Cheltenham Day 4: Lower the Boom

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Once more unto the breach. Fascinating, scintillating week (relative these days) comes to a close with the Wellchild Cheltenham Gold Cup. A dozen line up for the sport’s most iconic prize. Al Boum Photo seeks to join the immortals with his third consecutive win. 

It’s been a week where Rachael Blackmore arrived. She’s been arriving, this week, the Irish jockey has arrived. Jockeys need to be definitive. No one is riding more definitively than Rachael Blackmore. She rides A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup. Now that would be arrival. 

Enjoy the last day. I’ll come back with more recollections and ruminations over the weekend. 

 

Race 1. 9:20. The JCB Triumph Hurdle. Grade 1. $128,500. 2 miles, 179 yards. 

Two undefeated Irish raiders against the undefeated British juvenile. Quilixios won three before moving from Gordon Elliott to Henry De Bromhead. Zanahiyr won three and stayed at Cullentra, now under the name of Mrs. Denise Foster. Tritonic, rated 99 on the flat, has been electric in two starts for Alan King. 

The Picks: Tritonic, Quilixios, Zanahiyr. 

 

Race 2. 9:55. McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle. Grade 3. 103,000. 2 miles, 179 yards.

Another handicap and another puzzle. Do you like horses coming down from graded races or do you like horses coming up through the handicaps? Tricky.

The Picks: Cayd Boy, Gowel Road, Champagne Gold. 

 

Race 3. 10:30. Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Grade 1. $134,000. 2 miles, 7 furlongs, 213 yards.

Let’s root for Richard Johnson to get one on the board with Adrimel. 

The Picks: Champagnesuperova, Torygraph, Fakiera. 

 

Race 4. 11:05. Wellchild Cheltenham Gold Cup. Grade 1. $642,000. 3 miles, 2 furlongs, 70 yards.

What do they call him? The most extraordinary ordinary horse…Al Boum Photo seeks his third consecutive Gold Cup win for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend. Consistent and reliable, the 9-year-old takes the same route, New Year’s Day, then Gold Cup. It’s worked to perfection the past two seasons.

Certainly, A Plus Tard, Champ and Minello Indo add depth that might not have been quite there the past two seasons. Might. Quite. A Gold Cup is a Gold Cup. Two Gold Cups are two Gold Cups. 

The Picks: A Plus Tard, Al Boum Photo, Frodon. 

 

Race 5. 11:40. St. James’s Palace Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase. $46,000. 3 miles, 2 furlongs, 70 yards.

Sure miss the amateurs this week. Maxine O’Sullivan guided It Came To Pass to win last year. Because of Covid restrictions, she’ll lead up her pride and joy and hand him to Richie McLernon. 

Let’s cheer on Tom Garner on longshot Ravished. 

The Picks: Chameron, Billaway, It Came To Pass. 

 

Race 6. 12:15. Mrs. Paddy Power Mares’ Chase (Registered as the Liberthine Mares’ Chase). Grade 2. $123,500. 2 miles, 4 furlongs, 127 yards.

Willie Mullins unleashes Colreevy, Elimay, Salsaretta and Cabaret Queen. Pick the one you like.  

The Picks: Colreevy, Elimay, Really Super. 

 

Race 7. 12:50. The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. $72,000. 2 miles, 4 furlongs, 56 yards. 

Langer Dan goes for a big bonus after winning the Imperial Cup just six days ago. Sweet-riding Jordan Gainford picks up the ride on Frontal Assault. Our man Hugh (No Irons) Morgan takes the call on Commandingpresence. 

The Picks: Galopin Des Champs, Gabynako, Leoncavallo. 

As for yesterday…

Top pick and favorite Envoi Allen made the first mistake of his life at one of the cruelest moments, falling early in the Marsh Novices’ Chase. Second pick Chatham Street Lad lacked room and faded to fourth. Nicky Henderson notched his 70th Festival win as Chantry House took advantage of the moment. 

In the second, I said throw a dart and our top pick (dart), Come On Teddy finished third at 10-1. Second choice, Champagne Platinum, finished fifth, only at Cheltenham can you beat 17 and get nothing. Great game. 

Top pick Allaho dominated the Ryanair in an egg-on-the-skillet ride by the incomparable Rachael Blackmore. Second pick Kalashnikov, 25-1, ran hard the whole way and finished a gallant fourth, one place too short for my each-way bet and one place too short for a trifecta with Allaho and Fakir D’oudaries who I added late. Sent off 3-1 favorite, Allaho put the heat on and never let up, relegating the likes of sure-footed Min, Melon, Chris’s Dream, Samcro and Imperial Aura to pull up. Now, that’s heat. Blackmore has hands of gold and a mind of steel. She’s as good as I’ve ever seen – anywhere, anytime. 

Top pick Flooring Porter floored them with a front-running vice grip in the Stayers’ Hurdle. Danny Mullins stepped in for the injured – and noble – Jonathan Moore to deliver a heady ride aboard the 12-1 shot. I needed third pick Paisley Park to complete the exacta, alas, another whatcouldabeen as he ran gallantly to be third. 

Chalky exacta in the Paddy Power Plate as second pick and favorite The Shunter staved off top pick Farclas in a scrum to return $31.60 for the exacta. Polished and professional ride from seven-pound claimer, Jordan Gainford. He’ll win a Cheltenham Champion Jockey title somewhere along the line. 

Second choice Telmesomethinggirl at 5-1 and Rachael Blackmore (who else?) reeled in stablemate Magic Daze, who somehow stayed on after racing keenly the whole way in the Parnell Properties Mares’ Hurdle. Third choice Mighty Blue at 12-1 crept into it and finished third, for another missed exacta (what else?). 

In the finale, second choice and favorite Mount Ida somehow clawed her way from another parish to win the Kim Muir. Jack Kennedy, take a bow. Third choice Shantou Flyer finished third at 11-2.