Cue Card to make it a Festival hat-trick
Cue Card can buck the recent trend for younger winners of the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and claim a fairytale success on the final day of the Festival meeting.
Cool Dawn in 1998 was the last 10-year-old to land the Grade One prize, so Cue Card must defy both the statistics as well as his advancing years if he is to secure the blue riband event - and a £1million bonus.
Colin Tizzard’s charge is in line for the bumper pay out following his victories in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the King George at Kempton in what has been a stellar season so far.
Cue Card has looked better than ever following the resolution of a problem with a trapped epiglottis, kicking off with a comfortable success in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby before blowing his rivals away on Merseyside.
His head defeat of Vautour at Kempton showed he still has the heart for a proper battle, although had the reopposing Don Cossack not fallen two out, that one may well have pushed him all the way, too.
Freshened up for this event since then, connections are adamant stamina is no longer any sort of issue and Paddy Brennan showed he could be ridden with a little more restraint at Kempton which has to be a help along with the drying ground, which should suit.
He is the highest-rated horse in the race which certainly puts him in the driving seat and as he is trained by Tizzard, his price is likely a point or two more generous than if he were trained by one of the powerhouse stables.
It is hard to pick a hole in his form this season and as a previous dual Festival winner, we know Cue Card can rise to the occasion.
Willie Mullins has a strong contender in Don Poli but he has made hard work of beating inferior opposition to that which he will face here, and he is likely to be outpaced at some stage.
Don Cossack will have his followers, too, and is the pick of jockey Bryan Cooper, but in two visits to Cheltenham to date he has not looked totally in love with the place and minor honours appear the best he can hope for.
The JCB Triumph Hurdle can return to Alan King’s grasp, with Sceau Royal looking the best of his runners. He jumps like an old handicapper, not too big but flat, saving energy and gaining momentum.
He dead-heated with a subsequent Grade One winner on his British debut and though turned over next time, wins at Warwick, Huntingdon and, crucially, Cheltenham have followed. With plenty of experience in the bank, he looks solid.
Cheltenham: 1.30 Sceau Royal, 2.10 Desoto County, 2.50 Barters Hill, 3.30 CUE CARD (NAP), 4.10 Paint The Clouds, 4.50 Squouateur, 5.30 Next Sensation.
Fakenham: 1.55 Goal, 2.35 Bon Chic, 3.15 Camakasi, 3.55 Baltic Storm, 4.35 Halo Moon, 5.10 Vent Nivernais.
Lingfield: 1.15 Mighty Zip, 1.45 Silver Quay, 2.25 Mishwaar, 3.05 Clary, 3.45 Mossy’s Lodge, 4.25 North Creek, 5.05 Templier.
Wolverhampton: 6.10 Storytale, 6.40 Debit, 7.10 Stonecutter, 7.40 Magical Path, 8.10 Little Big Man, 8.40 Overrider.
Double: Cue Card and Barters Hill.