With everything Nicky Henderson appears to touch this week turning to gold Long Run (3:20) can cap a fantastic week for the now winning most trainer of all time at the Cheltenham Festival by landing back-to-back Gold Cups.
The seven-year-old has twice seen the rear end of Kauto Star this season, but the extra distance of the feature contest of the week is very much in his favour and he can reverse King George form with Paul Nicholls’s 2007 and 2009 winner.
Earlier on the card our second ante-post selection Mount Benbulben (2:40) goes to post in the Albert Bartlett and, though he’s now half the price than when originally selected, it’s slightly frustrating that Boston Bob is in opposition as I was thinking he’d be Neptune bound when putting up Gordon Elliott’s charge.
Willie Mullins’s runner has been well touted in the build up to the Festival and is greatly respected, but the selection ran him to 4½ lengths when they met in December when he was found to be suffering from muscle problems.
With the step up in trip and better ground likely to bring about improvement, I’m still hopeful he can reverse form with the market leader.
Of the handicappers on show on the final day Magnifique Etoile (2:05) is the most appealing at the prices in the ultra competitive Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle.
Charlie Longsdon’s five-year-old made giant strides in the early part of the season, before struggling behind Captain Conan and Colour Squadron in the Tolworth Hurdle in January.
That contest was a Grade 1, however, and the unexposed novice looks potentially well in on this handicap debut. The better ground will be in his favour and the booking of Champion Hurdle winning jockey Noel Fehily is eye-catching. At 22/1 (best overnight price with Bet365) he looks worthy of each-way support.
The Martin Pipe looks another red-hot handicap hurdle and a couple of the Irish raiders are respected (namely the Gigginstown House Stud owned pair of Make A Track and Toner D’Oudairies) but I’m siding with another Nicky Henderson trained runner in the shape of Oscar Nominee (4:40) with the trainer providing this column with three winners this week already.
The novice won by 27 lengths for today’s jockey David Bass in January before finishing a close up third behind Supreme Novices’ winner Cinders And Ashes at Haydock.
He went on to beat a subsequent winner at Doncaster and, though his jumping needs to improve so he doesn’t lose his mid-race position in a race of this nature, the step up in trip is in his favour and he is another worthy of each-way support.
Henderson will be desperate to win the concluding Grand Annual, which is run in honour of his late father, and he saddles six today. The pick, according to the bookies, appears to be novice Kid Cassidy, but he looks an Aintree horse to me and one I had short-listed for the Red Rum Handicap.
That race should also suit the selection Toubab (5:15) but he’s not quite as free-going as the favourite and saw out the race really well up Sandown’s hill last time. The grey was getting off the mark at the third time of asking over fences that day and, while a lack of experience is a slight negative in race as competitive as this, novices have a fine record in this.
The grey jumped round Cheltenham on his chasing debut in October, when he was pegged back late on, but he’s improved since then and he can round off the meeting on the best possible note for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh.
2:05 Cheltenham Festival Magnifique Etoile (each-way 22/1 Bet365)
2:40 Cheltenham Festival Mount Benbulben
(advised 13 February ante-post 12/1)
3:20 Cheltenham Festival Long Run (2/1 Boylesports / Ladbrokes)
4:40 Cheltenham Festival Oscar Nominee (each-way 12/1 general)
5:15 Cheltenham Festival Toubab (8/1 Bet365, Betfred, Ladbrokes)
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Last Year’s Tips Included 40 Leading Prospects: £499.80 profit to a level £10!
- AL FEROF won Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 10-1
- BENSALEM won Stewart Family Handicap 5-1
- BOBS WORTH won A Bartlett 15-8, 4/4 for year
- CAPTAIN CHRIS won Arkle Trophy 6-1
- FIRST LIEUTENANT won Neptune Investment 7-1
- (plus Grade 1 in Ireland 16-1)
- JAMES DE VASSY won Lanzarote Hurdle 8-1
- LONG RUN won King George 9-2, Gold Cup 7-2
- OSCAR WHISKY won Aintree Hurdle 6-1
- Peddlers Cross (Fighting Fifth Hurdle)
- Medermit (Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase)
- FINIAN’S RAINBOW (Maghull Novices’ Chase)
- WISHFULL THINKING (Manifesto Novices’ Chase)