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Cheltenham Day 4 preview

Well done if you've lasted this long. A couple of decent results yesterday could have been a lot better if I was simply boxing my selections in trifectas. The tide might be turning... Anyhow onto the preview!


Bunting - one of the seven runners for Willie Mullins. Won a maiden then ran fourth in a Mullins 1-2-3-4 in the Dublin Racing Festival G1 Juvenile Hurdle, which was where he ranked from the stable (and all of those run here). Can't see any reason to promote him.

Ethical Diamond - was further behind the aforementioned quartet at Leopardstown and 50/1 that day. It's only "trained by W.Mullins" preventing him from being that price here.

Highwind - beat Boodles winner Lark In the Mornin in January, but blotted his copybook in the G1 Juvenile Hurdle, running eighth and last of the six Mullins runners, with a few mistakes thrown in. Not reliable enough to put any faith in.

Ithacas Arrow - 33L behind Sir Gino at Kempton over Xmas, won a C3 hurdle at Newbury recently but a long way short of these.

Majborough - sat up on the pace and ran third in that G1 at Leopardstown. Might improve with cover and that was only his second start, first for 10 months. In the mix.

Mighty Bandit - also beat Lark In The Mornin (by 9.5L) but then flopped in the G2 Dublin Juvenile at Xmas. Immediately sent off for a wind op and then was sold in the Caldwell dispersal sale. Moving from Gordon Elliott to Warren Greatrex wouldn't be regarded as a positive but Gordon was keen to keep him in the stable, just got outbid. Looked good on debut, don't rule him out.

Nurburgring - interesting type, ran twice early in the season as an entire for a first and a second, then sent off for the snip, and moved up to Graded company. Beat Kala Conti on debut then lost to her in the Xmas G2 after a 7lb weight turnaround. Was a nose behind Kargese on that day, on the same weight terms as here. Stable in great form winning the Boodles, the other juvenile race of the week. Must go close.

Peking Opera - ran fourth in the Irish Derby last year, easily the best of these on the Flat, but yet to show it over hurdles. Won his hurdles debut with a moderate rating, then fell at the last when  tiring at Kempton last month.

Salvator Mundi - hasn't run for nearly a year, makes his debut for Mullins after being purchased out of France. One run, beaten 1.75L into second behind Sir Gino who would have started first or second favourite here. But that was April last year - has he progressed? There was money for him early in the week. Very interesting runner, watch the betting. On jockey bookings, he seems down the list.

Salver - undefeated for Gary Moore but not recording the figures required to match it with the Irish. Happy in the mud but don't think he's up to these.

Storm Heart - Mullins runner with the lead jockey for the stable (note Majborough is to be ridden by the owner's retained rider), despite being beaten by Kargese last time. Bolted in on hurdles debut at Punchestown, then was beaten narrowly in the G1 Spring Juvenile which often supplies this winner). No doubt has more to come but marking him this short has to come from the appointment of Townend and whatever has been happening at Closutton.

Fratas - beat the handy Eagle Fang on debut, fighting back when challenged and unseen since. I doubt that's enough but there's some talent in there.

Kargese - went 1-2-1 in France before being sold to Kenny Alexander (owner of Honeysuckle) and into the Mullins stable. Kept with the first/second trend by a narrow loss to Kala Conti then beating her and all the other Irish contenders in the G1 Spring Juvenile. Highly talented, why isn't she favourite?

Kargese, Nurburgring, Majborough, Mighty Bandit



Probably the best handicap of the week and worth a detailed look.

Pied Piper - rated 11lbs higher than any of his rivals and nearly two stone above the bottomweight, but also takes 3lbs off for the claimer. Had a recent change of ownership after the Caldwell dispersal sale, changing hands for €570k, a hell of a lot for a 6yo hurdler! Ran second in this last year, beaten a head by 33/1 Falvoir off 2lbs less (154). Since then, he's run twice on the Flat (including a second in the Cesarewitch), and last twice behind Champion Hurdle winner State Man. This is a better level for him, but there's little scope for anything to go wrong with this impost.

