Cheltenham: Gold Cup day

Can Willie Mullins back up his remarkable Thursday haul with a Djakadam win in the Gold Cup?

Malachy Clerkin, Ruaidhri Croke Fri, Mar 17
 
LIVE: Cheltenham: Gold Cup day

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  • Day Four and what better way to celebrate our glory as a nation than to sit inside and shout at horses, pausing only to occasionally adjust our leprechaun hat. Welcome to Gold Cup Day at The Irish Times.
  • Malachy Clerkin here with the Day Four Liveblog and first, a word from hands-down the bigliest friend Ireland will ever have.
  • So what to make of today? It has been, as ever, a glorious week's racing. We arrive at Gold Cup day with more Irish winners than ever at this point and the all-time record almost certain to be broken. We arrive here with Gordon Elliott only one winner ahead of Willie Mullins, which looked anything but likely on Wednesday night. And, most importantly of all, we arrive at an incredibly open Gold Cup in which any one of the top eight in the betting wouldn't surprise you as the winner. Plenty to discuss, so.
  • After yesterday's return to form, it's no real surprise that the Ruby Walsh/Willie Mullins combination has been backed into favouritism overnight, with Djakadam now a general 3/1 shot. The other mover today has been Jessie Harrington's Sizing John, into 7/1 in some places.
  • Sizing John is the fancy of our guest tipster for the week, Tony Keenan. You can check out his Day Four selections here.
  • Brian O'Connor, meanwhile, fancies Djakadam to end Mullins' long line of seconds in the race. His Gold Cup preview is here.
  • And Brian has an interview with the Fat Cat In The Hat himself, Rich Ricci, for your reading delight ahead of the feature. Ricci finally got a winner for the week yesterday when Let's Dance won the Mares' Novices Hurdle and his interview with Brian is here.
  • Brian's last remaining piece - we work him hard over there - previews the remaining races outside the Gold Cup and he's sweet on Cheltenham hero On The Fringe keeping up his remarkable record.
  • First race of the day is the Triumph Hurdle, which looks like an especially decent heat this year. With 25 minutes to post, here's a betting check...
    Defi Du Seuil 9/4
    Charli Parcs 4/1
    Master Blueyes 8/1
    Landofhopeandglory 10/1
    Bapaume 11/1
    Mega Fortune 12/1
    20/1 Bar  

  • Whatever happens here, it's the sort of racve that will have eyebrows raised afterwards. There's every chance  Defi Du Seuil is actually a fair cut above there rest here - Richard Johnson's horse comes here with a string of ones beside his name. It might turn out to be surprising that he was so easy to back.
  • The other surprising prices at this remove are probably the 12/1 about Mega Fortune and the 22/1 about Dinaria Des Obeaux. The Irish juveniles seem to be getting dismissed here for some unknown reason. Both horses are surely more dangerous than the prices suggest.
  • Oh, and also, Nicky Henderson has apparently said privately that Charlie Parcs is the Triumph winner, no questions asked. So basically, it's a massively competitive race.
  • Dinaria Des Obeaux's price is collapsing here - into 14/1 from 22s.
  • Horses going down to the start for the Triumph...
  • Bit of a delay here - Rachael Blackmore's horse Ex-Patriot has gone off running loose around the track. Hopefully they get reuinited and are okay to race.
  • Horse and jockey are reunited. Should be off soon.
  • Horses out onto the course...
  • And they're away...
  • Dinaria Des Obeaux leads them out over the first, Mega Fortune alongside.
  • Noel Fehily has Charli Parcs out wide, Richard Johnson just inside him on Defi Du Seuil.
  • Three Irish horses out front - Mega Fortune,  Dinaria Des Obeaux and Bapaume. Going a good pace so far.
  • Master Blue Eyes in touch with Mega Fortune and  Dinaria Des Obeaux now, three hurdles left to jump.
  • Defi Du Seuil is moving up steadiuly, not letting the leaders get away, travelling like a dream.
  • Dinaria Des Obeaux and Mega Fortune over the second last together, Defi Du Seuil in close order.
  • Johnson is holding onto Defi Du Seuil here, Rachael Blackmore coming up on the outside on Ex-Patriot
  • Defi Du Deuil is away over the last!
  • Defi Du Seuil first, Mega Fortune second, Bapaume third. Ex-Patriot gavce it everything but faded after the last.
  • Talk about being ridden liuke defeat was out of the question. An uber-confident ride from Richard Johnson. His second winner of the week. Looks a serious horse.
  • That was a huge run for Ex-Patriot to finish fourth at 28/1.  
  • A first winner of the week for Philip Hobbs - he must feel he has a potential Champion Hurdle horse on his hands.  
  • "He's a horse that has improved everytime I've ridden him. He's a lovely horse but I never would have thought he had the class he showed there. Barry Geraghty will have a lovely hoirse to look forward to when he comes back."
    Richard Johnson.
  • The second race of the day is the County Hurdle - another wide open affair. We'll start with a betting check...
    Ivanovich Gorbatov 15/2
    North Hill Harvey 7/1
    Wait For Me 11/1
    Winter Escape 11/1
    Air Horse One 12/1
    Renneti 12/1
    Tell Us More 16/1
    18/1 Bar  
  • Good news about Douvan there, it would appear.
  • The County Hurdle is always a tricky old race. Could you really fancy  Ivanovich Gorbatov here? He seems an unlikely favourite, even though he won the Triumph Hurdle last year. North Hill Harvey has been a bit of a talking horse on the preview circuit and Winter Escape has the profile of a plot horse - even if you'd have to be worried about the stable form of Alan King's horses this week.
  • In a week where Labaik, Yorkhill and Un De Sceaux have all won, Renneti could be worth keeping an eye on here. He's another one with his own way of doing things. Renneti is about 50/50 to jump off - and has already caused Ruby Walsh a problem heading down to the start. He's had to remount on the way down. If he jumps off, he has a right chance.  

