Gerri can gain Gold Cup win for Gordon

Cheltenham Festival selections Friday 15th March

All too quickly we are on to the final day at Cheltenham and the Blue Riband event of the week, the Gold Cup. Although we were successful in following Galopin Des Champs last year, I am keen to take on the favourite this time around and have two alternatives against him. I also have selections for three other races on the card. We kept up the solid run this week with a win for Shakem UP Arry (advised 10/1) on Thursday, whilst there were placed efforts for each-way selections Cuthbert Dibble (advised 8/1), Emitom (advised 28/1), Conflated (SP 11/1) and Where it All Began (advised 8/1).

Cheltenham 1.30: Salver & Storm Heart

British trained horses fought back on Thursday to gain some respectability and in SALVER certainly have one juvenile capable of landing this Grade 1. Trainer Gary Moore should already have a Triumph Hurdle to his name, but for the last flight disaster that befell Goshen in 2020. He could gain belated compensation here.

One thing we definitely know about Salver is that he handles soft ground, as he sluiced through the mud at Chepstow to land the Finale over Christmas. Almost 30l behind him that day was Harsh who was placed in the Fred Winter earlier this week. Salver has since gone on to win at Haydock, maintaining his unbeaten record, but I think he will prefer this stiffer track and jump better than he did on Merseyside last time out.

He might just meet his match though in STORM HEART. I was most impressed with his debut winning effort at Punchestown on New Years Eve, quickening well clear in the closing stages. He built on that with a second place in the Grade 1 at the Dublin Racing Festival. However rather like Lossiemouth, who was beaten in that race before coming on to win here, I did not think Paul Townend gave the selection the greatest ride at Leopardstown.

He gave Storm Heart plenty to do and made his challenge around the wide outside, covering extra ground as a result. I think there is every reason to hope he can therefore turn the tables with stablemate Kargese today.

Cheltenham 2.10: Magical Zoe & Faivoir

A typically trappy County Hurdle, but I have narrowed this down to two probables.

First choice would be the mare MAGICAL ZOE who finished a fine second from too far back in the Mares Novice here last season, and deserves another chance for a Festival win. Being ridden with so much patience might pay better dividends in this handicap and she has progressed nicely all season.

Her second at the Dublin Racing Festival proved she can handle a big field well and with Pied Piper in the line she gets in with a decent racing weight of 11-2 here. Her second to Champion Hurdle second Irish Point at Down Royal in the autumn reads pretty well now.

FAIVOIR almost did us a good turn in the Imperial Cup on Saturday, but rather threw it away having hit the front plenty early enough. He gets into this race unpenalised however so is technically 4lbs well in – 7lbs if you include Tristan Durrell’s claim on top.

Faivoir was given a great ride to win this race last season, showing he handles soft ground and a big field very well and only has 2lbs more to carry than when seeing off Pied Piper last season. He seems a horse who takes his racing well so the fact he had a hard race only six days ago need not be a problem.

Cheltenham 3.30: Gerri Colombe & L’Homme Presse

With very soft ground guaranteed for the Gold Cup I want two horses guaranteed to handle conditions on my side. Whilst Galopin Des Champs is greatly respected, I thought he won in spite of his jumping last year and more testing conditions this year could prove a bigger impediment to his jumping this year.

As a result first choice is GERRI COLOMBE who looks a thorough stayer who will enjoy a war of attrition. Admittedly he was well beaten by Galopin at Leopardstown over Christmas, but has been kept fresh for Cheltenham since, so avoided a hard race in the Irish Gold Cup. He needed every yard of the 3m to win the Champion Chase at Down Royal in the autumn, so an extra 2f today is very much a positive.

He just failed to catch The Real Whacker here last year in the 3m novice contest, but was a smooth winner at Aintree the following month. With further rain expected in the morning this slog will prove ideal for Gordon Elliott’s charge.

As an alternative this could be a big chance for L’HOMME PRESSE to fulfil his potential. A brilliant winner of the 3m novice here at the 2022 Festival, he missed this race through injury last season. He came back in winning form this season, belatedly, at Lingfield in January. The fact he beat Protektorat despite the lack of a recent run, looks better now that rival has landed the Ryanair this week.

Whilst he was turned over at Ascot last month, he really does not look suited to racing right-handed and with two impressive wins to his name at Cheltenham already, we should see the real horse today on ground he should not mind at all.

Cheltenham 5.30: Waterford Whispers & No Ordinary Joe

Owner JP McManus has a brilliant record over the years in the final race of the Festival, whether it be the County, the Grand Annual, or nowadays the Martin Pipe. He had the first two home last year in this race and my two fancies for the race this year both sport the McManus silks.

That includes the second home from 2023 in NO ORDINARY JOE. He of course represents the ailing stable of Nicky Henderson, but he has had horses run well at this meeting and if he does turn up for the race we must assume he is 100%.

After failing to take to fencing, his campaign appears to have since been built around a repeat bid for this race. Well beaten on ground too quick for him at Doncaster, he ran a very eyecatching race at Kempton last month, not being knocked about at all in third behind Mark of Gold. Only 1lb higher than his mark from last year’s race, talented claimer Aidan Kelly, a regular rider for McManus is booked today.

However he might have to go to beat WATERFORD WHISPERS. This horse had raced only once before this season, but is learning and improving fast. He won his first two starts in novice company this season in game fashion, including a comfortable defeat of Answer to Kayf at Fairyhouse (that horse is well fancied for this race too.)

Whilst he was beaten in a handicap at Leopardstown over Christmas, he will have learned plenty from that experience and it looks significant that he has not raced again since to protect his mark for today.

Recommended bets:

1pt each-way – Salver – 1.30 Cheltenham – 11/1 Paddy Power

1pt each-way – Storm Heart – 1.30 Cheltenham – 9/2 Betfred (1/5 odds 1st 4)

1pt each-way – Magical Zoe – 2.10 Cheltenham – 12/1 Bet365, Paddy Power, William Hill (1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Faivoir – 2.10 Cheltenham – 12/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Gerri Colombe – 3.30 Cheltenham – 8/1 general (some bookies 1/5 odds 1st 4)

1pt each-way – L’Homme Presse – 3.30 Cheltenham – 10/1 Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 4)

1pt win – Waterford Whispers – 5.30 Cheltenham – 7/2 general

1pt each-way – No Ordinary Joe – 5.30 Cheltenham – 12/1 William Hill (1/5 odds 1st 5)

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