Gold Cup 2023: tips and best bets for Friday at Cheltenham Festival
I’m hopeful the County Hurdle (2.10) can be won by the home team as the Skeltons are lethal in these big handicaps. They think the world of Pembroke and back over the minimum trip he can go close.
I want to be interviewing the King of Potatoes after the Gold Cup
Since ITV took over the television rights in 2017, this is the best Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup we have had by a distance. It has got the lot: a big field of 13 with each-way betting, which is so important on terrestrial television; a potential superstar in Galopin Des Champs; the defending champions in Blackmore and A Plus Tard; last year’s Grand National hero Noble Yeats; a strong home defence led by King George winner Bravemansgame; plus stories galore including the fairy-tale Hewick, who cost just £800 and has already won a Bet365 Gold Cup, Galway Plate and US Grand National.
The race revolves around red-hot favourite Galopin Des Champs. I doubted whether he would have the stamina at the start of the season but Willie Mullins has found the secret to get him to settle. Ruby Walsh always used to judge stamina by how long it took to pull up a horse. Paul Townend almost ended up on Dublin high street after the Irish Gold Cup. He has the potential to blow the race apart.
A Plus Tard did exactly that 12 months ago. I would have given him little chance earlier in the week, but with the week De Bromhead and Blackmore are having, you could not now rule him out bouncing back to his best form.
With bookmakers offering such generous each-way terms, I am going to throw two darts at the Gold Cup (3.30) with Stattler and Noble Yeats and then pray there is enough pace in the race to make it a test of stamina.
Stattler has all-important course form, having won the National Hunt Chase last year, and has had an excellent preparation. I would love to be able to interview Ronnie Bartlett, the king of potatoes, after winning the Gold Cup. He is so humble and in love with the game. That is my wish for the day.
It was clear before the Cotswold Chase that the genius that is Emmet Mullins had not yet “turned the screw” with Noble Yeats and he will be much sharper today, especially with cheek pieces reapplied. I would be surprised if he was out of the first five.
Elsewhere on the card, Willie Mullins will win the Triumph (1.30). I am just not sure with which one. The Brits will be routed again and the results of the Bumper, the novices’ hurdles and novice chases show it is going to be a long cycle of Irish dominance.
In the Albert Bartlett (2.50), name of the day is Chianti Classico, a wine I rather enjoy. When he won at Wincanton, the racecard said the owners were Brooke-Pilkington, who I speculated on ITV must be a Hollywood actress, ignorant to the fact it was the racing royalty of Sir Francis Brooke and Richard Pilkington. Corbetts Cross could be a different class to this lot, but I am keen on Stay Away Fay. After his winner Stage Star yesterday, Paul Nicholls will be keen to get back in the enclosure and he is a great each-way price if the ground remains on the soft side. Like his name, he will stay all day.
What a week it has been: from Constitution Hill’s brilliance and the outpouring of emotion for Honeysuckle, watched by over 1.3 million on ITV, to underdogs winning and punters slaying the bookmakers. All in Cheltenham’s magical playground. It has been a week when racing has escaped from its worries and reminded the world what a great sport it is.