Gold Cup Day

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Three down. One to go. Gold Cup Day. Bobs Worth tries to win his second in a row while Silviniaco Conti tries to salvage a tough Festival for Paul Nicholls and erase a going-well-at-the-time fall in last year’s Gold Cup. Bobs Worth has proven it – albeit on softer ground – while the others still need to prove it.

The public changing of the guard happened yet again yesterday when four-time World Hurdle champion Big Buck’s labored up the hill to finish fifth and was retired after the race. The train (he is long, tall and has the engine) has reached the station. Annie Power suffered her first defeat but certainly didn’t lose anything by finishing second in the 3-mile classic. That train certainly still on the tracks.

Ironman A.P. McCoy chose At Fishers Cross over More Of That and then watched More Of That grind up the hill to win the World Hurdle. Tough decision. Tough game.

After the sixth race Wednesday, A.P. McCoy limped off the racecourse, carrying a grass-stained maroon helmet cover and a look of consternation and pain on his face, after falling from Goodwood Mirage in the Fred Winter. As he walked, the crowd roared as the field jumped the last, McCoy slowly turned and watched, another opportunity slipping away, that’s how the 4,000+ winning jockey thinks about every day, every race.

McCoy rode the next race, the bumper, returned yesterday to record his 30th career victory at Cheltenham when Taquin Du Seuil nailed Usixandre for his boss J.P. McManus. No celebration in the winner’s enclosure, just a tip to the fans and then a ginger slide down the saddle towel and onto his left leg, his right touching the ground like a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar over a hot bowl of oatmeal. McCoy, always sincere and accurate in an assessment said, “I’m sore but not as sore as Bryan Cooper.”

Cooper had broken his leg in a separate fall in the Fred Winter.

One final day, seven races, then back to reality tomorrow.

First Race. JCB Triumph Hurdle. Grade 1. 4-year-old hurdle. $199,000. 2 1/8 miles.
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh return with another top young young in Abbyssial while John Quinn counters with fall purchases Pearl Castle and Rutherglen. Nicholls tries to get off the mark with Calipto. Aidan O’Brien – yes, that Aidan O’Brien – runs Plinth for McManus and with McCoy.
The Picks: Guitar Pete, Abbyssial, Calipto.

Second Race. Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle. Class 1. $133,000 2 1/8 miles.
28 runners. Get a dart, take your pick.
The Picks: Minella Foru, Cheltenian, Arctic Fire.

Third Race. Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Class 1. $199,000. 3 miles.
The slickest hurdler in the world, Kings Palace takes on the once-beaten Irish banker Briar Hill.
The Picks: Kings Palace, Briar Hill, Masters Hill.

Fourth Race. Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup. Grade 1. $954,000. 3 5/16 miles.
Last year, Bobs Worth looked like he was in trouble but he finds reserves where others don’t and powered up the hill. He loves a fight, a stamina test.
The Picks: Bobs Worth, Silviniaco Conti, The Giant Bolster.

Fifth Race. CGA Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup. Class 2. Hunter Chase. $66,500.
If there is a racing God, Jane Mangan and Oscar Delta win. On his way to win this last year, Oscar Delta jinked left, thinking he had to go around again and lost Mangan. She tumbled, rolled, stood up and threw her hands to her head in utter disbelief and defeat.
The Picks: Harbour Court, Oscar Delta, Certain Flight.

Sixth Race. Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. $83,000. 2 9/16 miles.
Boys, here is your opportunity to change your resume forever. Win this and your career was worth it.
The Picks: Une Artiste, Junction Fourteen, Virak.

Seventh Race. The Grand Annual Chase. Grade 3. Handicap Chase. $149,500. 2 1/16 miles.
The getting-out stakes. Bet your money, stand on the hill, take it in and say goodbye to the theatre, to the cauldron, to the Festival.
The Picks: His Excellency, Ned Buntline, Raya Star.