Cheltenham Festival 2023: Gold Cup Day - live
For the first time all week, there is actually a faint whiff of spring in the air at Cheltenham this morning, mingling with the scent of the foot-long sausages sizzling on the frankfurter stand by the entrance as a capacity crowd begins to stream into the racecourse. Which is just as it should be on Gold Cup morning, when one of the season’s most storied and venerable races is just a few hours away.
It is 99 years since Red Splash landed the first Cheltenham Gold Cup at 5-1, and preparations are well under way to celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, including a plan (and please don’t ask me why) to take the trophy to the highest points in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. But first, there is the serious business of the 94th running of the staying chasers’ championship event this afternoon, for which 13 runners will be at the post at 3.30.
They include the last two winners, A Plus Tard and Minella Indo, though the market has a clear-cut view on the prospects of Henry de Bromhead’s two runners with Rachael Blackmore’s mount priced up as the 5-1 second favourite to repeat last year’s success, and Minella Indo on offer at 20-1.
The opposition includes Noble Yeats, last year’s Grand National winner, who would be only the third horse to win both races if he comes home in front, and the first to do so after winning at Aintree first. Bravemansgame, the King George winner, is bidding to give Paul Nicholls a fifth Gold Cup, which would tie the all-time record held by Arkle’s trainer, Tom Dreaper, while the certain favourite is Galopin Des Champs, from the Willie Mullins stable. He was a winner here over hurdles in 2021, but remains most famous, or infamous, among Festival-goers for his last-fence departure in 2022 with the Turners Novice Chase at his mercy.
Seven runners are looking to extend Ireland’s current win streak in the Gold Cup to five – and on St Patrick’s Day, too – and the visitors currently have the favourite in six of the day’s races after a gamble on Dan Skelton’s Pembroke pushed him to the head of the market for the County Hurdle at 2.10. After beating the British 5-2 on each of the first three days, this could yet be the afternoon when it ends up as a 7-0 thrashing for the first time.
As ever, the Guardian’s live blog will be the place to find the entire cavalcade of news, views, results and even high-speed in-running race commentaries, and the action on the track gets underway, as ever, with the Triumph Hurdle at 1.30.