Cheltenham Gold Cup day is the pinnacle for jumps racing fans, the culmination of four fantastic days racing in the Cotswolds and the handing out of the sport’s biggest prize.
This year all eyes are going to be focused very firmly on Nicky Henderson. He was already the most successful trainer of all-time at the Cheltenham Festival, this week taking his tally through the 60-barrier.
Now the Master of Seven Barrows stands on the precipice of another glorious chapter in the fabric of this wonderful meeting.
Henderson saddles Might Bite in the Gold Cup (15:15) and victory would see him carting off the crown jewels of the festival – the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup all in one season, a feat that has never been done previously.
He is simply a remarkable trainer, but perhaps even more saliently, Henderson is a truly gifted trainer of talented horses. He handles them skilfully and patiently and has an unerring ability to get them spot on what it matters most.
For that reason, backing Might Bite to win the Blue Ribband at 9/2 seems the most logical option.
Yes he showed an alarming quirk last season, when just about throwing away the RSA in dramatic fashion. But he still got up to win, in spite of that, and it must be said he hasn’t put a foot wrong since.
He won the King George, seeing off Bristol De Mai by dominating and still having enough in reserve to repel everything else. He’s been parked up since and will be trained to-the-minute for this. He couldn’t be in better hands. Henderson makes history, he always has done.
The dangers are led by last year’s third, Native River, a dour stayer and the improving Road To Respect as doubts have crept into Our Duke’s jumping and he won’t survive the mistakes he’s been making in this particular heat of battle.
What of the undercard? Henderson has leading claims here too. His Apple’s Shakira has been rehearsing for the Triumph Hurdle (13:30) all season long. She’s got three wins on the course and has the talent to make it four.
Receiving weight from the boys, she makes strong appeal at 2/1 to give owner JP McManus his third successive Triumph Hurdle winner.
In the County Hurdle (14:10), Willie Mullins has a strong record with four wins in eight years. Deciphering from his multiple entries is a thankless task, but 20/1 shot Whiskey Sour rarely runs a poor race and must have a sporting chance, while Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Chesterfield also appeals in a tough race.
The Albert Bartlett (14:50) has trended towards big price winners lately and while Santini‘s claims have grown strong after Black Op chased home Samcro, he’s been well found in the betting.
Kilbricken Storm has winning form on the course this season and Colin Tizzard’s charge is perhaps being underestimated at odds of 40/1.
Paul Nicholls doesn’t have the firepower of days past, but the Ditcheat handler is seeking back-to-back wins in the Foxhunters’ Chase (16:10) – the Gold Cup for amateur riders – and he’s got a strong team. Wonderful Charm was an unlucky runner-up last year and may atone for that now at 11/2 under Sam Waley-Cohen, the amateur that won the Gold Cup on Long Run.
The final two races on the festival card are, always, desperately tough puzzles to work out. David Pipe’s desire to win the race named in his father’s honour – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (16:50) – needs no overstating and he saddles unbeaten hurdler Mr Big Shot on his seasonal/handicap bow and at 14/1 he must have a chance.
In the Grand Annual (17:30), the Dan Skelton-trained North Hill Harvey is also tackling a handicap for the first time and has plenty to like about him at odds of 7/1 to bring down the curtain for another year.
For all new customers, ComeOn are currently offering a £10 free bet – make sure you sign up!