We've reached the final day of the Cheltenham Festival and Tony Calvin has a quintet of selections for you to consider on Gold Cup day...
"He had earlier impressed when winning a very strong Silver Trophy over an extended 2m3f - a raft of winners were in behind, including Champagne Court, Imperial Aura, Indefatigable, Ballyandy and Greaneteen - and I suspect he remains well handicapped off an 8lb higher mark."
When I looked at the five-day cards for Friday I suspected it would be a relatively quiet punting day for me, and that has proved to be the case.
So the good news is that today's missive will be a touch shorter and snappier than the early-week offerings, which should free up a bit of your time, if little else.
Not even a Solo bet in Triumph... for now
I laid Solo at an average of [4.55] for the Triumph Hurdle at 13:30 in the immediate aftermath of his Kempton win as I thought the market over-reacted to the performance.
The UK handicapper certainly did in giving him a ridiculously high mark of 157.
Visually it was stunning, but the merit of the form and time were questionable, so I was happy to take him on as several of the opposition hold equally strong claims in my book.
But I closed out my position when he hit [4.6], primarily to free up funds and, secondly, I am not a big fan of laying at these kind of odds in isolation, as I was effectively backing the field at 2/7 against him.
I genuinely don't hold that a strong opinion on the race now - maybe I will place-lay Solo, or nibble Sir Psycho win-only - so I am happy to leave this one to you.
Hoping to steal some Silver in the County Hurdle
I have been waiting to back Stolen Silver all week - I sided with him NRNB in both the Supreme and Ballymore - and now I get my chance in the County Hurdle at 14:10.
Get with him at 16/1 each-way, six places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
As it transpired, I don't think he would have had a cat in hell's chance of winning either of the novice hurdles but I really like his chance off a mark of 143.
He has form with some of the better novices - he was giving Chantry House 6lb when beaten 1 3/4 -lengths by the Supreme third here in December - and the way he charged home from well off the pace in the Betfair Hurdle suggests he will love this test.
He was dropped 2lb for Newbury and, if he can travel more kindly than he did that day and stay in touch - though he didn't get the run of the race from the outset, it must be said - then I expect him to be on the premises.
Oakley was a head in front of him at Newbury and I was thinking he will be a factor here, too. I was going to tip and back him at [34.0] or bigger win-only on the exchange, as he too finished off his race well at Newbury and has improvement in him, but you have to be worried by the form of the Philip Hobbs yard at this meeting so far.
So, while you can fully see the case for the Irish challenge and Mohaayed (stable have won three of the last four runnings), I will side with Stolen Silver as my sole bet.
Highest rated in race can go well in Albert Bartlett
I have had a few nibbles on Ramses De Teillee at prices ranging from 25s to 16s in the Albert Bartlett at 14:50.
Nothing too heavy at all, but enough to have me rooting for him. However, and I can't quite put my finger on it, I seem to have gone off him a bit in the last 48 hours or so.
I pulled myself together though, as he is still a fair price at 12/1+ and is officially the highest-rated in the field.
He also has exactly the right profile you need for this war of attrition - well, it was before last year's race - and everything is in place for this talented grinder to go close.
Back him at 12/1 each way, four places, and I will also give a fair shout out to Fury Road at a similar price.
No opinion in Gold Cup of Foxhunters
A theme of this week for me has been having no betting opinion on the main race of the day and that continues on Friday as I haven't got a clue who will win the Gold Cup at 15:30.
I really do think you can make a case of sorts for all 12 at the prices, so I am not going to waffle on. It's a no-bet race, all over.
As is the Foxhunters' at 16:10 as I basically know nothing about any of the participants.
I wasn't joking when I said this piece was going to be briefer than usual.
However, as ever, handicaps to the rescue in the final two races of the Festival and I always have an opinion in these.
A potential Grade 1 horse in a handicap?
It was saddening to see Greaneteen trading at a lowly [5.2] for the Grand Annual at 16:50 as I really, really want to side with him here but that shortening price makes it difficult.
I do think he is the most likely winner as he has looked every inch a potential Grade 1 horse in winning at Musselburgh and Fakenham, and I reckon a mark of 150 seriously underestimates his long-term potential.
With a trouble-free round, he can't be far away, so I am going to put aside my usual reluctance to play at the top end of the market and recommend you backing him at 4/1 each-way, five places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
Us And Them initially interested me at 20/1+, too.
He would have no chance on his last three starts but at least he has come down a bit in the weights (and the UK handicapper has only given him an extra 1lb from his Irish mark) and the prospect of drying ground is in his favour.
Certainly, he is a big player off this mark if he returns to his Grade 1 efforts here and at Aintree last season, but it is a leap of faith to side with him after his recent displays.
I will just stick with my short-priced play on the favourite, although that is fully against my normal punting MO and I feel a bit of a fraud for doing so!
The 2018 runner-up Gino Trail and The Bay Birch are two others that I will give a positive mention to.
Flash can Steel the final race prize
I can fully see the case for the jolly Front View in the last - owner JP McManus hasn't had a bad week, has he? - but I am going to back Flash The Steel at at 18/1 each-way, five places in the Martin Pipe at 17:30.
The handicapper left his mark untouched despite the fact that he was beaten 85 lengths at Haydock last time, but you can see why, as the 3m experiment didn't work there.
He had earlier impressed when winning a very strong Silver Trophy over an extended 2m3f - a raft of winners were in behind, including Champagne Court, Imperial Aura, Indefatigable, Ballyandy and Greaneteen - and I suspect he remains well handicapped off an 8lb higher mark.
He clearly goes very well when fresh so I am not bothered by his absence since November, and Dan Skelton is a very patient trainer when he comes to the Festival anyway, and hopefully the first-time cheek pieces will help, too.
He is a very good bet.
Gordon Elliott took out Braid Blue in this race on Thursday morning, which allowed his Escaria Ten, first reserve, to get into the race.
The market was very slow to cotton on to this news, and indeed the Betfair Sportsbook were still 33s after this was confirmed.
Yes, hands up. I begged, borrowed and stole to get some 33s, 25s and 20s myself. I knew it couldn't last.
It has generally been all one-way traffic since, on the fixed-odds front and on the exchange, and he is now around a 12/1 chance.
He is apparently a very idle horse so expect a forcing ride from Fergus Gregory over this shorter trip - he has been winning over 3m - and there is a lot more to come from a horse with just three hurdling starts to his name.
He could be a major player here, but the price has gone on him to a large degree, so I won't put him up as a tip. He may be worth a small saver if you are so minded, though.
In fact, the Betfair Sportsbook have just pushed him out to 16/1 again, so back him each-way, too.
Good luck all.
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