Cheltenham Festival 2023: All you need to know
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Do the maths and back A Plus Tard to retain the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup. A spectacular winner of last year’s showpiece, the reigning champion ticks all the boxes.
His stellar Festival CV features two wins and places, which shows just how good he is at Prestbury Park. Runner-up to Minella Indo in the 2022 Gold Cup, A Plus Tard trounced his stablemate 12 months ago.
At the end of three miles and two-and-a-half furlongs, the race favourite sprinted up the hill like a fresh horse. His 15-length winning margin was the biggest on record in 27 years.
The nine-year-old has been cleverly campaigned in 19 races. Bullish reports suggest he is coming to hand, for his first taste of competitive action since November, just in time.
Deserved of his 180 rating on last year’s brilliant performance, he is the standard-setter for Galopin Des Champs to aim at.
Willie Mullins’ market leader careered eight lengths away from Stattler in the Irish Gold Cup in February. With further to travel now, the Gold Cup distance should not pose the 2021 Festival handicap blot any problems.
The question mark is his ability to run up to A Plus Tard’s proven level at Cheltenham – and for all the potential of the favourite, his price is skinny.
Cheekpieces return to assist Noble Yeats, Emmet Mullins’ Grand National hero who flourished in them at Aintree. He secured his slot in Cheltenham’s marquee contest with a Grade Two victory at Aintree, when Ahoy Senor was back in third.
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Lucinda Russell’s charge reversed that running in the Cotswold Chase. but Ahoy Senor is a risky proposition as is not foot perfect in the jumping department.
Bravemansgame has no questions to answer on that score, but the convincing King George scorer has to go and do it at Cheltenham.
Protektorat, third last year, proved he is at his very best off a long break at Haydock, when A Plus Tard flopped. Dan Skelton’s charge needs more rain, but Stattler’s eight length Leopardstown deficit with Galopin Des Champs is achievable to turn around. The strong stayer has a big chance of snatching a place on the podium.
1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle
Classy front runner BLOOD DESTINY could be hard to catch in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Willie Mullins’ second string bolted up in a good time at Fairyhouse 62 days ago.
2.10 McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle
Preference is for FILEY BAY. Raised 8lb for his Betfair Hurdle second, a late mistake and racing wide apart from gutsy winner Aucunrisque did not help his cause.
2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Corbetts Cross is short enough at the head of the market, carrying the green and gold hoops of JP McManus. Three Card Brag has also been well-backed, but reopposing rival SANDOR CLEGANE should not be four times the price.
4.10 St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase.
Trainer David Christie put VAUCELET forward from a fine selection of possible contenders.
He has bundles of stamina to cope with this assignment.
4.50 Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase.
IMPERVIOUS and Allegorie De Vassy have identical ratings for the Grade 2 Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase. Colm Murphy’s charge gets the nod.
5.30 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
The 140-rated COOL SURVIVOR looks to have the strongest recent form for his handicap debut.
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