Saturday, February 24, 2024

Runners & Riders – The Cheltenham Festival 2023, Day 4, ‘Gold Cup Day’

‘The Steeple Times’ examines the tipsters’ selections and offers options for ‘Gold Cup Day’ at the Cheltenham Festival 2023 including a 20/1 outsider owned by Sir Alex Ferguson and a 50/1 wildcard

The Cheltenham Festival 2023 has flown by and yesterday one “brave punter” scooped £50,000 from a £1 each-way 5-fold accumulator after backing the first four winners of the day; a genuine example of a ‘lucky geezer’ and no doubt someone who had a gin or ten last night.


Yesterday, The Steeple Times didn’t do too shabbily either and from our selection we got 1st places for Stage Star at 19/2 and Good Time Jonny at 11/1 giving us success in two out of three of the races we provided tips for.


Today, with what John Hunt described on Radio 4 Today this morning as the “absolute cracker” of the Gold Cup on the cards (3.30pm), we’re hoping for further joy on ‘Gold Cup Day’ and are looking at EACH WAY BETS as follow:


1.30pm Cheltenham – JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) – 2m 179y, 8 hurdles (15 runners, 3 places)

Trainer Willie Mullins has an astonishing SEVEN horses out of the fifteen in this race on his books and has the “stranglehold” on the contest as At The Races points out, but the one we’re rooting for is:


Mark Walsh – W. P. Mullins combo Zenta at 10/1 (The Sun ‘Fiver Flutter Longshot’, Daily Mail ‘Live Outsider’)

  • The Sun suggests: “Good win in a Grade 3 on debut for Willie Mullins and has a lot more to come over a trip that suits.”
  • At The Races adds: “Three lengths separated French recruits Zenta (first) and Hypotenus (second) when they met in a Fairyhouse Grade 3 and both are open to improvement.”
  • Daily Mail observes: “Zenta created a good impression on her Irish bow, hacking up at Fairyhouse to book her place in the field.”
  • Racing Post less enthusiastic: “Went past Hypotenus in Fairyhouse Grade 3 before bad mistakes at the last two flights.”


At shorter odds, we’ll add the Mullins double Blood Destiny at 5/2 to our card (Racing Post,, SPOTLIGHT, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Daily Mail ‘Mick Fitzgerald’, ‘Robin Goodfellow’ and ‘Ruby Walsh’, Daily Express, The Sun)

  • Racing Post observes: “This is probably between the three market leaders, with BLOOD DESTINY preferred to Lossiemouth and Gala Marceau… His jumping has not been the most fluent but he looks a high-class prospect.”
  • Mick Fitzgerald for Daily Mail states: “I was really taken with BLOOD DESTINY when he won at Cork. Paul Townend has opted to ride Lossiemouth after an unlucky run at Leopardstown but it must have been a tough choice.”
  • Ruby Walsh for Daily Mail adds: “The softer it gets the bigger chance that gives BLOOD DESTINY. It’ll definitely suit if the going is heavy.”
  • Robin Goodfellow for Daily Mail concludes: “Willie Mullins does not have the best success rate in this event, but he won it last year and has a strong hand again with three strong contenders and a lightly raced stablemate completing a powerful assemble. Blood Destiny narrowly gains the nod over talented filly Lossiemouth as he could barely have been any more impressive at Fairyhouse on his second start in Ireland. That form has already worked out brilliantly with fifth-home Jazzy Matty lifting the Boodles Handicap earlier in the week and Nusret (third) landing the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton.”


Going for a total ‘wildcard,’ we’ll also take a small punt on Jipcot at 50/1 (WEST COUNTRY)

  • Racing Post remarks: “Won twice when back over hurdles at Pau (2m1f, very soft) last month, well on top.”


Cheltenham Festival 2023 attendance down
This morning, the ‘Daily Mail’ suggested the attendance figures for the Cheltenham Festival 2023 “make grim reading.” In spite of the decision to cap daily attendance at 68,500, only 50,387 fans “rocked up” on day three – down 14,044 on last year. Uncertainty over public transport and the cost of living crisis are being blamed as the “obvious factors.”
Sir Alex Ferguson Protektorat
This morning, ‘Business Plus’ declared: “Alex Ferguson’s Protektorat represents, once again, the Scots best chance of tasting glory in Cheltenham’s biggest race.”

2.10pm Cheltenham – McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap) – 2m 179y, 8 hurdles (23 runners, 6 places with Ladbrokes ‘The Grid’)

Though many are favouring Filey Bay at 6/1, our ‘sensible selection’ is the Skelton double Pembroke at 11/2 from 5/1 earlier (Radio 4, The Times, Daily Star, Daily Record, Daily Mail ‘Jane Mangan’)

  • Dave Randall for Racing Post muses: “Dan Skelton has won the County Hurdle three times in the last ten runnings and Pembroke is another suitable candidate. The six-year-old ran out an impressive winner of a Ludlow novice hurdle in December and he finished a good second in a Grade 2 novice event over 2m4½f at Cheltenham on Trials day in January. Considering the speed he showed at Ludlow, the drop to 2m1f on this handicap debut should suit. Ground conditions are suitable and he looks sure to run well from an exploitable opening mark of 136.”
  • Jane Mangan for Daily Mail offers: “Just the 26 runners but I fancy Dan Skelton to continue his brilliant record in this race courtesy of PEMBROKE. He could be well handicapped.”
  • Racing Post remarks: “Novice; could be suited by strongly run race at this trip; yard has done well in this race.”


