It’s Gold Cup day at Cheltenham and the punters will be out in force for the final day of the 2018 meeting. Double Shuffle looks like an outstanding each-way bet in the Gold Cup, but he’ll need to reproduce the form which saw him finish second behind Might Bite in the King George. Below you can read our previews for the final day of racing.
1.30pm JCB Triumph Hurdle 2m1f
Nicky Henderson holds a strong hand yet again with his juveniles Apple’s Shakira, a full-sister to star mare Apple’s Jade, who has won three times at Cheltenham this season and bids to go one better than her sister who finished second to Ivanovich Gorbatov in 2016.
The master of Seven Barrows also saddles WE HAVE A DREAM who, at the prices, looks the value play. A Grade 1 winner of the Finale at Chepstow, he has proven himself tactically versatile and won nicely at Musselburgh despite his trainer admitting he had left plenty of work still to do with him.
2.10 County Hurdle 2m1f
2016 Triumph Hurdle hero Ivanovich Gorbatov is becoming well handicapped once again and drying ground on the Friday will firmly be in his favour.
Whatswrongwithyou could be a very interesting contender with him likely to be aiming for the £100,000 bonus by winning the Imperial Cup and this contest. He looks on a fair mark.
Willie Mullins has won this race four times since 2010 and perhaps one of his more interesting handicap entries of the week is WHISKEY SOUR. A very fortunate Grade 1 winner in Ireland over Christmas, he shaped okay when fourth to Samcro in the Deloitte and he looks fairly treated on his achievements.
2.50pm Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle 3m
An attritional test for any horse with experience being the key to the race. Every winner of the race has had at least five runs which rules out leading contenders Santini and Duc Des Genievres. Both have shown very good form and are exciting individuals for the future but a race of this nature may prove too much with the pair having only had three runs apiece in their whole lives. Poetic Rhythm won the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle in tenacious style at the expense of Mulcahys Hill and he has to be considered with him possessing enough experience.
At the prices, a chance is taken on WHITE MOON as he looked a very good prospect before having excuses when well beaten by On The Blind Side at Sandown. The step up to 3m is in his favour and ground should pose no issue.
3.30 The Cheltenham Gold Cup 3m2f
Might Bite has been favourite for this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup for some time but he is not without his quirks, having almost thrown away the RSA last year and that will be quite off-putting for a lot of punters.
Native River showed he will be a major player once again in National Hunt’s blue riband event after claiming a second victory in last month’s Denman Chase at Newbury on his seasonal return. Any horse that has won a Hennessy and a Welsh National has to be high on anyone’s shortlist.
The eight-year-old DOUBLE SHUFFLE is a massive price in comparison to the favourite which is surprising really to say that he ran him to a closing-in length in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.
The Tom George trained gelding was also considered good enough to contest the Charlie Hall Chase this season but traffic issues prevented him getting there. He looks an interesting each-way player in a very open renewal of the Gold Cup.
4.10pm Foxhunters Chase 3m2f
Foxrock has been to Cheltenham twice before and disappointed both times so has a lot to prove regarding travelling over.
Punchestown Champion Hunter hero Balnaslow needs to improve considerably having pulled up last time in a point but could very easily return to form in a race he outran his odds in last year.
Paul Nicholls has stated that WONDERFUL CHARM is his best chance of a winner all week and, with Sam Waley-Cohen in the saddle, he is likely to be ridden a bit more forcefully than last year when second to stable companion Pacha Du Polder.
4.50pm Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle 2m4f
Arguably the most difficult handicap of the week with plenty of unexposed novices with Graded aspirations for the future.
Deal D’estruval looks well treated on his second to Off You Go at the Dublin Racing Festival and the step up in trip looks in his favour, while other Irish contenders of interest include Dortmund Park and Early Doors, who both have solid Graded form to their name and are relatively unexposed.
Another with more to offer is SPRINGTOWN LAKE who chased home leading Ballymore contender On The Blind Side at Sandown earlier in the season and his tenacious attitude will see him right there at the finish when plenty have cried enough.
5.30pm Grand Annual Chase 2m½f
The last chance saloon for many punters in one of the fastest run National Hunt races of the entire season. It is not one for the faint-hearted.
Nicky Henderson will be hoping for a third win in the race named after his father and Theinval is, surprisingly, his only representative. He shaped well when last seen on New Year’s Day and was subsequently dropped 3lb for that effort. His former inmate at Seven Barrows has also had a preparation towards this contest all season in Vaniteux but his 0-10 record at Cheltenham is hardly encouraging.
One who could pose a threat at a bigger price is 2016 Fred Winter winner DIEGO DU CHARMIL. His comeback run after a setback was promising behind Saint Calvados and a mark of 143 looks very tempting.