Michael Fortune marks your card for Day 4 of Cheltenham Festival
The Timico Gold Cup is the undoubted highlight of the meeting and it dominates final day like a colossus.
It is the one major prize which has eluded Willie Mullins and fate seems to be against him as he has been runner-up in the last three years.
I am confident that the prize will return to Ireland this year and, while Mullins has a massive chance with his team of Djakadam, Vautour, Don Poli and Valseur Lido, the vote is going to Gordon Elliott hitting the jackpot with the talented Don Cossack.
When he won his bumper at Naas back in October 2011, Elliott remarked that the winner could be a Gold Cup winner of the future. He looks sure to go off favourite to prove Elliott right and, to be honest, he deserves a bit of luck on this Prestbury course.
Two years ago Don Cossack fell in the RSA and then last year he was desperately unlucky when hampered badly coming down the hill and he ran on with gusto to be third.
Forget all the talk that he doesn’t run well at Cheltenham, he has been unlucky.
He went on to Aintree, where he destroyed Cue Card, and then ran up a sequence of victories that was ended by his fall at the second-last of the King George at Kempton, where he was clearly going to win. He had also endured a nightmare passage through that race.
Bryan Cooper has delayed picking between Don Cossack and Don Poli and the latter is also a very powerful stayer, but may lack the class of Cossack. I expect Cooper to be aboard Cossack, particularly if the ground is reasonably good and I expect them to win.
But in last year’s runner-up Djakadam we have a Mullins horse capable of winning any Gold Cup.
There is no doubt about the stamina of Djakadam and his fall last time out doesn’t worry me. He will be strong on the hill, but will he be as strong as Don Cossack?
Cue Card has been performing very well this season, but I have never regarded him as a Gold Cup horse and I think he will struggle up the hill. We’ll side with Don Cossack to win from Djakadam.
Elliott can also be on the mark in the opening Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle with Desoto County. I have been a big fan of this fellow since he won a handicap at Thurles in December and he was then desperately unlucky in the Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown.
He looks chucked in on 10/3 in this handicap and he looks sure to play a very prominent role. The climb to the finish will suit this grey perfectly.
If Enda Bolger has got On The Fringe up to his best form he should win another St James’s Place Foxhunter, while Elliott has another big chance with Squouteur in the Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle.
And what about Aidan O’Brien returning to the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham after Ivanovich Gorbatov wins the concluding JCB Triumph Hurdle?
1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle (2m 1f)
2.10 Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (2m 1f)
2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (3m)
3.30 Timoco Gold Cup Steeple Chase (3m 2 1/2f)
4.10 Foxhunter Steeple Chase (3m 2 1/2f)
4.50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (2m 4 1/2f)
5.30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Steeple Chase (2m 1/2f)
MICHAEL'S TOP TIPS
1.30 1 IVANOVICH GORBATOV; 2 Zubayr; 3 Footpad
2.10 1 GREAT FIELD; 2 Blue Hell; 3 Starchitect
2.50 1 GANGSTER; 2 Barters Hill; 3 Up For Review
3.30 1 DON COSSACK (NAP); 2 Djakadam; 3 Don Poli
4.10 1 ON THE FRINGE; 2 Aupcharlie; 3 Paint The Clouds
4.50 1 SQUOUATEUR; 2 Flying Angel; 3 Childrens List
5.30 1 BRIGHT NEW DAWN; 2 Sizing Codelco; 3 Rock The World
1.30 Ivanovich Gorbatov
2.10 Great Field
3.30 Don Cossack
4.10 On The Fringe