Zenta - ran third to Lossiemouth in the Triumph last year and then won the equivalent G1 at Aintree. Oddly went straight to novice chasing, performed below stable expectations and reverted to hurdles. Ran third conceding 18lbs to the winner in the Listed Handicap hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival - that form will put her in good stead for this. 

Magical Zoe - finished a nose ahead of Zenta last time out, on the same weight terms. Pushed Irish Point to go down under 2L in a G3 at Down Royal, and ran second in the Mares' Novice here last year. Goes close.

Encanto Bruno - looks like a dry tracker. Won at his first run for Gavin Cromwell here in October (good) but beaten 20L+ in two runs since. This pattern flows throughout his career. Unless there's a sudden heatwave, ignore.

Hansard - going OK this season, second in the G2 Elite Hurdle at Winvanton, winning the G3 Gerry Feilden at Newbury ahead of Bad, before a fourth in a Premier Handicap at Ascot behind Luccia. Has won on soft, don't rule out.

King of Kingsfield - his recent form looks more impressive by the day this week. He was beaten by Supreme winner Slade Steel in his maiden, by Ballyburn & Slade Steel in the G1 Novice Hurdle at the DRF, and in between went close in the G1 Royal Bond behind Farren Glory, a horse who was second favourite in that DRF G1 but bled from both nostrils and failed. There doesn't look to be much room in his mark (official rating vs RPR) but it's also hard to rule out quite a bit more improvement. Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy finally got a winner for the week with Teahupoo. In with a serious chance. 

Westport Cove - looks a bit out of his depth here, beaten 12L by Tullyhill in a Listed Punchestown Novice hurdle last time. His only success from four has been his maiden at Thurles. Can't see it.

Bialystok - finished 1.5L behind King of Kingsfield in the Royal Bond, then was high in the betting and travelling well went brought down, through no fault of his own, two hurdles out in the Listed Handicap hurdle at the DRF (against Zenta and Magical Zoe). Never far away, right in this.

Absurde - highly effective dual-code horse, winning the Ebor last season and running well in the Melbourne Cup until fading in the final furlong. Last time out he finished fourth in the DRF G1 Novice, 3.25L behind third-placed King of Kingsfield and the two Festival Novice winners well ahead. Pulled up in the Xmas G1 on heavy going, wouldn't want the ground to get any worse.

Risk Belle - ran a close third in the Boodles last season, and has made steady progression since, rising another 9lbs in five further runs. She's been favourite in successive mares' races and disappointed in each. I don't think this mark does her any favours, prefer Zenta of the McManus runners.

Aucunrisque - ran 18th in this race last year, coming in off form of 11221. This year he comes in off third, fifth, PU, 17th. Nope.

Gin Coco - ran 15th in this race last year, but beat that winner, Falvoir, with a first-time tongue tie in November. The effect of the gear change didn't last long though, he was beaten a long way at Doncaster in December, although it was a bit of a farce, they only ended up jumping four hurdles due to a low sun. Soft track figures not good.

Petit Tonnerre - drops back to hurdles for the first time since this race last season (seventh, beaten 6.25L at 33/1). Hasn't been going that well over fences, perhaps the smaller obstacles and a first-time visor will spark something?

Faivoir - last year's winner and was just beaten a nose in the Imperial Cup last weekend. The Skelton stable is flying, especially in handicaps, so you'd be mad to leave him out even if the race record for 9yos is weak. 

L'Eau Du Sud - another Skelton runner, he went up 6lbs for finishing second to Iberico Lord in the Betfair Hurdle. While that horse didn't go so well in the Champion Hurdle this week, the third horse Go Dante won the Imperial Cup last weekend. Was reported to have had ulcers during the summer and took a long time to recover but that run at Newbury showed he is ready. The form has depth.  Likely favourite.

