We’re into the final furlong of Cheltenham week – Gold Cup day.
Much of course will be focused on the Gold Cup itself, but there are plenty of intriguing races that can help you win big on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival 2018.
Apple’s Shakira has been the favourite for this for a long while and there are plenty of reasons to back up her position at the head of the market.
She has run three times in Britain, all at Cheltenham on soft ground, and she’s won all three by just under 30 lengths. She also gets the 7lbs mares’ allowance and is a more than worthy favourite.
The only potential question mark is the form of her three wins. Even though she has won well on all three starts, she hasn’t faced anything like the opposition she will face on Friday and at 2/1 with Grosvenorsport.com, I’m happy to look elsewhere.
Namely, in the shape of the Gordon Elliott-trained Farclas at 7/1. His connections got off the mark on Wednesday with Samcro and this four-year-old can follow suit.
He has run twice so far this season, both of which were solid performances and I think there is bundles of improvement to come.
With the scheduled rain, this could easily turn into a real battle and even though Farclas was touched off by Mr Adjudicator last time, he showed a really good attitude that day and I think Cheltenham could be right up his street.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Santini was last seen when beating Black Op at Cheltenham on similar ground to what they’ll encounter on Friday.
He looked as if a step up to three miles would suit and the form of that win was given a boost on Wednesday when Black Op finished second in the Ballymore.
Santini rates a worthy favourite, but my preference is for the horse he actually beat at Newbury in December, Chef Des Obeaux.
Since that defeat, he has run three times, winning all three and it was his demolition job at Haydock on heavy ground, which really caught the eye.
He is guaranteed to stay having won over 3m½f at Kempton and clearly relishes testing ground.
At 9/2, I fancy him to give his trainer a second win in the race.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
The Blue Riband event of the week, though the testing conditions are sure to mean it’s a going to be a gruelling race.
At the time of writing, we have three co-favourites in Might Bite, Native River and Our Duke who are all 9/2.
Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite has been long talked about as the winner of this race and while he wasn’t overly impressive in the King George, he got the job done.
The big worry for him has to be the testing ground. He has never run as far as the 3m2½f trip and his stamina has always been slightly questioned.
On good ground he would have had a major chance, but in a race which is likely to turn into a real slog, where stamina is at a premium, I prefer another at the head of the market.
That horse is the Colin Tizzard-trained Native River, who will be at home in these difficult conditions.
His campaign has revolved around this race since finishing third here twelve months ago.
His reappearance at Newbury was hugely impressive given he’d been off the track for almost a year because of a slight setback over the winter.
He came second in the four-miler at the Festival two years ago, meaning he is guaranteed to stay, which is an absolute must in a race as taxing as the Gold Cup.
One note of caution is that he does have to overcome the poor record that beaten horses have in the race. Kauto Star in 2009 was the last horse to win the Gold Cup having run in a previous renewal.
That point aside, he is very solid and ticks plenty of boxes needed to take the highlight of the week. He is my selection at 9/2.