twiston-Davies stable and this is a horse he loves. He says he's a gorgeous horse who jumps and stays and has a great attitude. Gevrey Chambertin has won a maiden, novice and handicap hurdle on last 3 starts. He was a E150,000 purchase who is a full brother to Grands Crus. Utopie Des Bordes represents Nicky Henderson. She has won both her starts for new trainer having started career in France. She isn't the biggest, but beat Fago in 4 year old G1 Chase at Auteuil before coming to UK. She did all her winning in France over fences so is still a novice over hurdles.
SELECTION: At Fishers Cross
Gold Cup - 3m 2 ½ f
Now to the big race of the meeting, the Gold Cup. Bobs Worth is favourite to win the race for Nicky Henderson. He won the Hennessy off 160 on his only start since winning RSA Chase and was incredibly impressive there. He has only had five starts over fences, winning three. He also has a great record at this track, he is unbeaten in four starts here and deserves to be favourite. Sir Des Champs is the horse I like for Willie Mullins. His season has been geared towards this race and his jumping has improved. He put Flemenstar in his place in Irish Hennessy last time out. He has plenty in his favour, stamina a plenty, he has course form over fences winning the Jewson here last year and he's a class act. Silviniaco Conti is the big hope for Paul Nicholls as he bids to fill a Kauto Star/Denman sized hole. He is a progressive chaser who has won the Charlie Hall, Betfair Chase and Denman Chase this term. He beat The Giant Bolster and Menorah at Newbury last time out, but was beaten on his only start at Cheltenham. Long Run is very much the discarded horse in the race, but it's dangerous to discount him. Henderson has fitted the cheekpieces for the first time which should help him. He was second to Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair and went on to win King George. He has an unnerving tendency to clout the odd fence, but then that never stopped Kauto Star. He is bidding to become the first horse since Kauto to regain the blue riband having won this race in 2011, he was third behind Synchronised and The Giant Bolster last year. First Lieutenant has the option of the Ryanair and he has a great each way shout if runs in this. He's been a bit overlooked. It's worth remembering he was second to Bobs Worth in RSA last year and although he hasn't won since, he has been placed in Hennessy and Lexus on his last two outings. His owners, the Gigginstown Stud, surely wouldn't want to take on their own Sir Des Champs? Richard Johnson is keen on the chances of his mount Captain Chris and trainer Philip Hobbs says he is the best each way chance of the meeting. He was just beaten by Long Run in King George, goes well at this track having won the Arkle in 2011 and finishing fourth in the Ryanair last year. There is a good argument to be made that he would have beaten Cue Card at Ascot last time out if he hadn't uprooted the 2nd last. The Giant Bolster was second last year for David Bridgewater and he is expected to improve for his run in the Denman Chase.
SELECTION: Sir Des Champs
Foxhunter - 3m 2 ½ f
There is only one horse I think you need to look out for in the Foxhunter. That horse is Salsify who is trained in Ireland by Roger Sweeney. He is a class above these and probably better than a hunter chaser. He beat Chapoturgeon in this last year and is coming to hand at the right time again having won a Hunter Chase at Leopardstown last time out.
Martin Pipe Cond. Jockeys Handicap Hurdle - 2m 4 ½ f
A couple of difficult races to close the festival, but you could do worse than go with the pick of the David Pipe runners in this race. That looks to be Gevrey Chambertin who is also in the Albert Bartlett but this seems more likely.As I mentioned earlier he has won a maiden, novice and handicap hurdle on last three starts. He was a 150,000 Euro purchase who is a full brother to Grands Crus. Plenty to like about him and he should progress out of handicaps after this. It's tricky to know exactly what runs at this stage, but follow the Pipe stable and you won't go far wrong
St Patrick's Derby - 1m 5f Charity Race
Grand Annual - 2m ½ f Handicap Chase
Alderwood is one of the leading fancies for the closing Grand Annual Handicap Chase. He is trained by Thomas Mullins for JP McManus and won the County Hurdle last year. This race is named in honour of Nicky Henderson's father and he likes to try and win this. He has 6 entries including the quirky Kid Cassidy who has Paul Carberry booked and could suit this horse. Petit Robin, Tanks For That, Tetlami, Anquetta and French Opera are his other possible runners. Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh team up with Ulck Du Lin, the trainer also has Shooters Wood. Tom George has Rody entered. Again no declarations at this stage, but I quite like Petit Robin each way as he seems to have been rejuvenated over hurdles this season and I think Nico de Boinville is set to take 7lbs off his top weight.
SELECTION: Petit Robin (each way)
The top trainer and jockey markets are dominated by Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty and they both appear to have exceptional chances through the week. There are also some great specials to get involved with too, check out www.skybet.com for all the info.
One I like particularly is Nicky Henderson 'Off to a Flyer' - it's 28/1 for the trainer to win with My Tent or Yours, Simonsig and Grandouet - and that doesn't look beyond the realms of possibility. It's also worth remembering that Sky Bet are non runner money back all races at the festival now.