Friday is the fourth and, sadly, the final day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. But, as ever, they’ve saved the best for last as it looks one of the most competitive Cheltenham Gold Cups in recent years.
Check out our analysis and free tip for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, as well as our free tips for the Triumph Hurdle, County Handicap Hurdle, Albert Barlett Novices’ Hurdle, and the Grand Annual Handicap Chase.
Triumph Hurdle (1.30)
Sir Erec has been a short-priced favourite for the Triumph Hurdle since recording the second of his two wins over hurdles and it’s easy to see why. He was rated well over 100 on the flat and got within three lengths off the stayers’ triple crown winner Stradivarius at Ascot on Champions Day on his last run on the flat.
The flip side of that is the horse that finished just in front of him that day, Thomas Hobson, flopped at both the 2016 and 2017 Cheltenham Festivals, just to highlight that some top-class flat horses don’t handle the unique demands of the Cheltenham Festival.
Sir Erec might be special, but I’d sooner play Quel Destin each-way against him. Paul Nicholls thinks he’s right up there with the best of his previous Triumph Hurdle horses and it will be interesting to see if he can eyeball Sir Erec and come out on top if they get into a battle up the Cheltenham Hill.
County Handicap Hurdle (2.10)
Only the former Champion Hurdle runner-up Arctic Fire has been good enough to defy a handicap mark higher than 139 in the last 10 years and, with no horse like that in this year’s field, it could pay to side with a low-weighted improving sort this year.
Countister could have a race like this in her off a low-weight, but I just prefer the chances of Monsieur Lecoq. He did have a hard race last Saturday in the Imperial Cup but, as he’s six pounds well-in compared to future races, it’s no surprise that connections are trying to strike whilst the iron is hot.
He also travelled ominously well through the Sandown race and, if his jockey could ride him again, I’m sure he would have held on to him for a lot longer before sending him to the front. Today’s jockey Lizzy Kelly should be able to do that today in a race that is normally run at an end-to-end gallop and he has the turn-of-foot needed to win a race like this.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (2.50)
There are lots of unexposed types in this year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Chase who have only had two or three runs this season, but nine of the last 10 winners have had at least for runs before tasting victory.
That’s not surprising, as this is normally a war of attrition and proven battling qualities have to be a big plus point. That’s why Lisnagar Oscar looks the each-way bet. His trainer Rebecca Curtis rarely runs a horse at Cheltenham that doesn’t have a chance and this six-year-old has improved with each of his five runs this season, showing the most improvement when stepped up to three-miles last time. He’s also two from two under jockey Sean Bowen and he again takes the ride.
Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.30)
The 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup is a fascinating renewal with last year’s RSA winner Presenting Percy trying to win it after just one run over hurdles since last year’s festival success.
Four-time Gold Cup-winning trainer Paul Nicholls also has a serious challenger in the shape of Clan Des Obeaux, with the seven-year-old looking a quickly improving type after winning this season’s King George Chase.
Willie Mullins also has four challengers as he tries to win his first Gold Cup, and Bellshill and Kemboy have both won big grade one chases already this season, whilst Al Boum Photo is another who is improving. However, none of his quartet have shone at this festival before.
There are also old boys Might Bite and Thistlecrack, but they may be past their best as they’re respectively aged 10 and 11.
If this is a real end-to-end gruelling Gold Cup, there’s also a chance that horses that stay further may run into a place late on, and Anibale Fly and Elegant Escape have each-way claims.
However, Native River looked tailormade for this test when winning last year and he could make them all go again from the front. It is hard to win back-to-back Gold Cups, but Native River has already put one Cheltenham hoodoo to bed by placing third in the 2017 edition before last year’s success.
Grand Annual Handicap Chase (4.50)
Paul Nicholls has won two of the last three editions of the Grand Annual and Magic Saint has been a massive gamble for the race since he won at Wincanton last time out. The handicapper raised him 5lb for that win but, as he’s only a five-year-old, he could have any amount of improvement to come. Two-miles also looks his trip as he won over it four times in France for his previous trainer.