Alex Hammond says Cheltenham will end with a bang and Our Conor win
Cheltenham will end with a bang, says Alex Hammond, and a victory for Dessie Hughes' Our Conor.
By Alex Hammond
Last Updated: 06/03/14 10:31am
Friday, Mar 14
Triumph Hurdle - Dessie Hughes' Our Conor ran away with this race last year and it looks like Ireland's most likeable trainer has a great chance of winning this Grade 1 again. Guitar Pete staked his claim to emulate his stablemate by winning the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last time out and this track is expected to suit. Our Conor took the same route to Cheltenham and Dessie can do it again.
County Hurdle - Dunguib is in the Coral Cup and this race (top weight in both) and he must have a chance wherever he runs. There has obviously been controversy surrounding his trainer Philip Fenton of late but, casting that aside, this former Champion Bumper winner looked like he oozed class when winning the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle on his last start and I'm looking forward to seeing him run back at Cheltenham. Again we get the 'I'm not sure what's running yet' line from trainers, so until we know more it may be worth holding fire.
Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle - Emma Lavelle is having a great season and I've been following her Mosspark this season. He is unbeaten over hurdles and won with some authority at Huntingdon last time. He's 25/1 with Sky Bet and I'll definitely be on him each way. Of the more obvious contenders David Pipe's Kings Palace staked his claim in a trial at Cheltenham in December. He oozes class and is a 'proper horse'.
WM has Briar Hill entered and the horse is five from five under rules. He doesn't do anything in a flash manner, but this looks his ideal race over three miles and you can't knock an unbeaten horse. WM has several entries and the quality of his young hurders is enviable. It's King Palace for me with an each-way bet on the Lavelle trained horse.
Gold Cup - Bobs Worth is going to be short in a bid to retain his crown here. I think there's some great value to be had for each-way punters and the two horses that I'm keen on at this stage are Captain Chris (currently 14/1) and The Giant Bolster (16/1). There's no doubt that Captain Chris would prefer this race to be run right handed, but you can't have everything and it's worth remembering that he won the Arkle in 2011 so it is possible to overcome the problem.
He is having a fantastic season, winning a Listed race at Kempton in January before stepping up to Grade 1 company to win the Ascot Chase last time out. It seems worth giving this race a shot, and if it was run on a right-handed track he would be a much shorter price. The Giant Bolster doesn't have that problem. David Bridgewater has revived the horse this season and he loves Cheltenham. He was second in this race two years ago and ran well again last year and whilst I don't think he'll win, he could run into a place once again.
Foxhunter Chase - I'm off point to pointing this weekend and will try and find out who's fancied. But, Mossey Joe changed hands for an eye watering £160,000 in January and is now in the ownership of Barry Connell and has been switched to Enda Bolger. All positives and he has a favourites chance. Bolger also has On The Fringe who is vying for favouritism with his stablemate. This horse is owned by JP McManus, but is a fragile horse to train and as a result is lightly raced.
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle - It's impossible to second guess what might run here at this stage. David Pipe is obviously usually well represented but I'm not going to take a punt until I know more.
Grand Annual Chase - The week wouldn't be the same unless there was a Tony Martin trained 'good thing'. Is Ted Veale that horse? Last year's County Hurdle winner has been given a mark of 146 over fences after three runs in graded novice chases. He won the County Hurdle off a mark of 134 but this may not be a bad mark for this versatile seven-year-old but he will be priced accordingly. This is a race Nicky Henderson always targets as it's named after his father who did so much to save the festival and unsurprisingly he has a strong entry. Mr Mole at 20/1 could be an each way bet. Paul Nicholls' six-year-old is still a novice, but has form against some smart performers. He lost a match with Rock on Ruby at Doncaster last time out, but did claim the scalp of Vukovar at Warwick earlier in the season. The concern is his jumping, which has got a bit raggedy since that win. The same can't be said for the WM trained Turban who jumps like a buck, the drop back to two miles might just suit him if the ground doesn't dry out too much.
So, there are obviously still several races where final runners are up in the air. I'll be having a good look next weekend when final fields will be taking shape.
In the meantime, as I've mentioned, Sky Bet are going non-runner no bet on all the races, so it could be a good time to get involved.
Click here to read Alex's thoughts on the Tuesday at Cheltenham.
Click here to read Alex's thoughts on the Wednesday at Cheltenham.
Click here to read Alex's thoughts on the Thursday at Cheltenham.