JOHN QUINN, successful in the Triumph Hurdle two years ago, can complete an encore in the JCB-sponsored opener to today’s final day of the Cheltenham Festival.
The Norton trainer is doubly represented by Rutherglen and Pearl Castle and preference is for the latter, the mount of Brian Hughes, who steered the Tim Easterby-trained Hawk High to a memorable 33-1 success for North Yorkshire on Wednesday.
Pearl Castle will relish the drying ground as he bids to complete a hat-trick over hurdles.
He has twice been successful at Doncaster, winning by a wide margin on his second outing before defying penalty in workmanlike style on his latest start.
Rutherglen is three-from-three for Quinn over hurdles and was also successful on his latest start on the Flat at Kempton. He will be ridden by Noel Fehily in place of the injured Jason Maguire and is a horse with leading claims.
But Pearl Castle may have slightly more firepower than his stablemate and, for that reason, he is awarded the nap vote as Quinn aims to triumph in the Triumph - again.
The Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup is the feature race on the final card and the showpiece event of the entire meeting. Bobs Worth is the true Cheltenham specialist.
He is unbeaten in five visits to the course and was the winner of last year’s Gold Cup. Although a bitter disappointment in the Befair Chase on his reappearance at Haydock, he came good in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas.
Silviniaco Conti, a faller three out in last year’s Gold Cup when travelling strongly, has since won the King Geoerge VI Chase at Kempton. Paul Nicholls’ talented charge looks sure to run a mighty race.
The talented, but china-legged Last Instalment, so impressive in the Hennessy Irish Gold Cup, the up-and-coming Triolo d’Alene, a stablemate of Bobs Worth, and The Giant Bolster, placed in two previous Gold Cups, all come into the reckoning. But Bobs Worth has a lot going for him on behalf of Nicky Henderson.
Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson have already had a couple of winners at the meeting and the Minehead combination can click again with Cheltenian in the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle.
Winner of the Championship Bumper at this fixture two years ago, Cheltenian won at Uttoxeter on his reappearance and has since finished a creditable fourth in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. He looks sure to go well in a wide-open race.
Malcolm Jefferson’s smart Urban Hymn and the David Pipetrained Kings Palace, unbeaten in three starts this season, are among the leading fancies for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, but preference is for Briar Hill from the all-conquering Willie Mullins yard.
Oscar Delta, so unlucky in last year’s CGA Foxhunters Chase, gets the chance to make amends this year.
1.30 Pearl Castle (NAP), 2.05 Cheltenian, 2.40 Briar Hill, 3.20 Bobs Worth, 4.00 Oscar Delta, 4.40 Vieux Lion Rouge, 5.15 Ned Buntline.
5.55 Handsome Stranger, 6.30 Goldmadchen, 7.00 Kraka Gym, 7.30 Aryal, 8.00 Beylerbey, 8.30 Lutine Charlie, 9.00 Bond Artist.
Today’s other meetings: Fakenham and Lingfield.
Tomorrow’s meetings: Fontwell, Kempton, Newcastle and Uttoxeter.