Day Four of the Cheltenham Festival is, understandably, dubbed Gold Cup Day as it really is all about the big race of the week, nay, of the whole National Hunt year: the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
But while the championship race is clearly the big draw of the day, and often the greatest spectacle, that is not to say there isn’t plenty of top quality racing to support it on the Friday of this famous Festival. Read on for the details of all the races on the card with some pointers and suggestions of what to look out for when trying to pick out the winners.
13.30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle
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The first race of the final day of the Cheltenham Festival is the JCB Triumph Hurdle, a high-quality Grade One race that is contested by four-year-olds who must get over the eight hurdles. With the race being run by juveniles only, there is not usually much form to fall back on when trying to pick the winner, but try not to stray below a hurdle rating of 135 when selecting your runner.
Prior to the 2017 Festival, Nicky Henderson is the leading trainer having saddled six winners (1985, 1987, 1999, 2009, 2010 and 2015), while Barry Geraghty has ridden five (2003, 2009, 2010, 2015 and 2016). If the pair combine again this year, they could certainly worth backing to do the business again as they did with Peace And Co in 2015.
Take a look at our full Triumph Hurdle betting tips and offers feature for more info on this one.
14.10 – Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle
Hot on the heels of the opener is a Grade Three handicap hurdle that has been run since 1920 and which is run over a distance of two miles and a furlong. Open to horses aged five years and older, the relative youngsters have performed well in recent years with five-year-olds winning six of the last 12 renewals (prior to the 2016 Festival).
Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins are the joint leading trainers with four wins apiece, four of which were in combination with the leading jockey, Ruby Walsh (who has won thrice for Nicholls and once for Mullins). Ruby, therefore, could be the jockey to follow in this one, though keep an eye on the market for late movers in the hours before the off.
14.50 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – also known as the Spa Novices’ Hurdle – is the second Grade One race of the final day of the Festival and is aimed at the novice hurdlers who are able to stay for the three mile distance. It joined the Cheltenham Festival in 2005 so there isn’t masses to assess in the way of previous races, but when seeking out the winner for this one you should really be looking for proven form over the distance and – ideally – solid performances at Cheltenham. Winners of this one include Wichita Linesman, Bobs Worth (2011) and At Fishers Cross, which gives you an idea of the calibre of animal you should be looking at.
15.30 – Cheltenham Gold Cup
Now all eyes turn to the biggest race of the week and – many purists would argue – the biggest race in horse racing, bar none. The legends that have been created in the Cheltenham Gold Cup are numerous, with such luminaries as Golden Miller, Cottage Rake, Arkle, L’Escargot, Best Mate and Kauto Star all having won this famous event at least twice.
The challenging race is run over a distance of three miles, two and half furlongs and has 22 fences to jump, so clearly stamina and proven form over the course and distance will stand a runner in good stead. The ability to take victories in Grade One races is vital, and winners of the King George VI Chase – which is run at Kempton on Boxing Day – often fare well here.
What you are seeking here when picking your potential winner, though, is real star quality: a clean jumper who has enough stamina to stay but has enough in reserve to make a final burst up the hill. To get the better of what is always a field of supreme quality, the runner and rider who triumph must really put in everything they have.
Mark Bradstock’s Coneygree did the business in 2015 while in 2016 it was the Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack that prevailed. The 2017 renewal looked wide open after the withdrawal of the previous favourite Thistlecrack, with Cue Card and Native River vying for favouritism. In the end it was Jessica Harrington’s Sizing John that did the business with Robbie Power in the saddle.
See our Gold Cup Betting Tips article for the latest odds and predictions.
16.10 – Foxhunter Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
The Foxhunter Chase is up next and gives less prestigious runners and amateur riders the chance to sample the course and distance of the preceding Cheltenham Gold Cup, hence it sometimes being dubbed the “amateur Gold Cup”. Horses must have finished first or second in a hunter chase or won two point-to-point races (or a combination) to compete in this one, and attempting to pick out the winner is a perilous task.
As with some of the other less prestigious races at the Festival, following the market has to be the way to go here, while plumping for some relatively long odds each way options often pays dividends. Giving this one the miss is also not a bad option if your Cheltenham Festival has been a success so far and you want to keep it that way!
16.50 – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
The penultimate race of the Festival is an ungraded handicap hurdle and if you haven’t managed to make a profit by this stage, you are really going to be up against it now. Run over a distance of two miles, four and a half furlongs, the race is open to conditional (apprentice) jockeys only, but that is not to say the trainers don’t take it seriously, especially Willie Mullins who saddled winners in 2011, 2014 and 2015. All the winners since the race’s inauguration in 2009 have carried weights of 11-1 or greater.
17.30 – Grand Annual Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
The final race of the Cheltenham Festival is the Grade Three Grand Annual Chase, a fine race to end this fantastic meeting. Run over a distance of two miles and half a furlong and with fourteen fences to jump, it is the oldest race of the Festival having been inaugurated way back in 1834. That’s a long time ago – slavery was only abolished in the UK that same year!
As a handicap it is always worth assessing the recent form when carrying varying loads, but note that – prior to the 2018 Festival – 14 of the last 18 winners carried less than 11 stone, the exception being the winners of the last four renewals, Savello in 2014, Next Sensation in 2015, Solar Impulse in 2016 and Rock The World in 2017.
So that wraps up the Cheltenham Festival Guide, so we hope you enjoy the action and make yourself a tidy profit too! Be sure to check out the latest Cheltenham Festival Betting Offers to help skew the odds in your favour!