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2019 Cheltenham Festival tips for day four - Race-by-race selections for Gold Cup day

Brian Healy in Tips 14 Mar 2019

Brian Healy gives his race-by-race selections for all seven races on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Friday sees the fourth and final day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival go to post, and the biggest race of the all in the shape of the Grade One Cheltenham Gold Cup takes centre-stage on what promises to be a fantastic final day of top-class horse racing action at Prestbury Park.

There has been thrills and shocks aplenty over the preceding three days, and day four is sure to be no different. Armchair punters can catch the best of Friday’s action live on ITV Racing, and the cameras will have five races live on the final day of the Festival.

1:30 - JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) Cl1 (4yo) 2m1f
2:10 - Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m1f
2:50 - Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices' Hurdle) Cl1 (4yo+) 3m
3:30 - Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m2½f
4:10 - St. James's Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Chase Cl2 (5yo+) 3m2½f
4:50 - Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m½f
5:30 - Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle Cl2 (4yo+ 0-145) 2m4½f

Getting underway at 1.30pm, Ed Chamberlain and the team will be on hand again to deliver their expert tips, insights and post-race analysis on all of Friday’s televised action and beyond; and Brian Healy gives his race-by-race selections for the last day of the Festival.

1:30 - JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) Cl1 (4yo) 2m1f

Joseph O’Brien has had a terrific season with his juveniles, and following on from Band Of Outlaw’s impressive win in the Fred Winter Hurdle on Wednesday, SIR EREC (11/10, Bet365) could prove tough to beat in the juveniles’ championship race to hand the master of another Festival win. 

The Camelot colt had suffered an earlier scare on the lead up to the race having suffered a stone bruise injury a few days ago; but connections though have been optimistic that the unbeaten hurdler will line up in Friday’s opening race, and his presence in the final field suggests nothing untoward has remained and he should take a world of beating having impressed in both hurdles wins to date.

Very smart on the level for Aidan O’Brien, he is 2-2 since switching to Joseph O’Brien and going hurdling, beating Tiger Tap Tap on his debut at Leopardstown over the Christmas period prior to running out an easy six lengths’ victor from Gardens Of Babylon to claim the Spring Juvenile Hurdle.

He won that contest readily, and there is sure to be more to come from him; he looks a top-class prospect over hurdles, and he could well prove a tough nut to crack assuming his earlier injury scare hasn’t left a mark.

2:10 - Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m1f

Willie Mullins has a decent record in this contest having won the race four times, most recently with Arctic Fire, and the County Carlow handler has claims of a fifth win with CUT THE MUSTARD (16/1, Paddy Power, each-way) looking to hold good claims of success in this competitive handicap contest despite the presence of more fancied stablemates Mr Adjudicator and Whiskey Sour.

The seven-year old Al Namix mare has shown some good form over hurdles to date, winning last season at Punchestown before twice being tried against Laurina.

While she cut little ice on both runs behind that rival, finishing sixth in last season’s Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at this meeting and then falling at Fairyhouse in a Grade One next time, she was also disappointing in a Listed contest when making her final start of the season at Punchestown although she was possibly still feeling the effects of her earlier tumble.

However, she has returned this season in good heart, building on a promising seventh behind Wonder Laish to bag successive silver medals at Leopardstown behind Jetez and Sassy Diva respectively. That latter run saw her beaten just two lengths behind the winner who had previously chased home the potentially high-class Honeysuckle, and she could improve on that outing.

She wore a hood on that occasion, and headgear if applied again could have the same positive effect; while she may not be best handicapped, she looks to be going the right way over hurdles and the drop back to this trip looks in her favour with underfoot conditions unlikely to present a problem.

2:50 - Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices' Hurdle) Cl1 (4yo+) 3m

COMMANDER OF FLEET (7/1, BetVictor) bounced back from defeat at Fairyhouse in December when contesting the Royal Bond Hurdle behind Quick Grabim to register a next-time success at Leopardstown in February to claim the Grade One Nathaniel Lacy and Partners’ Hurdle in February and Gordon Elliott’s charge could follow up.

A winner between the flags previously, he made a winning introduction under Rules for Gordon Elliott in a Punchestown bumper prior to then scoring over hurdles back at that venue when routing Kalum River by six lengths. 

He probably found the two mile trip of the Royal Bond Hurdle far too sharp next time; but he looked a strong stayer when stepped back up in trip at Leopardstown latest where he saw off Rhinestone by a comfortable half-length.

He found plenty for pressure to hold off the runner-up, and he earlier survived what might have been a costly mistake jumping the third last. He left some decent sorts trailing in his wake in that success, and he could have more to offer upped again in distance to this three miles trip.

He looks sure to remain competitive, and every chance he can strike again given he has looked every inch a staying type with proven form in softer ground.

3:30 - Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m2½f

Defending champion NATIVE RIVER (4/1, BetVictor) hasn’t been in the same form in his two runs this campaign, although it would be folly to rule out a return to form by the Indian River gelding despite Colin Tizzard’s yard being quiet in recent weeks.

Having come out on top in a titanic battle with Might Bite twelve months ago, where the pair slugged it out for the duration of this contest and never saw another rival in behind, he wasn’t seen out again in the wake of that run until finishing second on ground too quick for him at Haydock behind Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase.

