Cheltenham Festival 2022 Preview
The concluding day of the Cheltenham Festival gets underway at 1:30 with the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle taking centre-stage over two miles. I think this is another race that could well be making it’s way to Closutton with Willie Mullins as Vauban looks the one at 2/1 under Paul Townend. He made his debut for the yard when just beaten by Pied Piper, who he reopposes here. The Mullins charge should’ve won that day had it not been for a few mistakes, and that rival has gone on to frank the form quite considerably. Vauban was last seen when taking Grade 1 honours at the Dublin Racing Festival and this classy recruit from the flat looks a real propsect in the famous Ricci silks which we’ve seen carried by some of the greats of the modern era. One at a bigger price that I like here also is Knight Salute at 20/1 for Milton Harris who’s the mount of Paddy Brennan. He’s a course and distance winner who’s become a personal favourite of mine this season, having won five in a row over hurdles with the last three being a string of Grade 2’s. This will clearly be his toughest task to date but he’s got a lot of ability and there’s every chance he could make the frame.
Next up is the 2:10 which is the Grade 3 County Hurdle which is contested over two miles and a furlong. This race is another extremley competitve handicap of which the standard is set by State Man for Willie Mullins, who could well prove to be a cut above this level, meaning it would be far from a surprise if he won this impressively. I’ve had one at a bigger price though and that’s Suprise Package at 11/1 for the combination of Peter Fahy and Kevin Sexton. He was seen as recently as Saturday when he bolted up in the Imperial Cup at Sandown by the best part of nine-lengths. As a result of that success he carries a five-pound penalty here, but this has clearly always been the plan and he could well have more to give.
It’s the Albert Bartlett up next at 2:50, a Grade 1 contest that’s ridden over two miles and five furlongs and I think this renewal could well go to a British horse in the form of Hillcrest at 11/4 for Henry Daly and Richard Patrick. This is a horse that has looked mightily impressive so far over hurdles, apart from when he unseated here on Trials Day. On his most recent outing he bolted up in a Grade 2 event at Haydock last month and he looks to have a really bright future. He’s a big old boy and should take some beating here. There’s also one I quite like at a bigger price here and that’s Shantreusse at 14/1 for Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore. Despite Bob Olinger and Honeysuckle winning, the De Bromhead yard have been far from firing on all cylinders which is a concern, but this horse clearly has considerable progression in him. He won a Grade 3 impressively last time on heavy going, meaning if the surface is still on the testing side he shouldn’t find it an issue. If progressing again for this assignment he’s every chance of having a say.
The feature event of the meeting takes centre-stage at 3:30, which is of course the Gold Cup. A prestigious Grade 1 chase that has attracted a strong field this year resulting in a tasty renewal. The one I’ve fancied for the race all season is A Plus Tard for Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore who’s currently trading at the 7/2 mark in the betting. He was last seen in the Grade 1 Savills Chase in January when being narrowly denied by Galvin who he reopposes here. However, on his first outing of the season he bolted up in the Betfair Chase at Haydock when dismantling a smart field by 22 lengths. That’s top-drawer form and add that to his second placed effort in this race last year’s he’s got to be considered as a serious contender. If you want one at bigger price I wouldn’t put anyone off backing the two-time winner Al Boum Photo at 12/1 for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend. He’s 10 now but he still retains a lot of ability and was a solid third in the race last year despite making a few small errors. If a few of them find it a bit too hot to handle he’s been here before, done it and got a few of t-shirts.
Following the big one at 4:10 is the Hunter’s Chase which is a Class 2 contests over three miles and two and a half furlongs. Billaway sets the standard here for Willie Mullins and son Patrick, having just failed to win the race again last year at short odds. He’s likely to be bang there again, but I’ve taken a chance on a younger contender here in Winged Leader at 11/2. He was last seen when winning impressively at Thurles back in January, where he had Billaway 12 lengths behind in second. It’s likely that the Mullins charge wasn’t fully wound up for that contest, however, it’s still a pretty sizeable decifit to close against a younger rival.
The penultimate race of the meeting comes up at 4:50 and it’s the Grade 2 Mares’ Chase over two miles and four and a half furlongs. I think this can go to Elimay for Willie Mullins and Mark Walsh who’s currently a 9/4 chance in the betting. She was narrowly denied in the race last year by stablemate Colreevy, who was a star mare in her own right. This season the Mullins grey has got better with each start and was last seen when winning by six lengths in a Listed contest at Thurles, getting the better of the useful Court Maid. I think there’s every chance she can go one better here. Mount Ida and stablemate Concertista appear the main dangers.
Signing The Festival off for another year is the 5:30 which is the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle which is a Class 2 event over two miles and four and a half furlongs. I’ve got a couple that I think may have a chance in this, with the first of them coming in the form of Irish challenger Chemical Energy at 10/1 for Gordon Elliott and Shane Fitzgerald. His record so far over hurdles stands at 121, and he looks to have considerable further progression in him having being a smart bumper horse also. It’s likely he’s had this as target for some time and it would be no surprise to see a big run from hi,. The second for me here is a bit of a personal favourite in Cobblers Dream at 16/1 for Ben Case and Jack Andrews. I’ve followed this horse all season having seen him win on debut at Warwick back in the autumn, he’s progressed through the ranks impressively and most recently he won the Lanzarote at Kempton. There could well be more to come from him.