Neil Morrice shares his race-by-race preview for day 4 of the Cheltenham Festival as well as some quickfire tips for Doncaster, Fakenham and Wolverhampton on 17 March 2023.
CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL – DAY 4
Race 1 JCB TRIUMPH HURDLE (Grade 1)
No4 BLOOD DESTINY
Trainer: Willie Mullins – Jockey: Mr P Mullins
The juvenile championship looks set for further Irish domination, with grey filly LOSSIEMOUTH widely considered to be unlucky not to be unbeaten. She surely would have mastered GALA MARCEAU had she obtained greater racing real estate in the Grade 1 at Leopardstown last month.
Both fillies are trained by Willie Mullins, but it is the gelding BLOOD DESTINY that I think can bring his A-game to the table and trump them. While there is room for improvement in his jumping the chestnut has looked the real deal since joining his trainer from France. He looks to have a bright future ahead of him, and can pass this stiffest test so far with flying colours.
Prediction: 1st BLOOD DESTINY, 2nd Lossiemouth, 3rd Gala Marceau, 4th Jupiter Du Gite
Race 2 McCOY CONTRACTORS COUNTY HANDICAP HURDLE
No22 GIN COCO (Each Way)
Trainer: Harry Fry – Jockey: Jonathan Burke
This is a strong renewal in which a select bunch of horses can dominate to make it attractive for exotic wagering. AUCUNRISQUE is a must-include following his ultra-game effort to lead throughout the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. He would have run over fences this week, only to underwhelm in a schooling session and persuade his connections to remain hurdling.
SHARJAH brings a touch of class to the table and needs respect off top weight. He chased the shadow of stablemate State Man in the first part of the winter before being narrowly denied in a Gowran Grade 3 last time. SAINT SAM failed to cut the mustard over fences and was beaten as a 4-7 shot in a conditions hurdle at Leopardstown but he’s classy and could benefit from being allowed to bowl along.
FILEY BAY is very closely matched with Aucunrisque from Newbury and could take his revenge, but my best news concerns GIN COCO who has been kept fresh for this since finishing second in the Greatwood here back in November. I understand he’s been in great form at home and should make an impact off a mark of 135 for a trainer that came with an ace of sending out a winner with Love Envoi earlier in the week.
Prediction: 1st GIN COCO, 2nd Aucunrisque, 3rd Sharjah, 4th Saint Sam, 5th Filey Bay
Race 3 ALBERT BARTLETT NOVICES’ HURDLE (Grade 1)
No19 THREE CARD BRAG
Trainer: Gordon Elliott – Jockey: Adrian Heskin
Elliott saddles three in this, but his ace in the pack is THREE CARD BRAG who following a defeat of Spanish Harlem at Fairyhouse is likely to relish the step up to three miles. His barn mate FAVORI DE CHAMPOU needs taking seriously following clear-cut triumphs in all three of his starts this winter, and he’s one whose stamina is already proven. LETSBECLEARABOUTIT has something to find with ‘Favori’ but could close the gap after his confidence-building success at Punchestown.
EMBASSY GARDENS and HIDDENVALLEY LAKE are yet more Irish-trained runners that have a squeak, but the pick of the field is THREE CARD BRAG who should have most to fear from CORBETTS CROSS, another multiple scorer who has his first outing in the McManus colours.
Prediction: 1st THREE CARD BRAG, 2nd Corbetts Cross, 3rd Favori De Champdou, 4th Letsbeclearaboutit
Check out Neil’s video preview for the County Hurdle and Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle below:
Race 4 BOODLES CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP CHASE (Grade 1)
Trainer: Gordon Elliott – Jockey: Davy Russell
This is a Gold Cup that probably needs either GALOPIN DES CHAMPS or BRAVEMANSGAME to triumph in order to be hailed a good one, and that’s because both those horses put big reputations on the line after going through their seasons unbeaten. Galopin Des Champs would be unbeaten in seven chases had he not departed with the Turners Chase at his mercy here 12 months ago, and when claiming the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown ensured he would start favourite today. Bravemansgame was a clear-cut winner of both the Charlie Hall Chase and the King George V Chase, but cut in the ground hasn’t helped his cause, with Paul Nicholls happy to state his charge is not as effective on a slower surface.
A PLUS TARD was a 15 lengths winner of this in 2022, but after being pulled up in the Betfair Chase in November has plenty to prove on his first start since for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore. Bold front runner AHOY SENOR stated his case for victory with a slick display to land the Cotswold Chase at the course in late January, but the one that could rise to the parapet is CONFLATED. The nine-year-old has performed creditably in the big time over the past couple of years, fell in last year’s Ryanair when looking booked for second behind Allaho, and showed when winning the Grade 1 chase at Leopardstown over Christmas that he’s just as good over three miles. That form took a boost when the third Fury Road then finished third in the Irish Gold Cup.
