Published 17.08 12/3
There is always something special about Cheltenham Gold Cup Day, the final day of four at the Festival and this year possibly the last good racing we will have playing to big crowds for some time.
That one came here last year relatively unconsidered but having put up an impressive figure at Tramore. The story is much the same 12 months on – he won the same prep race on New Year’s Day in similarly good style – other than the “unconsidered” bit.
He is disputing favouritism now and no longer an angel being entertained unawares.
Al Boum Photo was beaten fair and square by Kemboy at Punchestown soon after Cheltenham, and the latter would have as good claims as any at his best. But he has not really hit his straps this year – split Delta Work and Presenting Percy in an Irish Gold Cup run in a modest time at Leopardstown on his latest start – and the extended trip and quite testing ground may not play to his strengths.
The need to see things out thoroughly has been even more of a feature of this Festival than most, and Santini is arguably the main contender best equipped to cope here. He was second – just ahead of Delta Work – in a vintage RSA Chase last year, despite losing a shoe, and returned to form with a vengeance when outstaying and outperforming an on-song Bristol De Mai in the Cotswold Chase here last time.
Santini probably needs a new personal best to win here but has conditions to suit: the ground had started to dry by Thursday but the times were still consistent with “soft”. However, from a punting point of view, Santini’s odds now (about half what they were straight after the Cotswold) largely reflect that.
This should be a great contest, with the large majority classy enough to have a realistic chance, but the better punting options may be elsewhere.
This looks an up-to-scratch event, and one likely to be run at a strong pace with Allmankind and Aspire Tower in the field, but Goshen does not have to lead and his form just seems to be getting better and better.
The horse he tonked at Ascot last time, Nordano, went and won a good handicap (admittedly at a longer trip) next time, while the one he beat even further at Sandown the time before, Thyme White, did well enough on his next two starts to be running off a BHA mark of 133 here on Wednesday.
Goshen runs fast and just keeps going, whereas some of his rivals here do one or the other but not both. Solo was mightily impressive visually at Kempton recently, but nothing like so good on overall time or sectionals.
I would not be putting you offMonkfish in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at 2:50 given how well he won at Thurles last time, but there is another Irish raider who could be even more interesting at a bigger price, and that is SEMPO.
Last year’s Champion Bumper sixth has been crying out for a distance of ground and won a Maiden Hurdle at Thurles last time in exemplary fashion on his first start beyond two and a half. This test should suit him down to the ground and I can see him placing and possibly winning if one or two fail to improve.
The final two races – the Grand Annual Chase at 4:50 and the Martin Pipe at 5:30 – are large-field handicaps which look as tough as ever, but I still reckon that CHOSEN MATE and UMBRIGADO respectively represent worthwhile bets in them.
The former, a decidedly useful hurdler, beat Capuccimix easily in the mud at Gowran last time and the runner-up franked the form with a similarly easy success (in a smart time) at Naas on Sunday. Chosen Mate might well have had a good chance in the Arkle on Tuesday but comes here instead with leading claims.
Umbrigado has tried a variety of trips, but this testing two and a half miles could well be ideal. He shaped well at Haydock before failing to get home, and reportedly lost a shoe when well fancied at Ascot last time.
It is easy to see this as having been “the plan” given that Umbrigado is trained by Martin’s son David. The talented Jack Tudor takes the ride.
Simon's Best Bets (scale 1-5 points):
1:30 CHELTENHAM – JCB TRIUMPH HURDLE
1 pt win GOSHEN (11-4 general)
2:50 CHELTENHAM – ALBERT BARTLETT NOVICES’ HURDLE
0.5 pt each-way SEMPO (16-1 bet365, 14-1 Sky Bet, William Hill, 12-1 BetVictor, Boylesports)
4:50 CHELTENHAM – JOHNNY HENDERSON GRAND ANNUAL HANDICAP CHASE
1 pt win CHOSEN MATE (7-1 bet365, 13-2 Betfair Sportsbook, BetVictor, Paddy Power, Sky Bet, William Hill)
5:30 CHELTENHAM – MARTIN PIPE CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS HANDICAP HURDLE
0.5 pt each-way UMBRIGADO