Cheltenham Festival Day Four Betting Tips – Friday 16th March 2018

Heading into Day 4, the conclusion of this year’s Cheltenham Festival is now in sight. Far from winding slowly down though, the action is ramped up still further with outstanding juvenile and novice contests, thrilling handicaps and the jewel in the crown of the entire meeting.

The big one is of course the contest which represents the holy grail of jumps racing. When asked which race they would like to win more than any other, the answer amongst trainers and jockeys alike is invariably, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Always an enthralling contest, this year’s renewal looks well up to scratch with at least half of the field having a realistic shot at ultimate glory. Here we pick out our best bets for the showpiece and the six other excellent contests on the card.

1:30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle – Grade 1, 2m1f

Apple’s Shakira to win at 2/1 with Bet365

Only nine go to post here, four of whom hail from the yard of Willie Mullins. Mr Adjudicator would be the best of his quartet on what we have seen to date, but the mare Stormy Ireland, in particular, really could be anything at this stage. Overall though we see this going the way of the home team who have landed eight of the past 10 renewals. Alan King’s Redicean has done absolutely nothing wrong to date and makes the shortlist, but he may just struggle to give weight to the mare at the head of the market.

Her sister, Apple’s Jade fluffed her lines when turned over at odds on in the Mare’s Hurdle on the opening day, but we fancy the Saddler Maker and Apple’s For Ever combination to belatedly find itself in the winner’s enclosure here. Apple’s Shakira could easily have been aimed at the Mares’ Novice contest, the fact that she is instead targeted at this race speaks volumes for the regard in which she is held. Four from four in her career to date, including three wins at this track, she can enhance Nicky Henderson’s excellent week in a contest in which he has done rather well over the years.

2:10 – Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3, 2m1f

Divin Bere each way at 33/1 with Ladbrokes

Willie Mullins’ Bleu Et Rouge heads both the weights and the betting here and there’s a lot to like about his chances. His second to Kalashnikov in the Betfair Hurdle certainly reads well now with that horse having himself finished second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on the opening day, and this runner has plenty of class having won a Grade 1 Novice contest earlier in his career. Mullins sent out Arctic Fire to win this under top weight last year and has legitimate claims of repeating the trick here. It is nevertheless a tall order to lump a big weight to victory in such a competitive race as this, especially on ground still soft, and we just prefer another.

This is something of a speculative one but if Paul Nicholls is to taste success at this year’s Festival it seems likely to come in a handicap contest such as this. His Divin Bere looks worth taking a chance on at a big price.

Formerly with Nicky Henderson, it was only 12 months ago that this one was sent off as the 9/2 favourite for the Fred Winter, only going down by a neck in the end to Flying Tiger. That run came off a mark of 145 and he is down to 141 ahead of this. Poor in two runs for the yard to date, it may just be that he has taken a little time to acclimatise to his new surroundings, and with the aid of a first-time tongue tie he is worth an each way punt.

2:50 – Albert Bartlett Novices´ Hurdle (Registered as the Spa Novices´ Hurdle Race) – Grade 1, 3m

Santini to win at 11/2 with Ladbrokes

The Irish have been on top here of late, winning three of the past four renewals, each time with a horse returning a double figure SP. The fancy odds are rapidly disappearing about Henry De Bromhead’s, Chris’s Dream, who is becoming a bit of a gamble here, but he is certainly worth a second look. A 64-length winner on debut for the yard in a Grade 3 at Clonmel, and by a sire whose progeny go well on soft, he looks a danger to all, but is facing a formidable opponent from the home team.

This can go to Nicky Henderson. We liked the chances of his runner Santini headed into the Festival. Following the performance of Black Op in Wednesday’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, we like them even more now. That Tom George runner was the only horse who looked remotely like threatening the mighty Samcro in that contest, running a screamer to finish second, and may even have closed the gap further without a couple of jumping errors.

In common with Samcro, Santini has also beaten Black Op into second this season, wearing him down late over 2m4f last time out, giving every impression that a step up in trip would suit. Up to 3m for the first time here, he looks a cracking bet and is very much one of our major fancies for the day.

