Day four of the Cheltenham Festival is a particularly special one. It draws the biggest crowd in terms of TV audience and, as they did for the three days previous, the paying public packed the stands.
|13:30||JCB Triumph Hurdle||Pentland Hills 20/1|
|14:10||County Handicap Hurdle||Chitibello 12/1|
|14:50||Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
|15:30||Cheltenham Gold Cup||Al Boum Photo 12/1|
|16:10||Foxhunter Challenge Cup||Hazel Hill 7/2|
|16:50||Grand Annual Challenge Cup||Croco Bay 66/1|
|17:30||Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle||Early Doors 5/1|
What are the Cheltenham Festival Day Four tips for Friday?
Four days of some of the best horse racing we see all year came to a close on Friday 15 March as the Cheltenham Festival results were added to the books for another year.
Attentions would soon turn to the Grand National, Scottish Grand National and Irish Grand National that took place over the next couple of weeks at Aintree, Ayr and Fairyhouse, but not before one final spin around the famous old Prestbury Park course.
The biggest National Hunt races, the best-bred horses and top names in the game, all played out in beautiful springtime conditions against a breath-taking Gloucestershire backdrop, it’s little wonder the UK stands still for the top races on the card.
Those who couldn’t attend the meeting in person staked a record number of bets on the outcome of each race, following the live TV action at home, in the pub, even at work or through one of the many modern sportsbook betting apps that have become available in recent times.
The ability to watch live racing on your mobile or tablet device anywhere in the country means backers will never again be forced to bet blind, left updating a results service.
The convenience of being able to bet on the move and watch live sport through a faultless, HD quality app on your phone is one of the reasons we see more bets placed on the Cheltenham Festival every year.
That will surely continue as improvements in technology bring us ever closer to the action, which is great news for both punters and bookmakers.
Friday’s card got going with the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle at 1.30pm, a perfect way to start the day and the market gave punters the chance to land a nice price winner to give them an edge over traders.
Next up was the Grade 3 County Handicap Hurdle at 2.10pm, before the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle, Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase – the main attraction of the week – Foxhunter Challenge Cup and the Grade 3 Grand Annual Challenge Cup.
The show was brought to a close, as is tradition in recent years, by the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle.
There was lots to get through and if punters thought they had witnessed drama so far, it was nothing when compared to what we saw on Friday. A top-of-the-bill day designed to remind us just why sports fans can’t get enough of the Cheltenham Festival.
We had seen an even split of big priced winners and victorious favourites in the three days that had gone before this, but there was plenty more drama to come.
Let’s look back on some of the talking points thrown up by Cheltenham Festival day four. .
13:30 JCB Triumph Hurdle
Organisers at the Cheltenham Festival always like to make an entrance and they did so again with the first race of the day being the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle, a real favourite with fans.
This two-mile battle was played out on good to soft ground and the bulky prize pot ensured we saw a talented 14-runner field go to post for this year’s renewal.
All the day pre-race, both in the antepost markets weeks before the end and on the day of the contest, focussed on Sir Erec and the JP O’Brien and Ruby Walsh contender was sent off an 11/10 favourite, a price that told us connections already had one hand on the trophy.
Punters responded, having seen multiple winning favourites in the latter part of Tuesday and most of Wednesday, by adding him to Friday accumulators but multiples, such as Lucky 15s and Yankees went up in smoke at the earliest opportunity. Sir Erec, despite being one of the shortest priced runners of the week, failed to complete the course and was pulled up by Walsh after the fourth.
The pair looked to be easing their way into the race and there was nothing out of the ordinary to the untrained eye, but things quickly turned for
this runner and he was taken out quickly.
Unfortunately, following the race, light was shed on what went wrong with Sir Erec, handlers having the difficult task of telling the public their pride broke a leg and had to be put down.
A sombre start to the day for all concerned.
At the other end of the field, and on a happier note, there was an unexpected win for Pentland Hills who scored at 20/1 for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville.
The champion finished three lengths ahead of another 20/1 runner in Coeur Sublime for Elliott and Russell, with Gardens Of Babylon coming home in third to complete the major places at 9/1, Geraghty doing a job for O’Brien.
JCB Triumph Hurdle Result:
- 1st Pentland Hills 20/1
- 2nd Coeur Sublime 20/1
- 3rd Gardens Of Babylon 9/1
14:10 County Handicap Hurdle
The Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle took us down to Grade 3 level following a pulsating start to the day and this race more that did its bit to keep the heartrate ticking over.
24 runners lined up and were separated by two miles of Hunter Chase racing and with more than £55,000 promised to connections of the winner, it was no real shock to see some of the game’s top names throw their hat into the ring, intent on sealing glory.
Favourite backers pinned their hopes of Willie Mullins’ Whiskey Sour and, on paper, it looked to be a runner who had all the ingredients to book a place in the winner’s enclosure.
The 5/1 starting price suggested we should prepare for a competitive contest, however, and that’s just what we got. The jolly failed to land a blow on the prizes, ending back in fourth place.
He was in contention turning for home but the money proved to be misplaced when the fav stayed on at the one pace on the spring to the finish, while rivals pulled away.