  • Big move for  Ivanovich Gorbatov here - he's been backed in to 5/1.
  • Horses going out onto the course now...
  • Renneti is detached from the rest of ther field down at the start. Hard to tell iof that's deliberate on Ruby's part or if Renneti just doesn't fancy it.
  • And they're away..
  • Renneti has jumped off anyway
  • Ivanovich Gorbatov is prominent early on, North HIll Harvey just in behind.
  • Wakea  is setting the gallop up front.  Ivanovich Gorbatov in behind, Diego Du Charmil, last year's Fred Winter winner is tracking him.
  • Wakea has kicked on here, he's stretched a good 15 lengths clear under Donagh Meyler.  
  • He's an absolute mile clear here. Has he paced it correctly?
  • They're panicking in behind now. Wakea still well clear going to the last.
  • They're swallowing him up. Artic Fire is coming!
  • Another winner for Willie Mullins!
  • Arctic Fire hasn't had a race for over a year but Mullins has got him back for this. He wins it carrying top weight beating L'Ami Serge.
  • Great winner for Paul Townend. Beautifully judged ride.
  • That makes it 15 Irish-trained winners for the week. That's the Betbright Cup sorted.
  • A couple of hard-luck stories in behind there. Daryl Jacob has had no luck all week and he must have thought halfway up the run-in that he had this one. And what about Ozzie The Oscar? He was 50/1 and came with every chance over the last. But Arctic Fire was the best horse in the race and Townend rode him as such.
  • That makes it five wins apiece for Mullins and Elliott, of course. Leading Trainer could go to count-back yet. So far, Elliott has three second places and two third; Mullins has two seconds and four thirds. Mega Fortune beating Bapaume into second in the Triumph Hurdle could been crucial yet.
  • Onto the Albert Bartlett, the race for novice staying hurdlers. Elliott has the favouritre here, one of the best-fancied horses of the week. But Mullins has the second favourite and isn't without a shout.
  • Betting check...
    Death Duty  13/8
    Augusta Kate 6/1
    Wholestone 7/1
    Monalee 8/1
    The World's End 9/1
    Constantine Bay 12/1
    16/1 Bar
  • Augusta Kate is owned by a syndicate including Lee Westwood, Alan Shearer, And & Dec and Graham Wylie  - which may or may not make you shout for it.
  • This can be brute of a race and in fact there's a school of thought that says Death Duty is actually a bit too classy for it. Elliott has been bullish about this horse all season, adamant that it's better than Don Cossack was at this age. We shall see.
  • Horses going down to the start.
  • Monalee has thrown David Mullins here
  • And they're away...
  • Ami Debois is out in front, Monalee is in touch in behiond. Augusta Kate has been put to sleep out the back, Death Duty is in midfield. Long way to go.
  • There's abotu 20 lengths between first and left. Ami Desbois is enjoying life at the front.  
  • Ami Desbois leading as they go out for the second lap, Any Dramas in behind, Monelee right up with the pace. The main players are biding their time. Augusta Kate has been untidy over some of the hurdles and is plumb last.
  • Monalee is fourth, Wholestone fifth, Death Duty sixth. Augusta Kate has a huge amount to do. Two to jump.

