A Plus Tard heads the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting
There were no significant withdrawals at the latest forfeit stage for Friday’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. Thirteen runners stood their ground, including the first three home in last year’s race; Minella Indo, Plus Tard and Al Boum Photo. The latter is one of four horses left in by Willie Mullins along with King George winner Tornado Flyer, Asterion Forlonge and Melon. The field is likely to be reduced further with Irish Gold Cup winner Conflated expected to run in Thursday’s Ryanair Chase. The British challenge is led by Protektorat, Chantry House and Royale Pagaille.
Mullins set to run three in Triumph Hurdle
Favourite Vauban is among thirteen declared for the Triumph Hurdle which opens the card on Gold Cup Day. He is one of three likely runners for Willie Mullins along with Icare Allen and Il Etait Temps. Gordon Elliott’s impressive Cheltenham winner Pied Piper will line up alongside stable companion Fil Dor. Gary Moore could also be doubly represented as he has left in both Porticello and Kempton runner-up Teddy Blue. Paddy Brennan has been booked for Knight salute who will be seeking a sixth successive victory over hurdles for Milton Harris.
Ante-post favourite State Man is among the 53 remaining entries for the County Hurdle. Mullins has left the novice in three other races at the festival meeting. The biggest market mover over the weekend was 20-1 Imperial Cup winner Surprise Package who is chasing a £50,000 bonus. His 5lbs penalty guarantees him a place in the line-up for Peter Fahey and he is now an 8-1 shot. He is one of two horses chasing a bonus with recent Kelso winner Cormier’s owners in line for a £100,000 windfall.
Ginto has been switched from the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle to the Albert Bartlett following the injury to stable companion Minella Crooner. He is the new favourite at 11-4 ahead of Henry Daly’s Hillcrest at 3-1. Tony Martin’s Good Time Jonny, one-time favourite for the Coral Cup, will now take his chance in the Albert Bartlett after his victory in a valuable Leopardstown handicap.
Billoway aiming for third time lucky in Hunters Chase
Billoway, runner-up in the Hunters Chase at Cheltenham for the past two seasons, is set to start favourite for the third successive season. He heads a field of 23 left in the race including old rival Bob And Co, trained by Paul Nicholls. He fell when going well last year and then beat Billoway at Punchestown.
The Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase looks set to be another exciting clash between the Mullins and Elliott stables. Gordon Elliott’s Mount Ida will tackle the Mullins’ duo of Concertista and last year’s runner-up Elimay. Ten mares remain including Vienna Court and Zambella, both trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies. Sam Twiston-Davies will ride course winner Vienna Court with Daryl Jacob aboard Zambella.
There are still 59 horses in the festival finale, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. Langer Dan was denied a £50,000 bonus by Galopin Des Champs in this race last year after winning the Imperial Cup. He will be ridden by Lorcan Williams and is the 9-2 ante-post favourite despite finishing last on his comeback appearance. Fergus Gregory will partner I A Connect for Gordon Elliott. He is one of eight remaining entries for the trainer who won this race in 2018 and 2019.