Sportsmail‘s racing expert Robin Goodfellow dishes out his tips for day four of the Cheltenham Festival featuring the Gold Cup.
Caid Du Berlai (left) is likely to be given another patient ride by the excellent Will Biddick
1.30 Sir Erec
2.50 Lisnagar Oscar
3.30 Presenting Percy
4.10 Caid Du Berlais (nap)
4.50 Bun Doran
5.30 Early Doors (nb)
1.30 Quel Destin (nb)
2.10 Western Ryder
2.50 Lisnagar Oscar
3.30 Native River (nap)
4.10 Road To Rome
4.50 Bun Doran
5.30 Dallas Des Pictons
NORTHERNER – 3.30 Definitly Red (nap)
JLT TRIUMPH HURDLE
1.30: GRADE ONE — 2 MILES
There is a real chance SIR EREC hasn’t been truly tested over hurdles, but the long run from the second-last to the final flight should play to the strengths of a horse rated 105 on the Flat. Third to the mighty Stradivarius in an Ascot Group Two last October, the selection, trained by Joseph O’Brien, made the running in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown, sprinting away from Gardens Of Babylon after the last to win cosily — and that has often proved one of the best trials for this race. The Paul Nicholls duo, Quel Destin and Pic D’Orhy, are much respected. The former has become a winning machine this winter, while Pic D’Orhy is potentially a high-class hurdler and could surprise.
BEST BET: SIR EREC 1-1
NEXT BEST: PIC D’ORHY 8-1
RANDOX HEALTH COUNTY HURDLE
2.10: GRADE THREE — 2 MILES
Dan Skelton has stamped himself as a target trainer of note and this looks to have been the plan for a good while with CH’TIBELLO. Thought good enough to run in the Champion Hurdle last year, the eight-year-old has had a wind operation since running a fine race behind Midnight Shadow at Aintree and the form received a boost when the selection’s conqueror followed up in a Grade Two at Cheltenham on his next start. Paul Nicholls has his horses in terrific form, so Capitaine is feared, along with Imperial Cup runner-up Monsieur Lecoq, who is reunited with Lizzie Kelly. But last year’s Triumph Hurdle runner-up Mr Adjudicator catches the eye as the chief threat, given he chased home Champion Hurdle hero Espoir D’Allen on his comeback.
BEST BET: CH’TIBELLO 15-2
NEXT BEST: MR ADJUDICATOR 12-1
ALBERT BARTLETT NOVICES’ HURDLE
2.50: GRADE ONE — 2 MILES 7 FURLONGS
This can be a brutal race for novices and, with winners at 33-1 (three times), 16-1, 14-1 and 11-1 in the past nine runnings, it is a difficult one for punters. However, trainer Rebecca Curtis delivered in grand style for backers in the 2013 renewal with At Fishers Cross and LISNAGAR OSCAR could give the Welsh handler a notable Grade One double. The likeable son of Oscar was hugely impressive at Haydock last time in winning the Grade Two trial and the change of gear he displayed — despite finding the track sharp — to leave the talented Ask Ben toiling after the last was a breakthrough performance. He already boasts form at the track and saw off Dickie Diver at Chepstow, so boasts excellent credentials. Derrinross is also a powerful galloper who looks sure to enjoy the conditions.
BEST BET: LISNAGAR OSCAR 13-2
NEXT BEST: DERRINROSS 12-1
Presenting Percy (left) has a major chance of a third straight Festival win on Friday
CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP
3.30: GRADE ONE — 3 MILES 2 FURLONGS
There is little doubt that PRESENTING PERCY has had an unusual preparation for a leading Gold Cup contender but concentrating on his racecourse performances suggests he has a major chance of a third straight Festival win. Davy Russell enjoyed an armchair ride aboard the eight-year-old in last season’s RSA Chase, when his mount was produced to pick off the classy Monalee (Elegant Escape well back in third), and he is likely to have the race run to suit again. Every drop of rain plays to the strengths of reigning champion Native River, who should enjoy the return to a favoured venue after acquitting himself well under conditions which haven’t suited this term. Last year’s gallant third, Anibale Fly, appeals as a place contender again.
BEST BET: PRESENTING PERCY 7-2
NEXT BEST: NATIVE RIVER 9-2
4.10: CLASS TWO — 3 MILES 2 FURLONGS
This appears a fascinating renewal with Stand Up And Fight and Ucello Conti representing two Irish powerhouses and, with five of the first seven home from last year’s running also in the field, it looks a cracking contest. It almost goes without saying the leading Irish hopes will take some stopping, but CAID DU BERLAIS, fifth 12 months ago, looked in great form when winning by 25 lengths on his Bishops Court comeback a fortnight ago. The selection is likely to be given another patient ride by the excellent Will Biddick, who was on board when the gelding slammed Timewaitsfornoone at Punchestown. Top Wood gave it a brilliant go from the front last year and could do well again.
BEST BET: CAID DU BERLAIS 8-1
NEXT BEST: TOP WOOD 25-1
GRAND ANNUAL HANDICAP CHASE
4.50: GRADE 3 — 2 MILES
This is sure to be fast and furious and lightly-raced chasers have enjoyed considerable success in recent renewals, so Magic Saint, Not Another Muddle and Whatswrongwithyou will all have their supporters. The layers have recognised the trend, though, so the trio are reluctantly overlooked in favour of BUN DO RAN who boasts decent track form and is a much better horse following an absence. The last four winners hadn’t run after mid-December, so the 90-day break shouldn’t harm the selection’s chances. Marracudja is a little more exposed than ideal but he has finished first and second on his two course starts.
