Cheltenham day 4

And there was one. Final day of the Festival.

The British leapt off the canvas Thursday with five wins. Grey Dawning stalked Ginny’s Destiny, jumped sweetly and drew off to win the opener for Dan and Harry Skelton. Monmiral put Skelton’s former boss, Paul Nicholls, on the board in the Pertemps. Protektorat loved a slight class relief and a drop in trip to win the Ryanair, adding to the Skeltons’ stellar week. Shakem Up’Arry continued a good season for Ben Pauling. Golden Ace crushed the Irish banker (one of them!) for Jeremy Scott in the Ryanair Mares Novice Hurdle.

Teahupoo proved his team right by winning the Stayers. They aimed Irish Point at the Champion Hurdle because they had this likeable 7-year-old for the 3 miler. Gordon Elliott’s horses have run well all week. Another gem by Jack Kennedy. The gem of all gems was delivered by Derek O’Connor on the getting-out Inothewayurthinkin for Gavin Cromwell in the finale.

Willie Mullins produced two fourths from 11 starters on the third day. Funny old game.

And best of all, Paisley Park walked proudly off the stage – his stage – after finishing 10th in his seventh consecutive appearance at the Cheltenham Festival. His sixth straight Stayers. A winner in 2019, the now 11-year-old got an ovation worthy of a legend. Thanks for the memories, old friend.

Our handicapping slid a bit from the first two days. Ginny’s Destiny at 11/2 ran hard to be second in the Turners. Djelo at 25-1 finished third. Envoi Allen (9/4) finished second and Conflated (11-1) finished third in the Ryanair. Teahupoo, picked second, won at 5/4. Whacker Clan (17/2) took them a long way in the finale.

Once more unto the breach.

Race 1. 9:30. Eastern Standard Time. The JCB Triumph Hurdle. Grade 1. 2 1/8 miles. $162,000.

Nicky Henderson scratched favorite Sir Gino, opening up the opener. Paul Townend sticks with Storm Heart, second to stablemate Kargese at the Dublin Racing Festival. Danny Mullins keeps the ride on Kargese. In his Irish debut, Majborough finished just behind them and could improve for Mark Walsh.

Hard to split the seven-strong Mullins’ team. I’ll just take the price difference.

The Picks: Kargese, Majborough, Storm Heart.

Race 2. 10:10. Betmgm County Handicap Hurdle. 2 1/8 miles. $120,000.

Twenty-two in the County. You need a price, and it looks like Zenta. She’s 12-1 for Mullins and Walsh.

L’Eau Du Sud, So Scottish, King Of Kingsfield, Pied Piper, Magical Zoe look dangerous in a dangerous race. The former could keep the Skelton bus rolling but the price has gone on that stable.

The Picks: Zenta, King of Kingsfield, L’Eau Du Sud.

Race 3: 10:50. The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Grade 1. 3 miles. $162,000.

Reading Tommy Wrong looks like a standout here. The Mullins-trained novice is 2-1, which is too short for me.

The Picks: Readin Tommy Wrong, Gidleagh Park, Captain Teague.

Race 4. 11:30. The Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase. Grade 1. 3 ¼ miles. $750,000.

The big one. For the 100th time.

I’ll stand back and watch Galop Des Champs try to win his second Gold Cup. Last year, Paul Townend juggled knives, played with fire and walked on water in one of his greatest performances. He shouldn’t need those heroics this year. But it’s nice to know they’re there.

The Picks: Galopin Des Champs, Fastorslow, Gentlemansgame.

Race 5. 12:10. The St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase. 3 ¼ miles. $60,000.

The amateurs get their third chance at the Festival.

Premier Magic won it last year and returns with equal claims. Of course, there’s Derek “Plan ABCDF…” O’Connor on Its On The Line. Purchased for this by J P McManus, the five-time winner is short at 3/2 but we saw what happened yesterday.

The Picks: Its On The Line, Premier Magic, Ferns Lock.

Race 6. 12:50. The Mrs. Paddy Power Mares’ Chase. Grade 2. 2 5/8 miles. $144,000.

Dinoblue doesn’t offer any value at the top of the market while stretching to 2 5/8 on testing ground. Second in the Grand Annual last year, she needs to sit, settle and ridden for the trip. Limerick Lace and Allegorie De Vassy are dangers to her. I’ve always liked Carole’s Pass, you’ll get a price.

The Picks: Allegorie De Vassy, Limerick Lace, Dinoblue.

Race 7. 1:30. The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. 2 ½ miles. $90,000.

And then it was over. The apprentices finish the day, the week, in the Martin Pipe.

Who’s the best handicapped horse? In 2021, it was a one-time winning French-bred who went off 8-1. He’d go on and do big things. Galop Des Champs.

The Picks: Quai De Bourbon, Better Days Ahead, Waterford Whispers.