TRIUMPH HURDLE 2m 1f
OVERVIEW – Dessie Hughes bids to follow up last years success of the ill fated Our Conor here with the consistent Guita Pete. Though the Irish are responsible for almost half the line up it looks likely that we will have to play ‘second fiddle’ on this occasion. The one that makes the most appeal is the ex Mark Johnson flat racer Broughton (rated 89) who went down narrowly in a Doncaster Grade 2 hurdle on his debut (good) before opening his account with ease on soft in Musselburgh. Admittedly Cheltenham will pose a different challenge for the John Ferguson trained runner but he looks to have the right profile (lightly raced/unexposed/improving) whilst a return to good ground (scored on it on flat) looks ideal for the Denis O’Regan ridden gelding. Paul Nicholls has bagged this race twice in the past ten years and his representative here Calipto has a similar profile to the selection and boasts a 2 from 4=3 record over flights to date – looking high class in the process. The Gordon Elliott trained Tiger Roll shaped with plenty of promise on his debut for the yard when going under by a couple of lengths to the battle hardened Guitar Pete in Leopardstown and could prove best of the Irish John Quinn knows what is required to win this race and has prospects with the dual scorer Pearl Castle. VERDICT – Broughton is the choice to edge out the favourite Calipto with Tiger Roll and Guitar Pete the best of the raiding contingent.
COUNTY HURDLE 2m 1f
OVERVIEW – In stark contrast to the opener this a contest which has been kind to the Irish with 6 of the last 10 winners coming from the Emerald Isle. That trend looks likely to be extended with Arctic Fire and Minella Foru in particulat looking a likely duo off the back of promising last time out efforts in Graded hurdle races in Leopardstown and Naas respectively. They could still be on the right side of the handicapper but it is the Tom Foley trained runner Never Enough Time who ets my vote. In contrast to the two previously named runners J P McManus’s reltively lightly raced 6yo has been hit hard by the handicapper for emphatic wins in Gowran and Leopardstown handicaps. Nevertheless he could be aided by a faster surface and with the 7lbs claim of the talented Ger Fox (races off 10-6) he can beat the nicky Henderson trained Makari who is another who could be well treated running off 10-8 – though he has not been seen since landing a Doncaster handicap in December. As usual there are a pletora of dangers which include former Festival bumper winner Cheltenian, Lyvius (Nicky Henderson) while Paul Nicholls (won this 3 times in last decade) is represented by Lac Fontana. VERDICT – Never Enough Time can give J P McManus yet another winner in an unforgettable week and he may be chased home by Makari, Arctic Fire and Cheltenian.
ALBERT BARTLETT HURDLE 3m
OVERVIEW – Odds of 5/4 in a competitive hurdle for novices certainly do not appeal to this scribe but it is still hard to get away from the credentials of Briar Hill. Winner of the Festival bumper last term at odds of twenty five to one the former point and bumper winner is unbeaten in three runs over flights and he shapes as if this step up in trip will be ‘just the ticket’ for the Mullins/Walsh combination. On official rating the selection has something to find on the David Pipe trained runner Kings Palace who was impressive when making all to land a CD Grade 2 Hurdle here at the end of last year. However it is not easy to make all in thse competitive novice races nd there looks better value in the without market. The two who can contend for the minor honours are last time out Ascot winner 2m 6f) Champagne West and former Irish point to point maiden Mosspark representing the Emma Lavelle yard. Captain Cutter (Nicky Henderson) and Deputy Dan (Oliver Sherwood) are another pair who merit consideration. VERDICT – Briar Hill can keep his unbeaten record intact to give the Irish their third win in the race in the past 10 years. Champagne West, Mosspark and Kings Palce (in that order) are the trio to benefit if the ‘jolly’ fails to live up to expectations.
GOLD CUP 3m 2f
OVERVIEW – The feature event of the week and the ‘Blue Riband’ in the chasing season. It brings together last years winner Bobs Worth and Siviniaco Conti who looked a ‘player’ till exiting three from home in the same event. In the meanwhile the champion returned to winning ways after an early season ‘blip’ when staying on stoutly to land the Lexus chase from First Lieutenant at Leopardstown at Christmas. Over the same Christmas period Paul Nicholls Silviniaco Conti put up a fine staying performance to beat the flattering Cue Card in the King George at Kempton. Last Instalment adds spice to a fascinating renewal and if this super leaper wins (would not be a surprise) the success will undoubtedly amass plenty of print inches owing to the recent Phillip Fenton controversy but drying ground is hardly likely to suit the 9yo. The two who could spring a surprise are Hennesst hero Triolo D’Alene (stablemate of Bobs Worth) under Tony McCoy and The Giant Bolster who has finished 3rd and 4th in past renewals. In a race which often as not goes to the market principals Silviniaco Conti under Noel Fehily is tipped to give the Nicholls team win number 4 in the last eleven years. VERDICT – In what could prove another thriller Silviniaco Conti is taken to beat Bobs Worth with Triolo D’Alene and The Giant Bolster set to take the minor prizes.
Compiled by Mike Barrett
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