BEST BET: BUN DORAN 14-1
NEXT BEST: MARRACUDJA 14-1
MARTIN PIPE CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS’
5.30: HANDICAP — 2 MILES 4 FURLONGS
EARLY DOORS had no answer to a shrewd tactical ride by Donagh Meyler aboard Blow By Blow in this race 12 months ago, but he is a year older and slightly better ground may help him see out this test more convincingly. Two preparation runs in Grade One events behind Apple’s Jade this winter have ensured the selection’s handicap mark hasn’t suffered too badly and the booking of a highly talented conditional rider, Jonjo O’Neill Jnr, could be the last piece of the jigsaw. Trainer Gordon Elliott is always to be feared in this race and Dallas Des Pictons has long been a fancy for this event. However, Cartwright and Defi Bleu catch the eye and the money this week has been for the former, who left a positive impression over two miles at Leopardstown last month.
BEST BET: EARLY DOORS 13-2
NEXT BEST: CARTWRIGHT 8-1
PETER SCUDAMORE – EIGHT TIMES CHAMPION JOCKEY
I HAVE maximum respect for Colin Tizzard’s Native River and Thistlecrack in the Gold Cup but PRESENTING PERCY is my pick.
His Festival form is special and I am not worried about him not having run over fences this season. Training techniques have changed and trainers have much more to help them get a horse fit and ready to run, as well as being able to give them schooling practice to jump away from the track.
It’s well documented that Presenting Percy has had two recent sessions around Galway racecourse to sharpen him up.
King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux has had a great season but I have reservations about how he will cope with the final quarter mile. The three-anda- quarter miles is further than he has run before and frontrunner Native River will make it an exacting test.
SIR EREC is the day’s most likely winner in the Triumph Hurdle while DA LLAS DE S PICTONS, representing last year’s winning trainer-jockey combination, was an impressive winner last time out and looks the solution to the concluding Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle.
HAYLEY MOORE – PRESENTER FOR SKY SPORTS RACING
Some high-profile stables are represented in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle but the fact DE RRINROSS i s trained by the lesser-known Philip Dempsey and ridden by his son Luke might mean he gets a little overlooked.
That would be a mistake. This season he has won two graded hurdles, in the first of them comfortably brushing aside Sams Profile, who was a decent fifth in Wednesday’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Favourite Birchdale has looked good but the horse is inexperienced and worth taking on.
Trainer Joseph O’Brien has a strong grip on the juvenile hurdle division. He can land the JCB Triumph Hurdle with SIR EREC and I wouldn’t be surprised if stablemate Gardens of Babylon is the biggest danger.
I am excited about the chances of my father’s NOT ANOTHER MUDD LE in the Grand Annual Handicap Chase. He is improving and the strong gallop will suit.
DALLAS DES PICTONS, who has only been beaten in his last three runs by Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner City Island, can land the concluding Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle, a race trainer Gordon Elliott always targets.
CAPTAIN HEATH (MARCUS TOWNEND)
PRESENTING PERCY looks like he could be something special in the Gold Cup, while in the Albert Bartlett ALLAHO, trained by Willie Mullins, appears to have a huge future after being thrown into a decent race at Clonmel last month and winning easily.
FORMCAST (NIGEL TAYLOR)
Road To Rome has won all his four starts in hunter chases this season, and gained victory by a wide margin in a competitive race at Haydock last month. On that form, Road To Rome is a good bet to win again today.
BEAT THE FAVOURITE
Our football experts like to go against the grain with their tips. Here are their picks to trounce Friday’s fancied runners…
JAMIE REDKNAPP: DICKIE DIVER (2.50)
CHRIS SUTTON: CUT THE MUSTARD (2.10)
WINNERS ENCLOSURE – BEST BETS, BEST ODDS WITH LADBROKES’ NICOLA McGEADY
Presenting Percy heads the Gold Cup betting as he attempts to win at the Festival for a third consecutive year. He may have had an unconventional prep, but I won’t be questioning trainer Pat Kelly.
Davy Russell is on board and he has the utmost faith in the horse, as do I. If he turns up in the same form as last year, he is the best in the race. In the Triumph Hurdle, it is hard to pick holes in the form of sir erec. He looks the real deal.
In the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, Derrinr oss represents the value for me. He’s battle hardened, he’ll like the ground, the vibes are positive and he is 10-1.
THE BOOKIES’ VIEW
Day Three of the Festival was Black Thursday for the bookmakers despite Eglantine Du Seuil’s shock win in the Dawn Run Mares’ Hurdle.
The 50-1 shot was chased home by 66-1 and 40-1 chances as the Tote paid out a massive Trifecta dividend of almost £74,000. But by then bookmakers claimed the damage was done, with a set of results Coral estimated had cost the betting industry £50m.
After a day when three favourites won and all but one of the seven winners was returned at single-figure odds, Coral spokesman Dave Stevens said: ‘We thought Wednesday was bad, when favourites won the last four races, but that seemed like a good day compared to this afternoon.
‘Defi Du Seuil and Sire Du Berlais kept the winning run for favourites going in the opening two races, before the popular Bryony Frost gained her second Festival win on Frodon. That set the scene for Paisley Park’s victory in the Stayers’ Hurdle and then Siruh Du Lac and Lizzie Kelly got in on the act. ‘It was a day we’d like to forget but we’ll find it hard to.’