So Scottish - another McManus runner. Feels like he has been around forever but is only a 7yo. Another mixing hurdles and fences, he ran seventh in the Magners Plate Chase here last season, but most recently ran fourth in that DRF Listed Handicap in February, not far behind Magical Zoe and Zenta. He was equal favourite that day. Watch the betting.

Parramount - has been declared on Friday for this race over hurdles and a Flat race at Wolverhampton. They're not serious...

Samui - won a Listed Hurdle at Listowel back in September, then flopped in a G3 Novice at Tipperary. Unless they've found something to explain that and remedied the issue, I can't see him being competitive.

Mr Freedom - awful name for a horse, sounds like he should the poster boy for a right-wing anti-woke political campaign. Ran OK this ime last year with a third in the Boodles and fourth in an Ascot handicap, but has hardly progressed in rating since despite running well in lower grades. 

By Your Side - 1-17 over hurdles, can safely ignore this one despite running seventh in the same Irish handicap as Magical Zoe and others (beaten 18L, more than 10 behind So Scottish in fourth).

Afadil - won the Scottish County Hurdle in February, gets a 5lb claim for the handy Freddie Gingell, and Paul Nicholls had a winner on Thursday. Might run into a place at odds.

Media Naranja - hasn't finished within 11L of the winner in her last five starts and is 4lbs out of the handicap (if there wasn't a designated bottom weight of this race, she would carry 4lbs less than given). Nope.


Two angles to look at here - the Skeltons are on fire and that Listed Handicap at Leopardstown in February. Eight of the past nine editions of this race have been won by Mullins or Skelton, we might as well stick to them as they hold the best cards.

L'Eau Du Sud, Bialystok, Zenta, King of Kingsfield, Afadil. 



Butcher Hollow - yet to win over hurdles, having been placed in three maidens by three horses who oddly all disappointed this week - Jigoro, Jade de Grugy and Cleatus Poolaw. A long way short on ratings, the step up in distance can't solve that gap.

Captain Teague - third in the Bumper last Festival, with wins in a G1(Challow Hurdle) and G2 this season, bookending a second in a G2 at Cheltenham when he didn't get up the hill carrying a penalty. Paul Nicholls said after the Challow he wasn't afraid of trying three miles, but two and a half in the Gallagher on testing ground would be ideal. Let's see how deep it is by 2.50.

Chigorin - broke his maiden status at Fairyhouse, quickening nicely in the latter stages after parking behind the pace in a 2m7f contest. Would be no surprise to see the same tactics go close here but it would need a huge jump in ratings to do so. de Bromhead and Blackmore are the ones capable of doing it if anyone can.

Dancing City - showed his Flat speed with a second behind Ballyburn last April, then after muffing his first hurdles run in November, he has improved sharply, winning a Navan maiden easily followed by the G1 Novice at the Dublin Racing Festival, at 16/1, ahead of three more fancied stablemates. That's the highest rating form of any in this field - can he back it up?

Dripsey Moon - finished 10L behind the two Gigginstown entrants in a Limerick G2 Novice. Will start triple figures and rightly so.

Gidleigh Park - unbeaten in four runs (three hurdles and a bumper), looking as good as any from Britain. After a sharp step up between his first and second hurdles runs, he plateaued, recording the same RPR at his third. However that race, the Classic Novices at Cheltenham, where he beat Lucky Place (fourth in the Coral Cup) by a half-length, was a dawdling affair until a mad sprint home, which doesn't maximise Racing Post Ratings. Could take another step forward and be right in this.

High Class Hero - a winner of five from five under Rules, three of these have been in small novice races. In one of those he beat The Big Doyen who finished just behind Captain Teague at his next start. Townend has switched off him to the favourite.

Johnny Who - was undefeated in points, a bumper and a maiden hurdle before meeting Captain Teague in the Challow in late December. Battled on well that day, making a late charge to finish only two lengths back in fourth. Followed that up with another fourth in the Classic Novices' at Cheltenham at the end of Jan - the dawdling race which turned into a sprint home. A true staying test over a longer trip might be what he needs.

