Nick Luck picks out his best bets for the final day of the Cheltenham Festival, where he is looking to take on the favourite in the Gold Cup.
Cheltenham DAY 4
BLOOD DESTINY can come out best at 2/1 in a Mullins benefit for the Triumph Hurdle (1.30pm). All his big runners here look talented, but there was something pretty merciless about the way the selection despatched his rivals last time, and the subsequent exploits of Nusret and Jazzy Matty suggest that sort of effort could easily be enough to win most editions of this race.
PEMBROKE can give the Skeltons another win in the County Hurdle (2.10pm) at 17/2. Underfoot conditions have really come in his favour now, and everything about the way this horse has travelled and progressed suggests a well-run race at two miles will be just the ticket. He has a big chance, with unlucky Betfair second Filey Bay the key danger.
LETSBECLEARABOUTIT and STAY AWAY FAY are two big-priced horses against the field in the Albert Bartlett (2.50pm), at 18/1 and 22/1 respectively. The first named – from a yard already successful in this race – has now built up plenty of experience, is quite progressive and won’t mind the ground. His best is not as far behind the market leaders as the odds suggest. The Nicholls runner is a bit more speculative ground-wise, but he shapes like a thorough stayer, has quite an appealing pedigree and should take a decent step forward from his Doncaster prep.
PROTEKTORAT now looks the principal play in the Gold Cup (3.30pm) at 14/1. I’ve toyed with all sorts of ideas here, but the ground is absolute key to this horse’s chance, and there are sound reasons to think he’s a better horse now than when a good third last year based on his Haydock romp and the way he travelled before apparently blowing up through lack of peak fitness in the Cotswold Chase. When he’s good, he’s really smart, and the cards have fallen right for him. Those I’ve spoken to know that AHOY SENOR(18/1) is a horse I have a lot of time for on sheer ability – I like the way he’s been trained to build towards this and he’s one of the few with genuine elite talent, errors notwithstanding. The ground is a bit of a niggle as we draw to the end of the week. Clearly GALOPIN DES CHAMPS could easily oblige judged on how he hit the line at Leopardstown, but this is tougher and I can watch him win at his current odds of 2/1. A PLUS TARD, on the other hand, was so good last year that I will have to make sure I don’t lose on the race if he wins – so I’ll be having a saver accordingly at 7/1 given how de Bromhead has his big guns firing again at the right time.
THE STORYTELLER might be able to roll back the years and give us some fun at 18/1 in the Foxhunters’ (4.10pm), with ground to suit and bundles of Cheltenham form in the book. He looks to have had a perfect prep and Jamie Codd – initially booked for Bob and Co – now takes over.
IMPERVIOUS can win the Mares’ Chase (4.50pm) at 9/4. I was most impressed with her last time when defeating smart geldings and she has a slightly more convincing profile than her main market rival.
IROKO could be the answer to a tricky Martin Pipe (5.30pm) at 15/2. With the reservation that one of the Irish runners could have a ton in hand, I’ve been really impressed with this horse this season, and I’m not sure even a ten-pound whack for his Wetherby win was enough. And it’s not as though this was out of keeping with encouraging efforts in top company as a tenderly campaigned juvenile. A good rider is entrusted with the ride, and I’m sure he’ll handle conditions and run well.