2014 Friday Cheltenham Antepost Grade 1s

The final instalment of the Majors four submissions, covering the Grade 1 races of the festival, day by day.  Friday, Gold Cup day.  Shabash, I hope by the time these bets are reckoned, that the account is burgeoning.

On course, Friday can be a manic experience at the course.  It is the only day in which the festival is a sell out and if it rains, the communal covered areas become chaotic.  I don’t mind a drop of bad weather but the bars which are packed anyway, heave with a damp mob packed so tightly it is as though they are one organism, groaning and swaying, like an animal in some terrible agony.

Should the sun shine, Gold Cup Day is heaven, designed for us unworthy mortals, the cut of tweed on a haughty fashionable sort, the jaunty hat of a wild eyed Irish bookmaker – If I close my eyes I can smell it, touch it.  It is too good is it not, can it be real, it is, I know, I was there.

The Gold Cup has had some excellent renewals in recent years and this year could be another to add to the memory banks.  A week ago, I asked twiiter followers for their favourite festival moment.  Gold Cup memories came gushing forth, Best Mates hat-trick, Denman, Kauto, the year they duelled down the hill for the last actor on the stage, Long Run to swoop late, the following year where Ruby pulled up an out of sorts Kauto and a gentle ripple of applause broke out as tens of thousands expressed as simply and spontaneously as they could, gratitude for the privelege of witnessing such a star and the battles he engaged in.

That was such a special moment, there was a strange ripple in the air, we forgot the race for just a moment, maybe it sounds strange but those of us present, we shared that.

There are three Grade 1’s on the Final day, culminating in the show-piece of the week.  We start with something a bit more frenetic.

JCB Triumph Hurdle

The Triumph by nature is a difficult race to call.  Four year olds, independent form lines, many for the first time at Cheltenham…. Tricky business finding the winner!

On the Antepost Tips page for Tuesday, I extolled the virtues of last years winner, Our Conor, for this years Champion Hurdle.  I recalled his jaw dropping performance in the Triumph last year, dismissive, impressive.  What have we got this year?

Guitar Pete shares connections with Our Conor and given the record of Dessie Hughes in getting the best out of his string at the festival, he is not to be dismissed lightly.

Royal Irish Hussar is interesting.  He achieved some very high standards before disappointing at Doncaster before Christmas.  If he turns up and is fit, 16/1 is big as he defeated Guitar Pete (10/1) previously.  Those are two big questions mind.   Yet another tick on the ledger is that he has won at the course.

Le Rocher has had more experience than many of these and his form is also excellent.  He won the Triumph trial race at Cheltenham so has the crucial track form.

I am really liking the the form of the Calipto races at Newbury.  He is a worthy 5/1 favourite and Activial has gone on to frank the form excellently, beating Commissioned in the Adonis.

This is a race I feel very uncertain about.  I don’t feel very inspired, sorry.  Hmmmmm.  Either Royal Irish Hussar or Calipto.

It has to be Calipto.  Don’t complain, I gave you the favourite.  I know you hoped I had some fairy dust and a guaranteed 40/1 winner but all I had for you was disappointment, bitter disappointment.

Albert Bartlett Novices

A week to go until the Albert Bartlett and William Hill, one of our senior bookmakers are not NRNB on a Grade 1 on the Gold Cup card.  What is worse is that they are offering 10/1 on Faugheen who most people know is, in all likelihood, Neptune bound.  What is that about?

The Albert Bartlett looks, on face value, a much easier puzzle to solve than the Triumph.

The lead actor at the moment is Briar Hill, the shock 25/1 winner of last years Champion Bumper.  His three hurdle wins from three clearly give him an excellent chance but I do have a reservation.  His hurdling has been scrappy, his talent has allowed him to get away with errors but stepped up in class, it might not be so easy.

Ah, I hear you think, I know where your mind runs Major, you wish us to take up the cause of Kings Palace.  Well maybe.

I do have an antepost position built on Kings Palace but as I sit here now, I have a bit of an issue with it.  He has been found very easy races to win and he has won them all with some ease.  This is a class above though.  I am not the biggest Tom Scudamore fan and given the sure-fire plan is to set the fractions on this horse, well… I am not confident.  That said, Kings Palace two latest wins have been at the track and by an aggregate of 27 lengths – He could be special.

No, the one I have decided to add to my stable is the Henderson trained, Captain Cutter.  He has won his three races this year and the latest looked a seriously good bit of form.  He has not done it as flash as the other chief contenders but he has his chance.  Do you know, he once beat Kings Palance in a bumper in December 2012… just saying, 8/1 – Have a slice.

I do feel nervous about Kings Palace mind… I have 6 days to change my mind, sorry for the uncertainty.

The Gold Cup

The big one is saved for last and this year the renewal could be a very good race. It could have been even better of Simonsig and Sir Des Champs had made it but we shall have to make do with what we have….

First of all, even though the ground is to be in his favour, The Giant Bolster is not the Majors sort.  No thank you sir.  Despite having placed up close to Synchronised (in what the Major classes as one of the worst Gold Cups of recent times) and despite the positive views of his trainer, I just cannot have him.

Last Instalment absolutely hammered a very decent line up in Ireland last time out.  The Fenton yard have their troubles over illicit steroids but his horses have been given the all clear for Cheltenham.  As short s 5/1 in a place – An interesting contender and if he continues on the upgrade, perhaps he can get involved.

However, there are two clear stand out contenders and the market knows exactly who they are.  Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti.  The latter was travelling really well on the second circuit last year when falling at the fence coming down the hill.  Conti has gone on this season to win the King George beating an in form Cue Card, again top class.

Bobs Worth is the reigning champion.  Half a mile to go last year and he looked like he was starting to struggle.  What we might have mistaken for tiredness though was merely his slow pace!  As the others hit the hill, his stamina came to the stage and the rest was history.  If they had a race with another lap involved, he would be a certainty.

In lieu of distance, the stiff hill at Cheltenham is nectar to Bobs Worth, it calls his opponents out to duel in an environment suited to his talents.  7/4…

Silviniaco Conti was travelling so well last year and gets the benefit of Noel Fehily in the saddle.  At 3/1, I am siding with him, just.

Courage, roll the dice.

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