He might have needed that outing in any case, and although he could only finish third in the King George VI Chase behind the strong travelling Clan Des Obeaux and stablemate Thistlecrack he again arguably found the ground against him while the sharp track clearly didn’t play to his strengths.

He showed a tendency to jump to his left at Kempton, and he never appeared to be fully comfortable at the Sunbury venue where he appeared to be niggled at almost from flag-fall to keep him competitive. He’ll be better suited to a more galloping test at Cheltenham as well as going back left-handed.

With the earlier rain falling throughout the week, the ground has come right for the Indian River gelding who revels in a testing surface, and it is hard to forget how he knuckled down to repel Might Bite in this race twelve months ago with the pair having set a strong pace from the outset and having the race to themselves.

Some critics have suggested that that battle has left a lasting mark on the defending champion given his two disappointing runs this campaign; but if he appears here at the top of his game then he holds solid claims of mounting a successful title defence.

4:10 - St. James's Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Chase Cl2 (5yo+) 3m2½f

HAYMOUNT (25/1, William Hill, each-way) was a very useful performer for Willie Mullins, and the Presenting gelding contested at Graded level as a novice over fences, beating Coney Island and then making the frame behind the likes of Bellshill, Anibale Fly and Acapella Bourgeois prior to finishing third to Tiger Roll in the 2017 National Hunt Chase here.

Only seventh to Our Duke in the Irish Grand Nationa subsequentlyl, he was disappointing in the Galway Plate that season but may have been amiss on that occasion given he was absent subsequently for a year prior to returning to action in the same race where he again turned in a below-par performance having jumped poorly.

He bounced back on his next run back at Galway four days later to take third behind Sub Lieutenant; but he left Willie Mullins on a low note in the wake of another disappointing run at Listowel behind Snow Falcon, and he joined Tom Ellis where he has won both starts in point to points, latterly beating William Money at Chaddesley Corbett.

He has the services of trainer’s wife Gina Andrews for this assignment, and if he were to recapture his old form from his novice days then it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see a big run from the Presenting gelding and he is a very interesting runner who could go well at a big price with the application of cheekpieces representing a possible source of improvement.

4:50 - Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m½f

Paul Nicholls has four wins to his name in this contest, and the Ditcheat handler boasts the likely race-favourite in Irish Saint who returned to winning form last time out; but in BRELAN D’AS (7/2, BetVictor) he also looks to hold solid chances of success, and the Crillon gelding can get competitive here.

A dual-winner in France, he struck over hurdles last term but largely struggled in competitive handicaps following his win at Wincanton; he finished well down the field in last season’s Martin Pipe Hurdle, and he again disappointed here when finishing in mid-division behind Champagne Express back here in April.

He has taken well to chasing however, finding only one too good on each of his first two outings over fences at Hereford and Newbury, before getting off the mark over the larger obstacles with a win at Haydock over Whatswrongwithyou.

There is a school of thought that he perhaps isn’t best suited to the Cheltenham undulations, and he again ran below par back at this track behind Siruh Du Lac, and so his course form has to be a slight concern. All defeats here have come over longer trips however.

He was still in touch and holding chances turning in, but he possibly just failed to see out the trip up the stiff Cheltenham hill, and he readily bounced back at Fakenham latest when jumping soundly to beat Delire D’estruval easily.

While he may be better suited to a flatter track, it looks a good move to keep him to this two mile trip over fences, and he has proven himself to be a versatile performer with regards to ground conditions. 

Having been raised only 1lb in the wake of that latest success he is handicapped to post a big run, and he can give another good account if fears over the track prove unfounded.

5:30 - Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle Cl2 (4yo+ 0-145) 2m4½f

Gordon Elliott won this race twelve months ago with Champagne Classic, and the Meath handler could strike again with his DALLAS DES PICTONS (5/1, William Hill) who has shown very progressive form over hurdles since finishing fourth on his debut at Naas behind Borderline Chatho.

A smart bumper performer in France for Alain Couetil previously, rounding off his time there with a pair of wins at Loudeac and Le Pin au Haras, the Spanish Moon gelding stepped up on that Naas fourth to find only the potentially high-class City Island too strong at Leopardstown on Boxing Day.

But, stepping up in trip next time he ran out a ready ten lengths’ victor over Lighthouse Warrier at Punchestown prior to following up back at Leoaprdstown last time, beating Calie Du Mesnil by a neck.

He showed a really willing attitude to register that success, leading the field turning in and then battling to victory where he was all-out to hold off his challengers. That was over three miles, but he has shown good versatility over a range of trips, finding City Island too good over two miles before winning at this trip.

While both wins have come on good ground, he won a French bumper on heavy ground so underfoot conditions are unlikely to faze him, and while he probably needs to find a shade more from this mark he can continue his progression to post another solid effort.


1:30 - SIR EREC (11/10, Bet365

2:10 - CUT THE MUSTARD (16/1, Paddy Power, each-way)

2:50 - COMMANDER OF FLEET (7/1, BetVictor)

3:30 - NATIVE RIVER (4/1, BetVictor)

4:10 - HAYMOUNT (25/1, William Hill, each-way)

4:50 - BRELAN D’AS (7/2, BetVictor)

5:30 - DALLAS DES PICTONS (5/1, William Hill)

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2019 Cheltenham Festival tips for day four - Race-by-race selections for Gold Cup day

Brian Healy gives his race-by-race selections for all seven races on the final day of the Cheltneham Festival.

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