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2018 Cheltenham Festival tips - Through the card tips on Gold Cup Friday

Our expert takes a look through the full card on day four of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival and provides readers with his selection for every race.


The final day of the Cheltenham Festival is centred around the Gold Cup, the most prestigious and lucrative contest in all of jumps racing. There are two further Grade Ones on Friday’s card, along with several thrilling handicaps and a fascinating renewal of the Foxhunters.

Our expert has taken a look through the card on the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival and provided his tips for every race.

1:30pm JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m1f

Mr Adjudicator and We Have A Dream bring Grade One winning form into this juvenile contest and deserve their places near the head of the betting. Redicean’s jumping was transformed when winning the Adonis Hurdle and Alan King looks to have a progressive, explosive hurdler on his hands.

Farclas has his supporters and Willie Mullins claimed Stormy Ireland was his best juvenile mid-way through the season. However, the prospect of very soft turf will sound like music to APPLE’S SHAKIRA’S ears and she has strong course form to back up her already sizable claims.

Nicky Henderson threw his French import in with Gumball as she made her stable debut in the Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle. Philip Hobbs’ charge was leading the Triumph betting at the time, but Barry Geraghty’s mount hacked up to claim a fantastic 17 length win. 

Two further victories have followed around the New course here at Cheltenham. First, holding off a spirited challenge from Fred Winter fancy Nube Negra, before claiming a comfortable victory in the Grade Two Finesse.

Apple’s Shakira clearly enjoys the challenge presented by Cheltenham and should have the class to deal with the sizable field. Her full sister, Apple’s Jade could only finish second in the 2016 Triumph – Apple’s Shakira looks set to go one better.

1:30 Cheltenham selection – APPLE’S SHAKIRA (3/1 Ladbrokes)

2:10pm County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m1f

Jack Kennedy could partner Hunters Call once again and it would be a wonderful story for Olly Murphy to win at his first Festival as a fully-fledged trainer. Flying Tiger hasn’t found another victory since winning last year’s Fred Winter. Nicky Williams has restricted his charge mainly to Graded races since then, where he has performed well on the whole and looks well handicapped on previous achievements.

Solomon Grey has been in good form this season, with his only defeats over hurdles coming behind If The Cap Fits. Dan Skelton’s charge ticks many of the boxes when searching for a possible County Hurdle contender, but the one who appeals most for me is stablemate MOHAAYED.

After impressing at times during his novice campaign, Mohaayed secured a couple of respectable finishes last spring. He passed the post just three-and-a-half lengths behind Arctic Fire in seventh in this race last year, before claiming a spot in the places in a competitive renewal of the Scottish Champion Hurdle. 

Skelton’s six-year-old really struggled on his reappearance in the Greatwood, but results since then have been good. Mohaayed was narrowly denied victory by Irish Roe in a Class Two Handicap at Doncaster, before crossing the line a six-length third as he locked horns with Buveur D’Air in the Christmas Hurdle.

Moyaahed has been laid out for another crack at the County Hurdle - a race Skelton won with Superb Story two years ago. Bridget Andrews could be called upon to make his 10-9 weight burden even more manageable and he offers stacks of each-way value at his current lengthy price.

2:10pm Cheltenham selection – MOHAAYED each-way (33/1 BetVictor)

Apple's Shakira jumps the last to record her third win around Cheltenham this season.

2:50pm Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m

Next Destination has progressed nicely since his days on the flat, but he’s completely untried over three miles and this year’s renewal could turn into a long-hard slog. Chris’ Dream won a 24 furlong Grade Three by 63 lengths last time out, but that was a mess of a race and it’s hard to take any genuine form lines out of it.

Poetic Rhythm is a Grade One winner and looks bred to stay three miles. Chef Des Obeaux has gone from strength-to-strength since losing out on his jumping debut and will be excited by the prospect of heavy ground.

The horse who defeated Chef Des Obeaux on his first start for Nicky Henderson was stablemate SANTINI. They look set to renewal rivalries in the Albert Bartlett and Santini is favoured to back up that form and land a maiden Grade One.

Weeks after fter romping to a 15 length victory in a point-to-point, Santini made the switch from Ed Walker’s yard over to Seven Barrows. After comfortably seeing off Chef Des Obeaux on debut, Henderson’s six-year-old carried a price of 4/1 into the Ballymore Classic here at Cheltenham. The ground was heavy on the New course that day and Black Op laid down a stiff challenge, but Santini stayed strong and overcame his rival on the run to the line.

Santini’s a successful former pointer, so staying three miles shouldn’t be a problem. He jumped really nicely around Cheltenham in the Classic and dealt with the tricky ground conditions impressively. There’s plenty more to come from this talented novice.

2:50pm Cheltenham selection – SANTINI (6/1 Boylesports)

3:30pm Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1) 3m2½f

As the ground gets softer, the chances of Native River going to post as the favourite increase. Colin Tizzard has kept his charge fresh this season to maximise his chances of building on last year’s third and it’s hard to knock Native River’s credentials. Our Duke has got better with every run this season and his victory over Presenting Percy is a strong piece of form to bring into his first Gold Cup.

Might Bite didn’t need to be at his best to win the King George. He might have a small problem with the run-in here at Cheltenham, but it hasn’t stopped him winning on both of his visits and Nicky Henderson’s charge will make his rivals work hard at the head of affairs. While Might Bite appeals greatly, you could argue ROAD TO RESPECT brings the strongest form into the Gold Cup and Noel Meade’s charge looks ripe for a sizeable each-way wager.

