The final day of the Cheltenham Festival begins with the Triumph Hurdle and 17 juveniles go to post. There is rain and plenty of it forecast and Peace And Co (1.30) will not be inconvenienced by any overnight rain and is taken to maintain his unbeaten record. At 9/4 with BetVictor I don’t think he will get any shorter in the betting and might go off nearer 3/1.
Some crabbed the form of his C&D success back in January but I thought he hurdled like a future champion on that occasion and the likely fast pace should allow him to settle better than he has in both starts in Britain to date.
The County Hurdle is always a difficult puzzle to solve; there is plenty of stable confidence behind Gordon Elliot’s The Game Changer but I think some feel he will struggle to get up in hill especially if the ground eases. Preference is for another Irish raider Quick Jack (2.05) third in the Cesarewitch when last seen back in October and although he lacks hurdling experience he has won a 19-runner handicap over timber and a 20-runner handicap on the flat. Trainer Tony Martin had a Festival winner on Wednesday and he can reward each way support at 7/1 with BetVictor and we are betting five places on the race.
The Irish have a very strong hand in the Albert Bartlett with Black Hercules and No More Heroes heading the market but at 10/1 Value At Risk (2.40) gets the vote for Dan Skelton. The form of his second to Ordo Ab Chao back in January over 2m 5f has taken a few knocks of late but any significant rain will help as will the step up in trip. AP McCoy rides Fletchers Flyer and he could easily run into a place at 20/1.
Seventeen go to post for the Gold Cup (Don Cossack likely to be a non-runner) and the more rain the better for Many Clouds who is unbeaten in three starts this season including the Hennessy Gold Cup back in November. He would be the selection if the rain arrives but the vote goes to Holywell (3.20) who is a dual winner at the Festival and thrives at this time of the year.
McCoy stays loyal to Carlingford Lough in the JP McManus silks but Richie McLernon has been in the plate for Holywell’s two previous wins at this meeting. At 8/1 he can reward each way support with BetVictor but note he would be inconvenienced if the ground deteriorated dramatically.
The ground may go against Royal Irish Hussar but I am convinced there is a big handicap to be won with the 5-year-old this spring off his current mark; Willie Mullins has saddled the winner of the Martin Pipe Conditional Handicap twice in the last four years with Sir Des Champs (2011) and Don Poli (2014) and he has a very strong hand again this year.
McKinley won a Grade 1 at Naas at 33/1 back in January and wasn’t disgraced at Leopardstown last time; he looks extremely well treated but stablemate Roi Des Francs (4.40) has won two of his three starts over timber and, as with Sir Des Champs and Don Poli, anything he did over timber is a bonus. I’m not suggesting he will scale the heights of either of those two over fences but rain will suit and even at 4/1 he looks a cracking each way bet.
Ned Buntline is confirmed as having the honour of being AP McCoy’s final ride at the Cheltenham Festival and if you back any other horse in the race and McCoy’s mount wins we will refund your losing stake up to £10.
Trainer Noel Meade has laid the horse out for the race and I felt he was given too much to do in the corresponding race last year when runner up off a mark 4lbs lower than today. He is sure to be over-bet but has an outstanding chance at 9/2 and any further rain would suit.
Marginal preference is for Blood Cotil (10/1 at BetVictor) who has had his jumping issues but is another talented young horse from the Mullins yard and it would be fitting if Mullins who scored on the Festival opener also brought the curtain down on the 2015 Cheltenham Festival.