|Wednesday 15th March 2017|
The Grand Finale: A Look Ahead to Day 4 of the Cheltenham Festival
While the Cheltenham Festival is an iconic event that includes four days of stellar jump racing, it is the final 24 hours that genuinely captures the imagination of fans. After all, day four plays host to the prestigious Gold Cup, while the AB Novices Hurdle and the Foxhunter Chase also take pride of place alongside this.
It is the Gold Cup, which is scheduled to run at 3.30 on Friday 17th March, that continues to generate the most excitement among fans as we enter the final stages of the festival. In fact, the level of interest has been exacerbated during the build-up, particularly after the favourite and Colin Tizzard-trained Thistlecrack withdrew from the race with a tendon tear.
A Look Ahead to the Gold Cup: Who Will Step Up in Thistlecrack's Absence?
The absence of Thistlecrack (and the defending champion Don Cossack) has blown the Gold Cup wide open, with this podcast by My Racing highlighting the numerous contenders who will now compete for victory. While jump races are unpredictable enough at the best of times, this years' Gold Cup is particularly difficult to call given the sheer wealth of potential winners that will take their place in the field.
Early betting has the popular Cue Card listed as favourite, with the much-loved 11-year old offering Tizzard an excellent chance to claim the Gold Cup even without Thistlecrack. The thoroughbred, who has enjoyed stellar career punctuated by numerous, near misses at the very highest level, is considered well-placed to finally achieve glory and cement its legacy within the sport.
Tizzard's stable is also bolstered by second favourite Native River, who many pundits are tipping to prevail ahead of Cue Card. After all, it was a stunning performance at Chepstow that initially saw him earmarked for Gold Cup success, as Native River carried 11 stone and 12 pounds during a rampaging victory that matched Carvill's Hill success back in 1991.
With Sizing John and Tea For Two also offering a combination of competitive odds and outstanding pedigree, there remain a number of runners who have the potential to prevail in the Gold Cup. Champagne West may also be considered as an outside contender for success, with burgeoning Irish trainer Henry de Bromhead expected to make a mark during the Festival as a whole.
A Look at the Rest of the Day 4 Highlights
Elsewhere, the aforementioned AB Novices Hurdle will also be of interest to fans, as while North Hill Harvey is the early favourite at 7/1, World's End is in tremendous form having won his last three hurdle starts and offers better value to punters at present.
In terms of the Foxhunter Chase, On the Fringe remains the obvious favourite after winning the race for the last two years. The 5/1 shot Wonderful Charm is thought by many to be in with an outstanding chance of lifting the crown this time around, however, while the 16/1 outsider Sweet As a Nut will enter the race in outstanding form after a series of recent hurdle victories.