Prediction: 1st CONFLATED, 2nd Galopin Des Champs, 3rd A Plus Tard, 4th Bravemansgame
Check out Neil’s video preview for the Gold Cup below:
Race 5 ST JAMES’S PLACE FESTIVAL CHALLENGE CUP OPEN HUNTERS’ CHASE
No6 CHRIS’S DREAM (Each Way)
Trainer: Henry de Bromhead – Jockey: Miss Maxine O’Sullivan
Well beaten in two Gold Cups before twice failing to complete at Aintree, CHRIS’S DREAM has made an auspicious start to a new career pointing and is two from two in that sphere. He has a similar profile to BLACK OP, who himself contested the Gold Cup of 2021 and is unbeaten in three races in points for new connections. In a deep renewal of this race both could perform above their prices, but among a plethora of experienced foes lies last year’s winner BILLAWAY, who needs consideration in first-time blinkers as a sole representative for Willie Mullins.
BOB AND CO is the winner of five of his last nine starts, and was going well when departing in the corresponding race 12 months ago. VAUCELET looks the pick of the pure hunter-chasers on paper and is 3 from 4 in that division with his only defeat coming at the hooves of Billaway at Punchestown. FAMOUS CLERMONT has also excelled on the hunter-chase circuit and especially when stretching his sequence to four at Haydock. With the reliable Will Biddick on his back he rates a danger to all.
Prediction: 1st CHRIS’S DREAM, 2nd Famous Clermont, 3rd Bob And Co, 4th Billaway, 5th Vaucelet, 6th Black Op
Race 6 MRS PADDY POWER MARES’ CHASE (Grade 2)
No6 JEREMYS FLAME
Trainer: Gavin Cromwell – Jockey: Keith Donoghue
The Huntingdon race in which JEREMYS FLAME beat ZAMBELLA can prove key to this newest addition to the Festival agenda. In its third running, JEREMYS FLAME appeals as the best value based on the smooth dispatch of her foe which followed soft ground triumphs at Galway and Naas before she was put in her place against the best two milers at Leopardstown over Christmas.
With her high cruising speed, this once suspect jumper can not only confirm the Huntingdon form but also stave off the attentions of ALLEGORIE DE VASSY and IMPERVIOUS who are both unbeaten this season. Impervious should benefit from today’s longer trip, but Allegorie De Vassy needs to show her jumping is as proficient on a stiff left-handed course.
Prediction: 1st JEREMYS FLAME, 2nd Allegorie De Vassy, 3rd Zambella, 4th Impervious
Race 7 MARTIN PIPE CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS’ HANDICAP HURDLE
No5 IMAGINE (Nap)
Trainer: Gordon Elliott – Jockey: Ben Harvey
For those attempting to do a Houdini act and jump out of jail, they could do worse than back IMAGINE who appeals as one of the strongest handicap bets of the week. In colours already successful at the meeting, IMAGINE has been laid out with this one target in mind, and lost no caste in defeat when second in a Listed race at Navan in his prep for it. The five-year-old is closely matched with SPANISH HARLEM, who looks a pea out of the same pod in terms of profile.
Elliott’s COOL SURVIVOR ran a cracker when fourth to the high-class Good Land at the Dublin Racing Festival but needs to show he’s as good over this distance. IROKO has been adroitly prepared in an unbeaten campaign by Oliver Greenall and has undeniable claims, as has IRISH HILL, who seeks to complete a four-timer for Paul Nicholls, but the one to be on is IMAGINE.
Prediction: 1st IMAGINE, 2nd Iroko, 3rd Spanish Harlem, 4th Cool Survivor, 5th Irish Hill
Check out Neil’s video preview for the Mare’s Chase and Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle below:
Race 4 No3 PETTY CASH (Nap)
Trainer: Henry Daly – Jockey: Michael Nolan
Fences have always beckoned for PETTY CASH who is worth forgiving for an uncharacteristic fall on his chase debut at Bangor. He can put the record straight by repelling Son Of The Somme.
Race 1 No1 ARMCHAIR FARMER
Trainer: Fergal O’Brien – Jockey: Paddy Brennan
ARMCHAIR FARMER established a massive lead and never came back to his foes at Exeter last week. Under a 7lb penalty, he will be hard to stop on this quick reappearance.
Race 7 No8 CRYSTAL MER
Trainer: Paul Webber – Jockey: Rex Dingle
CRYSTAL MER improved from an underwhelming first run under Rules to finish just out of the money in a competitive bumper at Cheltenham, and has to be taken seriously if progressing from that.
Race 2 No4 MIXEDWAVE (Nap)
Trainer: Pam Sly – Jockey: Paul O’Brien
MIXEDWAVE has looked better the further he’s travelled in winning novice chases at Leicester and Market Rasen and is napped to complete a fine hat-trick.
Race 6 No2 BASHERS REFLECTION
Trainer: Ben Case – Jockey: Jack Wuinlan
After opening his account at Warwick, BASHERS REFLECTION has traded very short in running only to meet with defeat here and at Hereford. He looked distinctly unlucky last time and should return to winning ways.
Race 8 No2 MILLTOWN STAR (Each Way)
Trainer: Jamie Osborne – Jockey: Saffie Osborne
MILLTOWN STAR can prevail in the best betting heat on this card by repelling the challenges of Poetic Force and Arcadian Nights. The six-year-old has the same rider on his back that guided him home at Southwell early in the year, and he can bounce back from a slightly underwhelming run at Lingfield.
Place Accumulator Perm (Races 2-8)
5, 7 x 5, 6 x 8, 2, 7 x 6, 3 x 10, 6 x 3, 2 x 2, 3