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Friday, March 14, 2014

Cheltenham Festival Betting: Friday

IT goes without saying that it takes an absolutely top class chaser to win the Gold Cup (3.20) and if proof of that was somehow needed, you'd simply have to look back through the results of each race since the turn of the century to prove the point. Excluding War Of Attrition (2006), all Gold Cup winners had a BHA rating of 166 or higher and while there are never any certainties in this game, it makes perfect sense to concentrate on horses with a similar profile today - namely Bobs Worth (180), Silviniaco Conti (177) and Last Instalment (170).  A lot of races at the Festival are about up-and-coming improvers but the Gold Cup is the opposite, and revolves around established Grade One performers at the top of their game. In some ways, that makes it one of the most straight-forward races of the festival. We've seen that reflected in the betting where punters have done well in recent years and each of the last 13 Gold Cup winners could be found in the top three in the market. In short, it pays to keep it simple and there's absolutely no reason to oppose last year's winner Bobs Worth which is 3lbs clear of the field on official ratings. Even though he's not the flashiest horse in the world there's plenty to like about Nicky Henderson's nine-year-old. He's consistent, he's straightforward, he's reliable and he's genuine; all of which make him a great bet this afternoon at 15/8. His record around Cheltenham is five wins from five races and while it was worrying to see him struggle in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, it was a very rare blip and he looked as good as ever when winning the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over the Christmas. First Lieutenant (7/1) finished second at the South Dublin venue that day but he was no match for Bobs Worth and there's no reason to believe the form will be reversed. Silviniaco Conti was going quite well when falling three-out in the Gold Cup last year and he proved just how good he is by winning the King George. He's certainly the biggest danger and is sure to attract support at 3/1. Last Instalment will need to improve quite a bit if he's to finish in the top two but he ran a career best in the Hennessey Gold Cup at Leopardstown and he should be thereabouts. But Bobs Worth ticks all the right boxes and the stage is set for him to become the eight horse to win the Gold Cup on more than one occasion. 

Lay of the day
Good recent form is a must in the
CGA Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup (4.0) and the last six winners had all won their previous race. This contest is for amateur riders and Nina Carberry is likely to prove popular with punters on board On The Fringe. But he finished second last time out at 5/4 in a hunter chase at Leopardstown and was the beaten favourite in this race in 2001 so at 3/1 today, he looks a little short in the betting. 

A recent prep run would appear to be important in order to succeed in the Triumph Hurdle (1.30). Last year's brilliant winner Our Conor (which was sadly fatally injured in Tuesday's Champion Hurdle) had ran a month before at Leopardstown and we have to go back as far as 1992 (Duke Of Monmouth) to find a winner which hadn't raced in the previous two months. Two of today's runners, Royal Irish Hussar (8/1) and Lindenhurst (12/1) haven't had a recent prep run so it will be interesting to see if they struggle against their race-fit counterparts this afternoon. 

Paul Nicholls'
CALIPTO might be the one to side with at 7/2. He's a half-brother to a number of winners in France, and it's worth noting that French-bred horses have performed very well in this race in recent years. He looked quite smart when winning a novice hurdle at Newbury last time and he may just have enough to see off Broughton and Guitar Pete.
In-running punters might like to note that the  last prominently ridden winner of this race was Sir Talbot back in 1999 so it could be worth taking on those that make the running early on. Jonjo O'Neill's
ALAIVAN slips into this at the bottom of the weights and looks a nice each-way bet at 16/1 following a decent showing in the Betfair Hurdle last time.
This race was only introduced  in 2005 but it's been won by some very decent sorts including At Fishers Cross, Bobs Worth, Wichita Lineman and Black Jack Ketchum. This one looks a match between Brian Hill (5/4) and KINGS PALACE (3/1) with the latter marginally preferred at the prices.
Silviniaco Conti and Last Instalment have strong claims here but defending champion BOBS WORTH, which has won at the Festival for three years straight, gets the nod at 15/8. Nicky Henderson's nine-year-old is ultra consistent and can make this a great race for favourite backers on the 50th anniversary of Arkle's first Gold Cup win.
EDIT (mix up with race time). Selection is TAMMYS HILL.
This is the sixth renewal of the race named after Martin Pipe but his son David has yet to win it and the yard were left disappointed again last year when Gevrey Chambertin was pulled up, despite going off as 9/4 favourite. Pipe's Vieux Lion Rouge may well go off as the jolly this year but Nicky Henderson's FULL SHIFT could be the value bet at 10/1 following a promising performance when winning his handicap debut at Kempton last month.
Fitness is key here, and almost all the winners in the past two decades had raced in the eight weeks prior to the Festival. The Nicky Henderson trained TANKS FOR THAT was second in this race in 2012 and looks well treated in the weights off a mark of 144. At 16/1, he can be taken each way.

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