Lecky Watson - fourth in the Champion Bumper last year, won his maiden back in November making numerous mistakes but improved sharply at his next two runs, getting within a half-length of Slade Steel in a G2 at Navan, followed by a third in the Lawlor's at Naas. He's still not a fluent jumper, probably needs to fix that to win a race like this. 

Readin Tommy Wrong - a winner of all four starts under Rules, most recently in the G1 Lawlor's at Naas by a neck, ahead of Ile Atlantique, Lecky Watson and Firefox, each of which has been popular in the betting this week. Readin Tommy Wrong was 16/1 though on that occasion, now he's favourite and curiously has been switched from the owners' retained rider Daryl Jacob over to the Mullins no.1, Paul Townend. 

Search For Glory - a second-year novice, he's running in this race again after being pulled up behind Stay Away Fay last year, starting 33/1.  Has picked a couple of small field G3s this season, both over three miles, but against nothing worthy of contesting this. Unlikely. 

Spread Boss Ted - won a maiden at Navan followed by a weak Novice at Fairyhouse. Short on performance ratings and looks to have the last-choice jockey aboard.

Stellar Story - Gigginstown runner who has been thereabouts most of the season, starting well with a win in a Navan maiden but upped to G2 and G1s, he keeps bumping into better ones like Slade Steel and most recently Dancing City. Stable second pick.

The Jukebox Man - same connections as Shakem Up'Arry which was heavily punted before winning on Thursday. Strong form - beat Cleatus Poolaw in a PTP over three miles, then purchased for €70k for Harry Redknapp. Was second to Gidleigh Park on rules debut, then went on a run of three wins in a row, all at Ffos Las, across bumpers and hurdles, then ran third (beaten 1.75L) in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle behind Captain Teague. Three miles should suit and he loves deep going if the rain continues. Worth a look at around 20s.


Curiously, both Reading Tommy Wrong and Dancing City won Grade 1s last time at 16/1 suggesting their recent improvement wasn't entirely expected. I might be mad but I favour taking on the Mullins camp here with a few decent rivals.

Gidleigh Park, The Jukebox Man, Chigorin, Captain Teague



This is the 100th edition of the Gold Cup and this year looks particularly strong.

Bravemansgame - since winning the King George of 2022, he has run seconds four times and third once, never too far away but never quite good enough. In last year's Gold Cup, he was level with Galopin des Champs going over the last fence, but then didn't get up the hill as the favourite who powered away. And that's a similar pattern to his other recent runs. Good place bet, but just doesn't seem to have the killer instinct to finish the last opponent off.

Corach Rambler - won the Ultima the previous two seasons and last year's Grand National, all in the spring when he tends to perform better. Only two other horses have won the Gold Cup and the GN - Golden Miller and L'Escargot, and both of them won the Cup at least twice! Expect him to produce a career-best here, but I still don't think that'll be good enough unless the top end of the market underperform.

Fastorslow - second in last year's National, he then beat Galopin Des Champs in the Punchestown Gold Cup (SP 20/1). This season he has claimed the G1 John Durkan (GDC in 3rd) and ran second in the Irish Gold Cup (behind GDC) before heading swiftly off for wind surgery. He's rated as the main challenger to the favourite but if they both run to their best, I don't see him getting any closer that Bravemansgame last year.

Galopin Des Champs - the benchmark at this level, he peaks for the big races, winning this race last season and the G1 Savills Chase with RPRs significantly above anyone else in the field. The two times he has been overcome by Fastorslow, they have been smaller fields, more tactical affairs, and not the seasonal target. A bigger field creates a truer contest and we should see the real Galopin Des Champs here.

