Bells ringing out for Mullins in the Gold Cup?
It’s Christmas Day for National Hunt racing fans on Friday, as the likes of Presenting Percy, Clan Des Obeaux and Native River battle it out for the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The Festival’s blue-riband event is the feature on a seven-race card, which also includes Sir Erec’s bid for the Triumph Hurdle and Birchdale in the Albert Bartlett.
Will it be another favourite’s day? Or could there be more shocks on the card? We’ve had our say with our final selection of Cheltenham Festival Tips.
1:30 tip: Triumph Hurdle – Sir Erec (NAP)
It’s hard to see past our tip Sir Erec for the Triumph. The four-year-old has bolted up on his first two starts for Joseph O’Brien, showing a superb turn of foot to take a Grade 1 at Leopardstown last.
Only a career-best performance from one of the English raiders is likely to deny the fav. And with the trainer largely credited for Ivanovich Gorbatov’s win in this in 2016, Sir Erec looks a solid shout.
Willie Mullins has won this race four times in the last decade and saddles three this time around, with Cut The Mustard looking a serious play on historical trends.
The seven-year-old has a nice handicap mark of 135, decent form coming into the race and an attractive price with nine of the last 10 winners doing so at 10/1 or longer.
Whiskey Sour is the trainer’s main dart. But Cut The Mustard can do just that on each-way terms.
An open looking Albert Bartlett can go the way of Commander of Fleet. Gordon Elliott’s raider is progressing nicely and it made it two from three over hurdles in Grade 1 company last time out.
That was a hot race over 2m 6f, so this step up to 3m should prove no problem with stamina looking like his forte.
He leads the Irish charge and can edge out the likes of the unexposed Birchdale and Lisnagar Oscar, both of whom will handle softer ground for the first time.
3:30 tip: Cheltenham Gold Cup – Bellshill (NAP)
With question marks over Presenting Percy (lack of runs) and Native River (form and ground), it’s down to 2019 Irish Gold Cup winner Bellshill to clean up for the Mullins-Ruby Walsh partnership.
The nine-year-old jumped without fault to reverse form with last year’s Gold Cup-fourth, Road To Respect, at Leopardstown. Now he can follow 2017 winner Sizing John by doing the double.
Truth be told, it’s hard to knock the King’s Theatre gelding. His jumping has improved over fences, we know he has the stamina to last the trip and he’s proven at this level too.
Walsh’s decision to ride him over stablemate Kemboy further enhances his claims, and in an open Gold Cup, he looks a serious play at the prices, even on each-way terms.
Female jockeys have an exceptional record in this race having won each of the last four renewals. Gina Andrews is taken to continue that form with our tip Haymount.
Formerly a useful trainer for Mullins, the veteran has won back-to-back point-to-points for his new yard and you get the feeling the Presenting gelding has been prepared with this race in mind.
The 10-year-old looks certain to stay the trip and can get on the premises after finishing third in in the four-miler behind Tiger Roll at Cheltenham in 2017.
Magic Saint got off the mark in style on his third run for Paul Nicholls at Wincanton last time and can follow that up to give the trainer his third Grand Annual win in four years.
The five-year-old is shown to best effect over 2m, and despite having plenty of experience already under his belt, he looks open to further improvement under Harry Cobden.
A chance is taken on our tip Discordantly who drops into handicap company. The five-year-old has a difficult mark of 138 but that’s largely down to solid runs behind several notable horses.
That includes a 5l-third to subsequent Supreme-fourth, Fakir D’Oudairies at Cork. Jessica Harrington’s charge looks the type who relishes a big field, and we reckon the gelding can challenge with the ground also in his favour.
Click here for the latest Cheltenham Festival odds.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication
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