Our expert with all the advice you need for Gold Cup day at Cheltenham
Tourist Attraction announced the arrival of Willie Mullins as a Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer back in 1995.
Little did we realise that this was to be the foundation stone for an empire. His total of Festival winners now stands at an incredible 48 and he is the second most successful Festival trainer of all time.
The Closutton trainer, though, has had a nightmare of near-misses in the Timico Gold Cup and he will go into the final day still seeking his first winner of the meeting’s feature event. He has saddled the runner up in each of the last four years and at this stage he is beginning to wonder will it ever happen?
DAY 4 RACECARD
1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle (2m 1f)
2.10 Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (2m 1f)
2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (3m)
3.30 Timoco Gold Cup Steeple Chase (3m 2 1/2f)
4.10 Foxhunter Steeple Chase (3m 2 1/2f)
4.50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (2m 4 1/2f)
5.30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Steeple Chase (2m 1/2f)
Things can change when least expected, though it would be no shock if Djakadam comes up the hill in front on Friday to credit Mullins with the prize he craves most!
Djakadam has finished runner-up in the last two years, beaten by Coneygree and Don Cossack, but he goes into his third Gold Cup and is still only an eight-year-old. Many a shrewd judge would argue that he is still a year short of his best.
Mullins reckons they have found the secret to Djakadam in keeping him fresh for the race.
They resisted the temptation to contest the Irish Gold Cup and he will go to Cheltenham without a run since his third to Outlander in the Lexus.
He will be a fresh horse and he will appreciate the likely better ground. What swung me back on his side for this race was his smashing gallop at Leopardstown last Sunday.
If that horse arrives at Cheltenham then he has a massive chance of winning the Gold Cup.
1.30 – 1 MEGA FORTUNE; 2 Defi Du Seuil, 3 Bapaume
2.10 – 1 NORTH HILL HARVEY; 2 Mick Jazz, 3 Diego Du Charmil
2.50 – 1 DEATH DUTY; 2 Wholestone, 3 Penhill
3.30 – 1 DJAKADAM; 2 Cue Card, 3 Sizing John
4.10 – 1 ON THE FRINGE; 2 Wonderful Charm, 3 Aupcharlie
4.50 – 1 Thomas Campbell, 2 No Comment 3 Tommy Sikver
5.30 – 1 LE PREZIEN; 2 Dandridge, 3 Rock The World
Colin Tizzard is having a dream of a year and he will be strongly fancied to improve his record of five winners at the Festival.
While he lost ante-post favourite Thistlecrack to injury, he still has the big two of Cue Card and Native River and both have huge chances.
There is a very strong Irish supporting squad, which is headed by Lexus winner Outlander.
This horse has improved for every outing this season and could be anything.
But we also have the likes of the Henry de Bromhead trained Champagne West and Jessica Harrington’s Sizing John, who have serious chances.
If Champagne West can reproduce his Thyestes-winning form he will make them all go, while Sizing John was very impressive in the Irish Gold Cup.
I have a sneaky feeling that the Irish can do it again in the Gold Cup and Djakadam gets the vote to win from Cue Card and Sizing John.
Whatever happens to the Gigginstown runners in the Gold Cup, we strongly fancy the Gordon Elliott-trained Death Duty to do the business in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle.
The six-year-old has been massively impressive in winning all four of his races this year by wide margins. They have all been over two-and-a-half miles but his style of racing suggests that over three miles he could be quite awesome.
West Approach is likely the best of the British staying novices but Mullins has strong contenders in the likes of Penhill, Bacardys and perhaps Augusta Kate. Death Duty appeals as the banker of the final day.
Elsewhere, Enda Bolger can again land the Foxhunter with On The Fringe, while Mega Fortune has a massive chance in the Triumph if the ground is on the soft side.
1.30 Mega Fortune (EW)
2.50 Death Duty
4.10 On The Fringe