Gentlemansgame -  Since switching to fences, he has beaten I Am Maximus, the future Irish National and Drinmore Chase winner, Envoi Allen (but behind Easy Game) in a G2 at Gowran Park, and then beat Bravemansgame in the Charlie Hall back in November in a career peak, been kept fresh ever since. Place chance at least, Mouse Morris has been successful in the Gold Cup before.

Gerri Colombe - deemed to be this year's challenger after a fine novice season and a win in the Champion Chase at Down Royal in November, but needed binoculars to see GDC at the finish line of the Savills Chase  at Xmas, trailing 23L behind in second when he started 7/4 vs the winner's 6/4 SP. Has has 10 weeks off, needs to bounce back with a vengeance to beat the favourite.

Jungle Boogie - unbeaten  in just five starts, apart from a defeat to El Fabiolo in December. He switched from just over two miles to almost three in the New Year's Day Chase at Tramore. That's a long way from the level needed to win this.

L'Homme Presse - a winner of seven of his 10 runs over fences, his reputation took a bit of a hit when he trailed in Pic D'Orhy in the Ascot Chase three weeks ago, but that's the one track where that horse is significantly better. He beat Protektorat to win the G2 Fleur Du Lys at Lingfield, a year after unseating in the King George at Kempton, after going off favourite. His best ratings, from Nov/Dec 2022, aren't far off winning this - it's not that much of a leap to suggest he can improve on that again.

Monkfish - a Festival winner in 2020 and 2021 but since then has had no luck with injury, running only three times since. In late January, he won the Galmoy at Gowran Park with a decent RPR, not unreasonable to think he will bounce from that and put up a solid fight here. 

Nassalam - has the rain dance going from his connections. Loves deep ground (winner of the Welsh National  on it by 34L) and might be competitive should that be the case. Just soft or any better will leave him quite a way short of the requried level.

The Real Whacker - won three in a row at Cheltenham last season, topped off by beating Gerri Colombe by a short head in the Brown Advisory, but hasn't been able to improve on that in three runs since. He pulled up in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at the November meeting, was beaten 10L into fourth in the King George on Boxing Day and most recently finished just under 3L behind Capodanno in the Cotswold Chase in late Jan. Plenty to find to be in front when it counts.


Galopin Des Champs has the chance to become an all-time great, this win would put him on the path to that level. I just don't see them catching him if he runs to near his best. He was just so impressive last season. Behind him, it's very competitive and could come down to any of many.

Galopin Des Champs, Gentlemansgame, L'Homme Presse, Bravemansgame 



A hunters' chase, leave me out.



Just a handful of chances here with a lot of dross in behind.

Dinoblue is the obvious one. She's had nine starts over fences, winning five and being runner-up the other four. And two of these defeats have been at the Festival, in the Mares' Novice two years ago (ninth) and then last year in the Grand Annual after a mistake at the last. Can she be trusted here? She probably wins but I couldn't be taking her at evens or 5/4 range.

Allegorie De Vassy - ran second in the Mares' Chase last year in what was effectively a two-horse race. She's good enough to win this, but like the favourite, she's also flawed enough to make a mess of it when looking like she had the race in her hands. 

Limerick Lace is the second of JP McManus's runners. She has taken a massive step forward this season, thumping the useful Heia by 16L resuming in October, running second to Coko Beach in the Troytown followed by a facile win in the Doncaster Silver Vase for Mares over Xmas. That puts her right in this if there's the slightest blemish from the pair mentioned above. 

Riviere D'Etel has always shown plenty of promise but since gonig chasing, has won just four of 15. This season she has won and been runner-up to Allegorie De Vassy, and run second to Champion Chase winner Captain Guinness. I'd rather take her each-way at around 14s than a shorter price on flawed jumping.

Riviere D'Etel, Dinoblue, Limerick Lace



I just don't have much interest in races for amateur or conditional jockeys. Quai de Bourbon and Waterford Whispers are the two chances being most talked about. It's a handicap so default to the McManus runner.

Waterford Whispers, Quai De Bourbon, Answer To Kayf


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