Of the three who finished ahead of Whiskey Sour that day, Ch’tibello was the best of them, Dan Skelton’s eight-year-old gelding showing the turn of foot needed to accelerate for home.
Harry Skelton didn’t put a foot wrong on the winner and sat like a man who knew his ride had a change of gear to come when asked.
The pilot did encourage improvement after a slight mistake at the last and he got it.
Chitibello stuck to his task and finished a deserving winner, with nearest rival We Have a Dream 1 and a half lengths behind under the ride of Daryl Jacob. Countister ended third at 18/1 and was one of the standout performers of the race, out-running his price, narrowly missing out on the silver medal by a head.
There’s more to come from Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old mare, that’s for sure, and she had no trouble seeing off the favourite.
Just two failed to finish, Eclair De Beaufeu at 8/1 and 33/1 shot Mitchouka.
COUNTY HANDICAP RESULT:
- 1st Chitibello 12/1
- 2nd We Have A Dream 14/1
- 3rd Countister 18/1
14:40 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
We were back in Grade 1 company for the 2019 Albert Bartlett Novices Chase where 20 ran over 2m 7f on good to soft ground.
Another convincing favourite became another convincing beaten favourite with Commander Of Fleet finishing second behind 50/1 winner Minella Indo, two lengths the winning margin in that duel.
Henry de Bromhead’s six-year-old gelding went into the day as a supposed no hoper, showing a CV of no wins in three starts.
The clues were there for all to see that Minella Indo was fast-approaching a win but he looked out of his depth in this company and the traders didn’t give him a chance of landing a place, let alone the title.
Two thirds followed by a second showed improvement, but few expected the kind of run we saw from this outsider.
To make it more impressive still, the victor seemed to take it all in his stride, racing freely in the early stages before switching to the stands side to get a bit more racing room and then, again all expectations, finding more in the tank to kick-on.
Sometimes we see a horse come out of nowhere and show he is improving quickly, and this was one of these occasions.
Connections knew exactly what they were doing, but even they must have been surprised by just how easy it looked to the champion.
He crossed the line a 50/1 winner, beating runner-up Commander Of Fleet and Jack Kennedy by a couple of lengths, the favourite never looking like winning the race.
Allaho finished third for Willie Mullins at 8/1. That win may have caught us off-guard, but it was a sign of things to come in the short-term future and Minella Indo went on to win the Grade 1 Irish Novice Hurdle at Punchestown next time out, scoring at 5/1 ahead of SP favourite Allaho.
Bookmakers obviously hadn’t learned their lesson but we’re sure to see them afford Minella Indo more respect this year.
Albert Bartlett Result:
- 1st Minella Indo 50/1
- 2nd Commander Of Fleet 4/1
- 3rd Allaho 8/1
15:30 Cheltenham Gold Cup
The main attraction of the week, the reason for the Cheltenham Festival and one of the biggest races of the year.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is watched by a worldwide audience, bringing the UK to a standstill will keeping viewers in all sports loving nations glued to the live coverage beamed out by dozens of television cameras camped at the racetrack.
This Grade 1 steeplechase run over 3m 2f has a history that can be traced all the way back to 1819, the first running taking place at nearby Cleeve Hill.
Since relocating in 1924 the list of winners reads like a who’s who of the game. Red Splash claimed glory in 1924 for Fred Withington and the 2018 version was won by Native River out of the Richard Johnson yard.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup’s most successful horse is Golden Miller who boasts no less than five titles, all won between 1932 and 1936.
We’ve never seen a jockey as devastating as Pat Taafe who stands as the top rider on four wins, with Arkle responsible for three of them. Tom Dreaper is the one the trainers must beat with five gongs to his name, although Arkle’s treble plays a huge part in that also. Dorothy Paget has owned seven Gold Cup champions, Golden Miller chipping in with five between 1932 and 1936, Roman Hackle scoring in 1940 and Mont Tremblant 1952.
There wasn’t a lot for followers of the trends to go on in 2019 but backers were aware favourites don’t have the best record in this contest with Don Cossack the last winning jolly back in 2016. Native River won in 2018 as an eight-year-old and was the fourth champion to carry that age in six years.
It’s incredible how often following the trends will lead you to a winnerand the favourite, again, failed to deliver, but we didn’t get the 8YO we expected. Presenting Percy went in as the market leader but finished eighth of the nine that got home, following a bitterly disappointing run. Favourite backers couldn’t say they weren’t warned, however.
At the opposite end of the pecking order we saw Al Boum Photo win for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend, supporters cheering home a stunning 12/1 champion.
Thought of as one with a chance of landing each-way backers place money, the seven-year-old gelding ran the race of his career to see off 22/1 rival Anibale Fly by 2 and a half lengths. As far as winners go, that’s convincing. Bristol De Mai made up the prizes when crossing the line in third, a further 3 three-quarter lengths back.
This race didn’t follow the expectations of traders in the slightest, but it was one that’ll live long in the memory and we got a champion worthy of the title.
16 runners started the race but only nine were able to get home, chased by Jack Kennedy on board 20/1 shot Shattered Love.
