The bookmakers were worried about the four returning champions all landing the spoils at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival although Hurricane Fly’s defeat in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle meant they could breathe a sigh of relief, while Finian’s Rainbow then managed to get the better of Sizing Europe in the Queen Mother.
However, wins for Big Buck’s and Riverside Theatre on Thursday means that many punters go into Friday’s racing with a chance to make it a profitable Cheltenham Festival, especially if one of the front two win the Gold Cup.
We kick off on Day Four with a competitive Triumph Hurdle!
JCB Triumph Hurdle – 1.30pm
Baby Mix looked anything but a potential Triumph Hurdle winner in January when finishing last out of sixth to Pearl Swan and Grumeti at Cheltenham, although there were mitigating circumstances for that performance and a win at Kempton last month has seen the four-year-old become joint favourite. Odds of 6/1 (bet365 £200 free bets) are available.
Not that it is ever easy to find the winner in a large field and there are so many horses entered that won on their last outing, although Pearl Swan was actually demoted to second in that January race and the horse is 7/1 (Blue Square) to make amends with a bright run in this race.
Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle – 2.40pm
By 2.40pm, there will be plenty of excitement surrounding the imminent Gold Cup although we have the small matter of a competitive hurdle race first and there is a lot of hype surrounding a particular seven-year-old horse.
Boston Bob has been earning rave reviews since winning at Tallow two years ago, while the last twelve months have seen lots of progression from the Willie Mullins-trained charge, with connections deciding that this three-mile contest would be perfect for a horse that has won on his last four outings.
Two weeks ago, you might have got 9/2 about the horse winning although the best price is 6/4 (bet365 £200 free bets) and it might be trimmed further on race day, despite some stiff competition.
Indeed, Mount Benbulben is anything but a slouch and has the potential to reverse the form from that December race in Navan where Boston Bob won by four lengths. Odds of 13/2 (Stan James) might mean the each-way money goes on the second favourite instead.
Sea of Thunder is also a short price, although Sivola De Sivola can run a big race at a bigger price having won three races already this season.
Cheltenham Gold Cup – 3.20pm
The waiting is finally over and we can sit back and enjoy Kauto Star and Long Run battling it out for the third time this season. As everyone knows, there seemed a real possibility that the 12-year-old legend would miss this race after suffering a recent schooling fall although the horse’s recovery has been remarkable.
Due to the popular nature of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, we should expect a big gamble on the mighty Kauto who is bidding to make it a hat-trick of titles at the Festival and Sportingbet are currently bravest with their quote of 18/5 about the five-time King George winner.
Nevertheless, there are those whom are sceptical that the Paul Nicholls charge can recover so quickly after that bad fall, not to mention age and the course are against Kauto Star considering that Long Run was closing at the end of the King George on a flat track.
Long Run has not been overly impressive this year although the Nicky Henderson horse clearly has an in-form trainer saddling him and also age on his side. It was reasonably impressive the way that the race favourite won at Newbury giving weight to Burton Port and odds of 2/1 (Blue Square free bets) might be a case of looking a gift horse in the mouth.
As for Burton Port, we should note that the eight-year-old had a big lay-off after running in November 2010 and only returned to the race track last month, although the bookies are showing the eight-year-old plenty of respect with their 15/2 quote.
The big market mover on the day might be Weird Al, who ran third behind Kauto Star and Long Run at Haydock in November and has obviously been kept fresh for an assault on this three-mile spectacular. Others that could be primed to run a big race include Midnight Chase and Synchronised.