  • The World's End is down at the second last. Wholestone and Monalee are coming.
  • Penhill is flying from the clouds!
  • Wholestone, Monalee and Penhill jump the last together.
  • Penhill is away and gone - Willie Mullins again, Paul Townend again!
  • Another dinger of a ride from Townend. That's a quickfire double.
  • Death Duty was nowhere and actually came home riderless - Bryan Cooper was sent packing at the last. Surely his ideal trip is shorter than that from here on out.
  • Augusta Kate was never going - Ruby was working away on her going down the back straight. And still the first two home were Irish-trained.
  • Malachy has been allowed the rest of the day off seeing as it is St Patrick's Day so it's Ruaidhrí Croke with you for the Gold Cup and the final three races afterwards.

    That's Willie Mullins up to six winners in a day and a half now so can he round it all off with the one they all want to win?

    Djakadam is currently the favourite at 11/4 to round off what looked like it could be a disastrous week for the Mullins/Walsh combination.  

    Or can Cue Card provide Paddy Brennan with the ultimate redemption after he fell in this race last year?

    Or perhaps Native River can win the trophy for Colin Tizzard after some felt his chances were gone when Thistlecrack was ruled out.

    Or it might just be a case that the big three are all beaten and Sizing John, Outlander, More Of That or another one of the 14-strong field take the biggest prize of them all.

    The horses are in the parade ring and we're just 20 minutes away!

  • Here's the latest betting:

    11/4 Djakadam

    4/1 Native River

    9/2 Cue Card

    13/2 Sizing John

    11/1 Outlander

    14/1 More Of That

    16/1 Champagne West

    20/1 Minella Rocco

    25/1 Bristol De Mai

    40/1 Saphir Du Rheu

    50/1 Smad Place

    50/1 Tea For Two

    66/1 Irish Cavalier

    The jockeys are on their way out!

  • The horses are on their way down to post, who are we picking?
  • THEY'RE OFF IN THE CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP!
  • Champagne West, Bristol De Mai and Native River lead over the first fence.
  • Tea For Tea is gone! Lizzie Kelly's mount falls at the second fence!
  • Cue Card is sitting nicely in midfield just behind Djakadam with Native River spearheading the leading trio ahead of Bristol De Mai and Champagne West with 16 left to jump.
  • Champagne West still leads as they turn downhill with Native River in second and Djakadam tucked in behind. Cue Card still sits nicely in midfield.
  • It's as you were as they complete their first circuit with Champagne West leading by a length.

    10 fences to jump as they pass the grandstand!

  • Champagne West leads by half a length from Native River with eight to jump. Ruby is sitting nicely on Djakadam, tucked in in third place and beginning to move on the front two.
  • Irish Cavalier has been pulled up with five to take.

    Native River has taken the lead as Djakadam pushed up on him with three to jump!

  • Cue Card falls at the third last!
  • Sizing John leads over the last fence with Djakadam in hot pursuit!
  • SIZING JOHN WINS THE CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP!
  • Gold Cup results:

    1. Sizing John

    2. Minella Rocco

    3. Native River

    Cue Card and Paddy Brennan fell at third last fence for the second year running.

  • Well what a race that was!

    Ruby Walsh rode Djakadam beautifully the whole way and looked to be moving him into the perfect position to pounce up the stretch.

    But then he just clipped the last fence and fell out of position, allowing Sizing John to power home ahead of Minella Rocco and Native River.

  • Jessica Harrington becomes the most successful female trainer ever after a 10th Cheltenham Festival win.  

    Looking back on the Cue Card fall it's absolutely identical to last year's. Thankfully the horse and Paddy Brennan are up and okay.

  • Okay, on we go. We still have three races left in the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.

    First up is the Foxhunter Chase where On The Fringe leads the betting with Jamie Codd on board.

    6/4 On The Fringe

    4/1 Wonderful Charm

    8/1 Ask The Weatherman

    11/1 Paint The Clouds

    14/1 Sweet As A Nut

    16/1 Pacha Du Polder

    Bar: 25/1

  • Anseanachai Cliste is a non-runner in the Foxhunter.

    Just five minutes from the off now.

  • THEY'RE OFF IN THE FOXHUNTER CHASE!
  • Balnaslow and Ask The Weatherman lead them over the first fence.
  • On the fifth fence Current Event moves ahead of Ask The Weatherman with Balnaslow still out in front.

    Favourite On The Fring is sitting well back for Jamie Codd who is just easing him along down the hill.