Bellshill pulled up and was joined by Double Shuffle, Might Bite and Thistlecrack.
Definitely Red was brought down when prominent, Invitation Only fell
and Kemboy unseated his rider for Team Mullins.
Cheltenham Gold Cup Result:
- 1st Al Boum Photo 12/1
- 2nd Anibale Fly 22/1
- 3rd Bristol De Mai 18/1
16:10 Foxhunter Challenge Cup
The favourites finally got going again when Hazel Hill won at 7/2 for Philip Rowley and Alex Edwards.
A gruelling contest over three miles and two furlongs, The 11-year-old gelding went to post as the most fancied runner with both punters and bookmakers and had little trouble living up to expectations.
He won again at HQ next time out when claiming the Gold Cup Final Hunter Chase and that took his record to a stunning five wins from as many starts. One that’ll get better during the break and is sure to return intent on winning more prizes in the 2019/20 season.
Hazel Hill was followed home by runner-up Shantou Flyer who certainly didn’t disgrace himself in defeat, although Richard Hobson trainer second didn’t pressure the victor.
Backers who have him backed each-way got the place money about a 7/1 shot.
Top Wood came good in third, despite carrying the burden of a 33/1 price.
24 started but only nine finished, with 7/1 shot Caid Du Berlais pulled up, and better expected of 16/1 play Pacha Du Polder who was pulled up by Tucker when struggling, having never settled into the race. Ucello Conti was expected to run a big race for Gordon Elliott but managed no better than fifth, despite going into the day as one to be respected at 4/1.
Foxhunter Challenge Cup Result:
- 1st Hazel Hill 7/2
- 2nd Shantou Flyer 7/1
- 3rd Top Wood 33/1
16:50 Grand Annual Challenge Cup
19 runners laid claim to the winner’s cheque just shy of £62,000 in this year’s Grand Annual Challenge Cup, due to post at 4.50pm but the betting told us some would go close, while others didn’t have a chance and were merely there to make up the numbers and give the market leaders something to keep them interested in the early stages.
If this year’s Cheltenham Festival taught us anything, however, it was that we can never write off an entry at this level.
All sent in hold claims and that was proven again with a big priced winner.
Croco Bay lined up as a 66/1 shot – one of those there to fill a gap, supposedly – but the horse wasn’t too aware of his price and, even if he was able to understand it, he looked one who paid little attention to the expectations of others.
This ballsy 12-year-old gelding had followers of the form shaking their head when coming home 1 and half lengths ahead of runner-up Bun Doran, with Brelan D’As back in third, an 8/1 shot following home an 11/1 play.
The final result was another one chalked up for the outsiders, but it was just as surprising to see pre-race favourite Magic Saint – a 7/2 SP – manage no better than 10th place, having never looked like he was capable of winning.
Paul Nichols entrusted Harry Cobden with the ride and the pilot kept his machine in touch as best he could, but Magic Saint failed to respond when asked the question and that saw the nine in front of him pull clear.
Of the others in the betting, Diakali was a non-runner at 25/1 for Team Moore, while four of those sent over the wall failed to finish. Gino Trail was pulled up by Richard Johnson at 14/1 and was joined by 7/1 play Mind’s Eye who was saved by Rachael Blackmore.
Mr Medic wasn’t fancied and lived up to expectations when PU by James Best, while Sheehan spotted the early signs that All Set To Go wasn’t in the mood to live up to his name and was sidelined before the 10th.
Grand Annual Challenge Cup Result:
- 1st Croco Bay 66/1
- 2nd Bun Doran 11/1
- 3rd Drelan D’As 8/1
17:30 Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle
The final race of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival and although the Graded action was over for another year and many punters saw that as a good time to file off to the bar or to beat the crowds and secure a space on the crammed trains, TV companies packing away their gear and the noise level taking a dip, many horse racing enthusiasts remained.
The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle is one for the purists, it’s fair to say, but it was the perfect way to sign off.
Just as we saw with the first race of the festival, the finale gave us another upset to enjoy, with those who had already learned their lesson to take on the favourite on the right path.
Dallas Des Pictons was fancied by the money men and attracted a fair share of interest in the betting ring, both antepost and on the day, but six-year-old owned by the Gigginstown House Stud was another of the week’s damp squibs.
Gordon Elliott’s contender finished second, after being headed by a more determined rival in a stunning climax.
The final horse to appear in the Cheltenham Festival winner’s enclosure this year was Early Doors who scored for JP O’Brien and Jonjo O’Neill Jr, something that made followers smile as we saw a rider who will achieve big thing this season. Backers were able to find plenty of 5/1 about Early Doors and he proved that to be a shrewd investment when beating the fav thanks to a gutsy effort in the final few strides.
The winner was seen chasing the leaders turning for home and he caught them too, before sticking to the task and nudging ahead on the flat.
He kept on at an honest pace and, looking back, few could argue withthe final result.
Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle Result:
- 1st Early Doors 5/1
- 2nd Dallas Des Pictons 7/2
- 3rd Defi Bleu 14/1
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