Through The Card: Cheltenham, Friday March 18

Can Willie Mullins win his first Cheltenham Gold Cup?
Can Willie Mullins win his first Cheltenham Gold Cup?
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Timeform take you through the card on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival - Gold Cup day.

"A winner of six of his seven starts over timber, including two Grade Ones, it's no surprise that he's the choice of Ruby Walsh."

13:30 - Alan King won this race with Katchit in 2007, and has had three horses placed since, so it's worth including one of Gibralfaro and Sceau Royal. The latter gets the nod, as he is the pick of Daryl Jacob, who could have ridden any of the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned horses. Zubayr impressed at Kempton, however Ivanovich Gorbatov has been backed all winter for this race and gets the vote. Better ground will certainly suit him. Apple's Jade is hugely respected, given she had multiple entries this week, however Consul de Thaix could outrun his odds. Nicky Henderson saddled the first three home last year and, Consul de Thaix, having shaped very promisingly on his UK debut at the track in January (sent off 10/1), isn't one to overlook.

2.10 - It's very hard to weigh up just how good Great Field could be but the French recruit was a well-backed winner on his belated Irish debut and, as the pick of Barry Geraghty, must be kept on side, especially given Willie Mullins' good record in the race. Hawk High won the Fred Winter two years ago and, with first-time blinkers and a return to good ground in his favour, he also makes the shortlist. Starchitect - whose Betfair Hurdle form has been franked - is respected, while the threat posed by Devilment, Montbazon and Blue Hell, who beat Thursday winner Diamond King in November, is a very live one.

14:50 - A seven-strong attack from Willie Mullins and, given he could have run the horse in any of three novice hurdles this week, the best of the lot could be Long Dog. A winner of six of his seven starts over timber, including two Grade Ones, it's no surprise that he's the choice of Ruby Walsh. Stablemates Gangster and Bleu et Rouge also command respect. Barters Hill has been a credit to connections and showed his resilience at Doncaster in January, but that was a gruelling race and these rivals are another step up. Instead then, Shantou Village makes our shortlist. He looks a thorough stayer and will relish the step up in trip.

15:30 - Don Cossack has the best form on decent ground, having thrashed Djakadam in the Punchestown Gold Cup last April, and as the highest-rated jumper in training looks a very solid option. He would have played a major part in the finish of the King George had he not fallen two from home and has since shown his well-being at Thurles. Cue Card mugged Vautour at Kempton and has been rejuvenated this season, having also won the Charlie Hall and Betfair Chase prior to his Boxing Day victory. At the peak of his powers, he also goes on the shortlist. The biggest dangers should be the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Don Poli and Djakadam.

16:10 - More attention than usual on the amateur riders thanks to the participation of Victoria Pendleton, and it may pay to side with experienced pilots. Nina Carberry is one of the best around and she can steer On The Fringe, whose record in this race reads 4-3-1, to more Cheltenham Festival glory. He should come on plenty for his reappearance at Leopardstown and his jockey has come back quickly from injury for this ride. Paint The Clouds, third in this last year, along with Aupcharlie and Marito who clashed at Oldtown last month, look the biggest threats. Pendleton's mount Pacha du Polder looked on great terms with himself at Wincanton but he has something to prove over this distance.

16:50 - Much like stablemate Diamond King earlier in the week, this race has been a long-term target for Squouateur and he looks the pick of the field. Gordon Elliott's charge is up 13 lb for his Fairyhouse romp last month but the best is yet to come. Last year's Fred Winter winner Qualando is respected, having bounced back to form on unsuitably testing ground at Taunton last time, and he goes on the shortlist ahead of stablemate Ibis du Rheu. However, Flying Angel comes here in better form and, with his stable doing well this week, can run another big race just six days after his Imperial Cup victory.

17:30 - Next Sensation looks to have been campaigned with this race in mind and the front-runner is only 1 lb higher than his win in the race last year. Blinkers should help Solar Impulse, who looks fairly-treated off a mark of 140, while another outsider to consider is Savello who also tries a new combination of headgear for the first time. Velvet Maker, who has chased home Douvan in two of his three runs this season, and Lough Kent, who represents Nicky Henderson, look the best of the rest.


Recommended bets:

Back Long Dog in the 14:50 at Cheltenham
Back Don Cossack in the 15:30 at Cheltenham


Placepot permutation:
13:30 - 4,8,10
14:10 - 6,13
14:50 - 14,16
15:30 - 2,4
16:10 - 18
16:50 - 2,16
= 48 lines

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