  • On The Fringes beginning to improve now as Balnaslow still leads, now extending that lead to two lengths from Paint The Clouds with Grand Jesture on the outside and Ask The Weatherman just behind on the rail.
  • Balnaslow still out in front with six to go, as he has been from the start. Paint The Clouds is poised in second with Ask The Weatherman still nicely placed on the rail.

    Salsify and On The Fringe are still well back and need to make a move.

  • Balnaslow and Paint The Clouds are pushing right out ahead now with two to jump.
  • It's Balnaslow and Pacha Du Polder over the last!
  • PACHA DU POLDER SURGES TO THE FINISH TO TAKE THE FOXHUNTER CHASE!
  • It's a first win of the week for Paul Nicholls.

    Wonderful Charm comes in second for Katie Walsh with Barel Of Laughs in third.

  • Right, the pick of the action is over but don't go anywhere. There are still two more races to go at this year's Festival and you can follow all of the action here.


    Next up is the Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle at 4.50.


    Betting:


    5/1 Battleford


    7/1 Coo Star Sivola


    7/1 No Comment


    9/1 Runfordave


    10/1 Castello Sforza


    14/1 I Shot The Sheriff


    14/1 Rather Be


    Bar: 16/1


    No Comment is our man in the Cotswolds Brian O'Connor's NAP for the day while Gordon Elliott's Runfordave has been tipped around all afternoon.

  • Just five minutes to go now and the horses are on their way down to post!
  • There's just a bit of trouble here with Champagne Classic which is delaying the start.  

    But it looks to be all sorted now and we're ready to go!

  • Coo Star Sivola leads them out from Doesyourdogbite.
  • We've had two fallers early on with Rather Be and Gibralfaro both going down.  

    Coo Star Sivola is still making the running at a relaxed pace with Does Your Dog Bite and Catamaran Du Seuil close behind.

  • Coo Star Sivola leads from Doesyourdogbite while No Comment begins to make head way with two hurdles to go.
  • Here comes Runfordave while Champagne Classic leads out.
  • CHAMPAGNE CLASSIC WINS!
  • Gordon Elliott's Champagne Classic crosses the line first in the hands of JJ Slevin which moves Elliott alongside Willie Mullins with six wins!

    However Mullins doesn't have a runner in the last race so we won't have a decider.

  • Michael O'Leary has had a typical and very interesting response to that win for Champagne Classic, saying that "he's without doubt the worst horse I own."

    Tha would be nice, wouldn't it? Having a winner at Cheltenham with the worst horse you own.

  • Just the Grand Annual Chase to go now to round off the festival. Can Gordon Elliott claim a seventh winner and pip Willie Mullins? He has Bryan Cooper on The Game Changer in this one.

    Betting:

    7/2 Le Prezien

    7/1 Dandridge

    10/1 Rock The World

    10/1 Theinval

    11/1 The Game Changer

    12/1 Dodging Bullets

    12/1 Velvet Maker

    16/1 Sizing Platinum

    16/1 Calipto

    Bar: 20/1

  • GORDON ELLIOTT WINS THE TOP FESTIVAL TRAINER TITLE!
  • We're nearly there now for the final race of the festival.

    I'm sure there's a number of you out there hoping to maybe save the week on this one so let's hope it goes that way!

  • THEY'RE OFF IN THE FINAL RACE OF THE 2017 CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL!
  • Croco Bay leads them out over the first three fences with Velvet Maker just behind.
  • Croco Bay maintains the lead over the water jump in what's a very tightly packed group. Velvet Maker runs in second.
  • Croco Bay is jumping beautifully and still leads with three to go!
  • Croco Bay and Bright New Dawn are neck and neck with two to run as Dandridge makes his move!
  • Rock The World takes the lead over the final fence!
  • ROCK THE WORLD WINS THE JOHNNY HENDERSON GRAND ANNUAL FOR JESSICA HARRINGTON AND ROBBIE POWER!
  • Harrington and Power put the icing on the cake with a finale win to add to the Gold Cup earlier this afternoon.  

    What a day.

  • That's an incredible 19 winners for Ireland this week!

    On St Patrick's Day Jessica Harrington rounds off a 19th win out of a total of 28 races. What an incredible achievement for Ireland!

  • So that's that, then.  

    One of the most dramatic and exciting weeks of the sporting year is over and it's been an absolutely resounding success for Ireland.

    With that I shall leave you. Thanks for reading along and make sure to stay tuned to www.irishtimes.com/sport for Brian O'Connor's reports and reaction from Cheltenham.

    Bye!