3:30 – Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase – Grade 1, 3m2f110y

Our Duke to win at 5/1 with BetVictor

This looks like one of the most wide-open Gold Cups in years. So open that it’s a tough enough challenge ascertaining who will even go off favourite on the day. All winter it appeared that Might Bite would be the one, but the King George winner is now coming under serious threat at the head of affairs.

Dealing with Might Bite first, his credentials are there for all to see, proven in the highest grade and also at the track having landed last season’s RSA Chase, he has shown no sign of the quirks which made him so “entertaining” to watch last term and is probably the quickest horse in the line-up. It is stamina which often wins the day though and this son of Scorpion will be heading into unknown territory over the punishing final two furlongs here.

As a winner of a Welsh Grand National, Native River has no such questions to answer regarding the trip. Only third last year, it was the fact the race wasn’t run at quite the usual frenetic gallop that perhaps contributed most to his undoing, as he seemed tapped for toe in the closing stages. It is also possible that a long season had removed just a little of the spring from his step that day.

This year his entire campaign has been centred around this race and this race only, to the extent that he has had just the one previous run this season. With the ground in his favour, this Colin Tizzard runner looks rock solid to be involved, especially if things don’t dry out any further.

Native River is not the only National winner in the line-up though, we also have last season’s hugely impressive Irish National hero, Our Duke, who goes for the Jessica Harrington operation who sent out Sizing John to success in this race 12 months ago. His warm up for this race when seeing off Presenting Percy over 2m4f at Gowran Park looked good at the time, and with that Pat Kelly runner waltzing right away with the RSA Chase on Wednesday, it looks all the better now.

Total Recall, Killultagh Vic and Road To Respect also make plenty of appeal from an each way perspective, but with the most copper bottomed stamina in the field we will be taking Our Duke to win this for the Irish.

4:10 – St James’s Palace Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup – 3m2f110y

Wonderful Charm to win at 13/2 with Coral

Hot on the heels of the euphoria of the Gold Cup, we don’t have to wait long at all to witness another race over that famous course and distance as the amateur riders line up for this year’s Foxhunters Chase.

Paul Nicholls took this 12 months ago with Pacha Du Polder in the hands of a certain Bryony Frost. We fancy the multiple Champion Trainer to grab the prize once again, and it is the horse to have finished second 12 months ago who we will be backing to go one better.

He came with a wet sail here last year to only go down by the narrowest margins, and with the soft ground this time in his favour, there’s much to like about his chances. In Sam Waley-Cohen he will have the assistance of one of the most talented riders in the field, and on the back of an effortless comeback win at Musselburgh he looks sure to go close.

4:50 – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys´ Handicap Hurdle – 2m4f110y

Diese Des Bieffes each way at 8/1 with Coral

This event for the conditionals tends to go to one of the big yards, with seven of the past 10 renewals being won by either Gordon Elliott, Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson or Paul Nicholls. We see that pattern continuing this year and the Nicky Henderson runner Diese Des Bieffes is the horse to do it for us.

Only fifth in the Lanzarote last time, he nevertheless wasn’t beaten far at all and doing all his best work late that day, the stiff finish here should be in his favour. In James Bowen he looks to have the right man for the job in the saddle and can take this.

5:30 – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup (Handicap) – Grade 3, 2m110y

Some Plan each way at 25/1 with Ladbrokes

And so we come to the concluding contest for another year, and it’s a fast and furious one as a big field goes to post for this pedal to the metal chase contest over the minimum trip.

We like the Henry De Bromhead duo of Three Stars and Some Plan here. Three Stars has the assistance of a useful claimer in the saddle, but preference is for the mount of Noel Fehily, Some Plan.

Deemed good enough to compete in both a Supreme and an Arkle, he hasn’t proved up to that standard but may be more at home here. Travelling well in front on his most recent start in a soft ground handicap here, only to come to grief two from home, he looked sure to play a role in the finish that day and is 1lb lower here. At big odds of 25/1 we’re confident he can make the places and perhaps nick this to help us end the Festival on a real betting high.