It is hard to believe we have reached the final day of the festival already, and hopefully we finish with a flourish. There have been plenty of ecstatic highs so far, and even more devastating lows, and Day 4 should continue in the same vein. The Gold Cup is the big one on the last day and it looks an intriguing contest. I think there is plenty of value to be found on the card, and below are my thoughts on what promises to be a fantastic festival finale.
Champion Hurdle winning owner JP McManus holds a really strong hand in this race with Defi Du Seuil and Charli Parcs. Those two are at the head of the market, but I believe the value lies with the biggest priced of his three runners, Landofhopeandglory. He was rated over 100 on the flat, he is unbeaten over timber when there has been good in the ground description and the bottomless ground was an excuse for his last run.
Joseph O’Brien plotted a similar route with Ivanovich Gorbatov to win this race last season, and he bounced back from a below par effort on heavy to win this race pretty comfortably. O’Brien had a huge amount of horses to choose from for this race, and it looks significant that this is the one that takes his chance. He looks a huge price at odds of 16/1, and I reckon he could go off an awful lot shorter. He is a confident each way selection.
Stevos’ Selection: Landofhopeandglory e/w @ 16/1 Bet365 NAP
As with all these big field handicaps, small stakes at big odds is the way to go. The one I like at a decent price is the Philip Hobbs trained Wait For Me off a mark of 135. He has had three starts this season, and his standout effort came here back in January when 5th behind William Bonney, beaten just under 4L off 138. He wasn’t as good when well beaten at Newbury last time, but that should have put him spot on for this.
His three career wins have come on soft, but he produced a superb effort to finish 4th in this race last season on good ground off a mark of 139. He is 4lb lower now and he looks as though he has been laid out for another crack at this contest. Richard Johnson rides, he has a nice low weight and he is proven at the track. At odds of 25/1 he is the each way suggestion in a wide open race.
Stevos’ Selection: Wait For Me e/w @ 25/1 William Hill
Death Duty is seen as one of the Irish ‘bankers’ of the whole week, and his trainer Gordon Elliott has cleaned up so far this week. He has been bullish about this horse’s chances in the build up and his form stands up to scrutiny. He has yet to face ground with good in the description, but there is enough in his pedigree to suggest that he will handle it fine. His chance is reflected in his price, and he could be hard to beat.
The Irish hold a strong hand in this race, and Monalee is another interesting contender. He too has yet to encounter ground any better than yielding, so he will be taking a step into the unknown on Friday. Death Duty beat him by 3L when they met on heavy at Navan (20f) but he made no mistake back up in trip to 24f (hvy) when accounting for Battleford. That is strong form in the context of this race, and he could be the one to chase Death Duty home.
Stevos’ Selections: Death Duty win @ 9/4 Bet365; Monalee e/w @ 8/1 Ladbrokes
Cheltenham Gold Cup
This is the big one, and if you read my ‘stats that matter’ piece you will know that I am sweet on Sizing John for this race. My belief in Jessie Harrington’s 7yo son of Midnight Legend hasn’t diminished at all, and in fact the drying ground increases his chance.
I don’t think Native River has the turn of foot to win a Gold Cup on this ground, and I can’t see Cue Card getting the trip. Djakadam rates the main danger, but he may have to play second fiddle for the third year running. Sizing John can still be backed at 10/1, and he is a confident selection.
Stevos’ Selection: Sizing John e/w @ 9/1 Ladbrokes NB
I am not a big fan of this race and I have no strong opinion. However, I think Pacha Du Polder looks overpriced for Bryony Frost and Paul Nicholls. An Olympic winning cyclist managed to come within less than 3L of winning this race last year on him, and with a proper pilot on board he could go even closer. He won easily last time out, this race has been the plan and good ground suits. He is the each way suggestion at 20/1.
Stevos’ Selection: Pacha Du Polder e/w @ 20/1 Paddy Power
Martin Pipe Conditionals’ Hurdle
I have already put up Tommy Silver at 25/1 for this race, and I think he goes there with every chance under Stan Sheppard. He can still be backed at 20s. Another 25/1 shot that could surprise with a big run is the Gordon Elliott trained 6yo Champagne Classic. Elliott has made no secret of his desire to win the race named after his former boss, and this son of Stowaway could run big.
He will be facing good ground for the first time in his 7 race career, but his full brother’s two wins came on good ground so there is hope that he will handle conditions well. He was a decent 3rd in a heavy ground Thurles Grade 3 last time, and remains unexposed over timber. If he improves for the switch to good ground he could be dangerous off 138, and a small e/w interest is advised.
Stevos’ Selections: Tommy Silver e/w @ 25/1; Champagne Classic e/w @ 25/1 Coral
I have backed Croco Bay in this race for the last two years runnning, and I am giving him one more chance on Friday. He is on his last winning mark, he carries less than 11 stone and he will appreciate the lovely ground. He races off 141, and he was going to be placed at least when unseating at the second last here off 146 back in October.
He was a very good 3rd in this contest back in 2015 off 149, just 5L behind Next Sensation. The first time cheekpieces will hopefully sharpen up his jumping and Kielan Woods, who rode for his best ever performance at Ascot, is in the plate. Ben Case has trained him for this race, and he can still be backed at odds of 33/1. He is handicapped to run well and he is worth backing each way.
Stevos’ Selection: Croco Bay e/w @ 33/1 Paddy Power