Also in the same race, Jonathan Burke – Harry Fry combo Gin Coco at 10/1 (Racing Post ‘West Country NAP’, TOPSPEED, At The Races ‘Top Tip’)

  • James Stevens for Racing Post remarks: “Fine second here in the Greatwood, will handle conditions and can continue to improve.”
  • Racing Post adds: “Clear second in the Greatwood last November and could be in the mix on first run since.”
  • At The Races enthuses: “GIN COCO shades the verdict. An exposed seven-year-old with a nice weight on his back, he has been kept fresh for this assignment following a cracking runner-up effort in the Greatwood here in November and still looks nicely treated off a mark of 135. Pembroke drops in trip and could make his presence felt.”


Also in the same race, Nico de Boinville – Nicky Henderson combo First Street at 12/1 (LAMBOURN, Daily Mail, SPOTLIGHT, Racing Post)

  • Racing Post muses: “This could go to FIRST STREET who was a fine second to State Man in this race last year. Magnor Glory is second choice… Second in this last year; below par last time but has had wind op since; one to consider.”


3.30pm Cheltenham – Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) – 3m 2f  70y, 22 fences(13 runners, 3 places)

Speaking on Radio 4 Today this morning, Mick Fitzgerald declared: “There’s something very special about Cheltenham, but there’s something even more special about Gold Cup Day… This is a really deep race.”


Analysing the prospects, Ruby Walsh, writing in the Daily Mail, is of the view: “GALOPIN DES CHAMPS all day, every day and I would love to be riding him” and most tipsters agree with him. However, we shall take a risk on:


Rachael Blackmore – Henry De Bromhead combo A Plus Tard at 19/4 from 9/2 earlier (Guardian NAP, Daily Mail ‘Mick Fitzgerald’ and ‘Marcus Townend’, Racing Post ‘Handicappers’ NAP’, TOPSPEED, Daily Express, The Sun, Daily Star, RP Ratings)

  • Trainer Henry De Bromhead: “He was hugely impressive last year but this season we sadly haven’t had as good a prep. We would obviously have liked another run under our belts but we’re really happy with him now. If he can reproduce that form from last year he should be bang there.”
  • At The Races suggests: “A Plus Tard arrives on something of a retrieval mission following a disappointing run in the Betfair Chase, but he was scintillating in this last year and won’t relinquish his crown without a fight.”
  • Steve Mason for Racing Post offers: “Not seen since pulling up on his Haydock reappearance in November, but posted a huge figure when bolting up in this race last year and looks worth chancing at his forecast odds.”
  • Racing Post adds: “Sprinted up the hill for a brilliant win in this last year; had interrupted prep this time.”
  • Mick Fitzgerald for Daily Mail muses: “I’m willing to trust that trainer Henry De Bromhead will have A PLUS TARD ready to go after a disappointing season. Last year’s Gold Cup winner could be the forgotten horse in the race.” On Radio 4, he added: “You write him off at your peril… I’m looking for him to bounce back.”


Also in the same race, we’d love to see success for the Sir Alex Ferguson owned, Skelton double Protektorat at 20/1 from 18/1 earlier (The Sun ‘Fiver Flutter’)

  • Racing Post remarks: “Third in this last year; impressive at Haydock in November; lesser effort back here since.”
  • The Sun says: “Better than we saw in the Cotswold Chase here last time when trainer Dan Skelton says he didn’t have him fit enough.”


Also in the same race, our ‘wildcard’ is Sounds Russian at 45/1 from 28/1 earlier (Daily Mail ‘Paddy Power’)

  • Paddy Power for Daily Mail enthuse: “SOUNDS RUSSIAN has improved with every start this season and he looks to have decent each-way claims at a huge price.”
  • Racing Post less enthusiastic: “Has improved; divided Ahoy Senor and Noble Yeats here latest; needs more at the weights.”


SUMMARY – Our choices and options for ‘doing a double’

As ever, we offer something for everyone and be you a ‘Safe Steven’ or a ‘Wild William,’ here are our selections:


1.30pm – Selection: Blood Destiny; Outsider: Zenta; Wildcard: Jipcot.


2.10pm – Selection: Pembroke; Outsiders: First Street and Gin Coco.


3.30pm – Selection: A Plus Tard; Outsider: Protektorat; Wilder Than Wild Wildcard: Sounds Russian.



Selection: Each way double on Blood Destiny (1.30pm) and A Plus Tard (3.30pm) at 18.25/1.


Wildcard Selection: Each way double on Pembroke (2.10pm) and A Plus Tard (3.30pm) at 36.37/1.


Happy racing and don’t forget to join in and ‘ROAR’ – even if watching at home on ITV Racing.


Editor’s Note – Unlike as is the case in many publications, this article was NOT sponsored or supported by a third-party.


To join our racing followers – who receive a FREE tipping service occasionally by email – please send your relevant details to [email protected].


Stage Star Paul Nicholls Harry Cobden
Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden had much deserved success with Stage Star in the Turners Novices Chase yesterday. Of the win, for ‘The Guardian,’ Paul Nicholls observed: “Booted home after a fine frontrunning ride by Harry Cobden, he prompted a flurry of exultant fist-pumps and West Country whooping from the horse’s clearly delighted whisperer.”
Good Time Jonny
Good Time Jonny stormed ahead of the pack yesterday and won the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle at odds of 9/1.
Matthew Steeples
Matthew Steeples
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Matthew Steeples is a writer and marketing consultant. He conceived The Steeple Times as a media arena to fill the void between the Mail Online, The Huffington Post and such organs as the New York Social Diary in 2012.


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