Following a superb victory in the Brown Advisory Plate here at Cheltenham, Road To Respect opened his Grade One account with tremendous triumph over Yorkhill at Fairyhouse. Sean Flanagan’s mount secured victory on his reappearance, before falling half-a-length short of a rejuvenated Outlander in the JNWine Champion Chase.

Despite his clear path of progression, Road To Respect carried a rather lengthy price in the Christmas Chase. As Sizing John and Yorkhill fell back through the field, Meade looked on as his charge established his position at the head of the Irish staying chasing ranks by scoring the biggest prize pot of his career.

Road To Respect’s rise to the top shows no signs of stopping and he will relish a return to Cheltenham. If Christmas Chase runner-up, Balko Des Flos goes and wins the Ryanair, Road To Respect’s price will plummet - so you better jump on while the value is there.

3:30pm Cheltenham selection – ROAD TO RESPECT each-way (10/1 BetVictor)

Road To Respect winning last year's Brown Advisory Plate.

4:10pm Foxhunter Challenge Cup (Class 2) 3m2½f

Burning Ambition is the talking horse in this year’s Foxhunters and has been backed into clear favouritism since finishing second to classy stayer Gilgamboa. Paul Nicholls claimed a 1-2 in this race 12 months ago and plays a strong hand in this year’s renewal, with returning winner Pacha Du Polder, Wonderful Charm and Virak all entering with genuine chances.

An each-way punt is the only profitable plan of attack in races of this ilk. While Balnaslow and Sir Jack Yeats catch the eye, BAREL OF LAUGHS snatched a place carrying a price of 100/1 last year and could match, or even better that surprise result.

Since crossing the line half-a-length behind Pacha Du Polder, Philip Rowley’s teenager has won three of his four starts in point-to-points and Hunter Chases. Alex Edwards’ mount had to work very hard to win here at Cheltenham in April, despite starting the race at the 8/13 favourite. He had to settle for second on his 2018 reappearance, but there was no shame in losing out to Saddler’s Encore, who carried 10 pounds less to post.

Barel Of Laughs returned to winning ways just in time for Cheltenham, shouldering 12-4 to a narrow victory in a point-to-point at Bangor in February. He may have reached the ripe old age of 12, but Barel Of Laughs is in a rich vein of form and has a course-and-distance win to bolster his claims.

4:10pm Cheltenham selection – BAREL OF LAUGHS each-way (25/1 Paddy Power)

4:50pm Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) 2m4½f

A victory in the Martin Pipe was what Gordon Elliott wanted most out of last year’s Festival and Champagne Classic delivered. Many think Flawless Escape is Elliott’s best chance of retaining the trophy baring the name of his former mentor, but Dortmund Park has looked impressive at times this season and could have a big say in the matter.

That being said, there are several horses who appeal at the opposite end of the betting. Coeur De Lion warmed up for the Festival with a win on the flat and has performed well over jumps in the past. Springtown Lake has finished second to On The Blind Side in a Grade Two and performed well enough in a Listed race here at Cheltenham to suggest he has potential.

Another to have run well around Cheltenham this season is MELROSE BOY, who won a Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at the November meeting. Kieron Edgar was claiming in his saddle that day and the duo could strike up a winning partnership once again as they enter this years’ Martin Pipe.

Harry Fry’s charge has only managed to win one of his three starts since that victory here at Cheltenham. At the time, his third as the odds-on favourite at Newbury in December seemed disappointing, but Mr Whipped was a worthy winner that day and second-placed Gowiththeflow scored a nice victory over Paisley Park at Doncaster last month. 

Fry then gave his charge a penalty kick at Fontwell to help him jump back onto the winning trail, before heading into the Grade Three Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown. Noel Fehily held Melrose Boy up at the back of the field and they managed to overtake 14 of their rivals to claim a spot in the places.

Melrose Boy is a very consistent handicapper, who travels powerfully and boasts a winning record here at Cheltenham. Keiron Edgar has been outshined by other conditionals like James Bowen and Mitchell Bastyan this season, but he remains one of Harry Fry’s go-to-guys and could repay his trainer’s faith at the Festival.

4:50pm Cheltenham selection – MELROSE BOY each-way (20/1 Boylesports)

Kieron Edgar riding Melrose Boy rto victory around Cheltenham earlier this season.

5:30pm Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m½f

While dangerous handicapper Patrick’s Park and former Fred Winter winner, Diego Du Charmil hold appeal, I picked out THEINVAL as one of the best handicappers to back leading into the Festival and I’m not about to abandon my ante-post selection.

Horses often return to the Grand Annual 12 months after featuring in the race and register improved performances. Five of the first seven runners to pass the post last year all featured in the 2016 renewal, with only fourth-placed Dandridge failing to improve on the runner-up finish he recorded the previous year.

Theinval had every chance jumping the last, but he hung slightly left during the run in and had to settle for third. He then claimed second in a Grade Three at Aintree, and twice featured at Ayr’s season-ending Festival, finishing as the runner-up to Two Taffs and Cloudy Dream respectively.

Things didn’t go to plan for Theinval during the first half of this season, but Nicky Henderson knows his charge comes alive in the Spring and has resigned him to the side-lines since New Years’ Day. He will go to post in Friday’s final race with the same 141 mark as last year and could even carry three pounds less on his back, if the top-rated entrants remain in the running.

Theinval’s odds have plummeted in the last few weeks, as punters have cottoned onto his chances. I’m not usually one for backing favourites in handicaps, but you can still find each-way value with some bookmakers and I think he’s the ideal candidate to claim victory in the final race of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

5:30pm Cheltenham selection – THEINVAL each-way (11/1 Coral)

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2018 Cheltenham Festival tips - Through the card tips on Gold Cup Friday

Our expert takes a look through the full card on day four of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival and provides readers with his selection for every race.

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