One of the most fascinating runners for the County Hurdle is Gordon Elliott's Tell Us More, who clearly possesses bundles of talent, but also has one or two ideas of his own. Make that three.
If Elliott can get Labaik to win a Supreme, then anything is possible! This horse has the lot. Purchased for £290,000 at Cheltenham four years ago, he's a typical Scorpion with wonderful looks (and a tricky mind). A most gorgeous type of a runner, he dazzled in his first two starts. He won a bumper by a wide margin, and ran riot on his hurdling debut at Gowran Park in 2014. His trainer at the time was Willie Mullins, and he said he could be top drawer.
He has dabbled with chasing, but his violent jumping to the left has held him back. He also put in an absolute horror show at Cork. However, this horse travels brilliantly in races, and even hit [1.14] in-running against a certain Sub Lieutenant at Naas last year in a Grade 3. That ultra-low price in-play litters his career, with a other defeats at [1.13] and [1.12].
He is enigmatic, doesn't often like a battle, and is very tricky. However, he is a natural talent. With Graded form in Ireland, he is seriously well-handicapped from 142 switching back to hurdles and will like good ground. Elliott has only had him for two starts, and one of those was a Grade 3 win over fences in November by a four lengths.
16:10 Foxhunters' Chase - Pacha Du Polder @ [4.20] 4 Places Exchange NB
The closest I have come to a winner this week was Sub Lieutenant's second in the Ryanair, and a place would do here for the ultra-reliable Pacha Du Polder in the Foxhunters. I plumped for him and Minella For Value in my ante-post piece, and the latter is not the worst [80.0] shot I have ever seen. However, it's the reliability of 'Pash' that swings it for me here - and to utilise the 4 Place Market on the Exchange.
He wasn't too far behind the mighty On The Fringe in this race a year ago, and he gave Victoria Pendleton a brilliant ride. I think they both helped each other out, and he was just about the perfect horse to negotiate a novice rider around such a tough track. It was a great moment.
His jumping is the main asset as he is so assured, and if he gets a clear round, he hopefully can grab a place. Today's rider Bryony Frost was on board last time in a Bangor Hunters' Chase, a race he won pretty easily in soft conditions, but I've always had him down as a horse that enjoys a sound surface. Pacha Du Polder is a thoroughly likeable horse, who potentially could improve on last year's run.
NEXT BEST BET: 14:50 Cheltenham Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle - Wholestone
Wholestone is taken to win this intriguing contest. This talented performer won over this course for the third time when beating William Henry in January. He fluffed his lines at the last, but stayed on really well up the hill to win decisively. The trip and the drying ground will suit this promising staying hurdler, and I believe there is more to come. At present he is trading at [8.4] on the exchange.
Death Duty is the short priced favourite at [3.15]. This gelding won a Grade 1 at Naas in January, and has yet to taste defeat this term. His conditioner is having a fantastic Festival and must be respected. But he is yet to race over this trip which is a slight concern.
NAP 15:30 Cheltenham Gold Cup - Native River
Native River should go very close in this historic race. This smart performer has captured three big prizes this season, and is bidding to add the Gold Cup to his tally. He followed up his win in the Hennessy with a game victory in the Welsh Grand National. On his latest start he made all to beat Le Mercurey in the Denman Chase over this course last month. He is a sound jumper, and will act on the drying ground. I still believe he has a little improvement left in him, and is attractively priced at [5.9] on the exchange.
Stablemate Cue Card could be the main danger. This grand campaigner thrashed Shantou Flyer at Ascot last month and comes in to this race in good order. He came to grief three from home in this race last year, and has solid claims if he puts his best foot forward.
NAP: 15:30 Cheltenham - Native River at 7/2
I wrote a piece on the ante-post market for the Gold Cup back in February where I was happy to take on Thistlecrack with Native River and I still stand by that piece (view here).
Native River has been running well all this season and improved after finishing an admirable second in the National Hunt Cup in March. After that he then went on to Aintree to win the Mildmay Novices' Chase a few weeks later, the Hennessy Gold Cup in November and then went to Chepstow where he carried 11st 12lb to victory in the Welsh Grand National. He jumps like a stag, gallops relentlessly, stays all day and has oodles of class to boot.
He will make this a proper test and tough for his rivals to get to him. His win in the Grade 2 Denman Chase showed he is more than capable of running well in this sort of company and with all things considered, I think he is set for a big race today.
NEXT BEST BET: 16:10 Cheltenham - On the Fringe at 7/4
On The Fringe, is going for a record breaking third win in the race for Enda Bolger. He was made to work hard for his win last year after looking beaten on the turn for home, but he never knows when to give up and has the brilliant Jamie Codd to partner him, who has already won two races at the Festival and remains one of the leading amateurs currently riding.
After winning his second Foxhunters last year he then went on to win the equivalent race at the Grand National festival in April and at Punchestown a few weeks later. He certainly isn't getting any younger but I think he still has more to give yet, he made his seasonal comeback run at Leopardstown last month and was going well before he started to empty towards the end of the race. It was interesting to note that he was a drifter in the market that day, going off what looked at the time a massive 4/1, and while being far from disgraced he wasn't ready for it.
I am sure the market will speak volumes again today but I am sure he will be ready and fit for this, I can't see any reason to oppose him.
The main danger in the field looks set to be the 153 rated Wonderful Charm, with trainer Paul Nicholls having booked Katie Walsh to ride. He has won both his Hunter Chasers comfortably this year, but the form of those races doesn't look strong and he hasn't registered a win at Cheltenham in five attempts.
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