Cheltenham Festival Tips: Tom Collins provides his selection for every race on Friday

16 March 2023

The final day of the Cheltenham festival is here, which means there are just seven races left to enjoy before we bid goodbye to the best jumps meeting for another year.

It won’t be long before we embark on Aintree’s Grand National meeting, Punchestown’s spring festival and the eagerly anticipated flat season. But before all that, here are my tips for Festival Friday.

Triumph Hurdle (1.30 Cheltenham)

Only two four-year-old fillies have won the Triumph Hurdle since the turn of the century - Francois Doumen’s Snow Drop in 2000 and Burning Victory in 2020. The latter was lucky to enter the winner’s enclosure as Goshen held an unassailable lead when he unseated Jamie Moore at the last hurdle (sorry to remind you!).

Lossiemouth will bid to defy that trend this year and she could go off favourite as Paul Townend has opted to ride her over Blood Destiny. She comes out top on figures once you factor in her sex allowance, and she would have won last time but for traffic problems. Her jumping isn’t an issue and she has a nice turn of foot, but she had a hard race last time and will prove vulnerable if she’s not 100% ready.

I prefer Blood Destiny, who romped home on Irish debut at Cork and followed that up with an improved effort at Fairyhouse in January. This son of No Risk At All beat subsequent Grade 2 Adonis winner Nusret by 18-and-a-half lengths and Tuesday’s Boodles winner Jazzy Matty by 23 lengths that day, so the form looks pretty strong. He has a forward-going style and getting first run on Lossiemouth could prove crucial.

Selection: Blood Destiny @ 2/1

County Handicap Hurdle (2.10 Cheltenham)

Willie Mullins and Dan Skelton have farmed the County Hurdle in recent times with seven winners between them from the last eight renewals. They’re both well represented again - Mullins’ squad is headed by the unexposed Hunters Yarn and classy Sharjah, while Skelton runs Pembroke. They’re all players.

Pied Piper, who was reportedly being trained for the Champion Hurdle before rerouting here, and last year’s fifth Ballyadam deserve mentions at bigger prices. But I’m going to stick to the best handicapped and most progressive horse in the field, Filey Bay.

This seven-year-old has only had 10 starts in his career, but just three of those have come for the ultra shrewd Emmet Mullins. The first two outings resulted in bloodless successes in weak handicap hurdles, while he was unlucky not to peg back Aucunrisque in the Betfair Hurdle last time out given that rival was helped by dictating matters from the outset. Filey Bay finished 11 lengths clear of the third and still looks well treated off 8lb higher. A first-time tongue-tie could elicit further improvement.

Selection: Filey Bay @ 6/1

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (2.50 Cheltenham)

The Albert Bartlett is undoubtedly my favourite novice hurdle to punt in all week as there is always great value on offer among the outsiders, especially those who may not have shown their best form over shorter trips and are likely to improve for a greater stamina test.

I respect Corbetts Cross and believe that he should be favourite - his victory over an inadequate 2m last time showcased his talent. He has stronger form claims than Three Card Brag, Embassy Gardens and Hiddenvalley Lake. However, I backed two Willie Mullins trainees in the ante-post market a couple of months ago and I still like their chances.  

The first is Seabank Bistro, who was actually sent off at 8/11 to beat the aforementioned Corbetts Cross in a Limerick maiden hurdle in December. He was too far back in that race and could never get on terms, but he made eyecatching progress turning in and was perhaps a touch unlucky. His subsequent victory at Naas was franked by the second, who has won since, and he seems way overpriced.

Shanbally Kid also appeals as a horse who will improve over this 3m trip. This six-year-old has been well punted on both starts this term and, although his jumping let him down the first time, he justified the support on his second attempt when he beat Monty’s Star. That rival is a shorter price than him for the Albert Bartlett, which makes little sense, and I love the booking of Danny Mullins.

Selection: Shanbally Kid @ 22/1, Seabank Bistro @ 25/1

Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (3.30 Cheltenham)

What a race this is! A rising star (Galopin Des Champs) faces last year’s winner (A Plus Tard) and runner-up (Minella Indo), the King George winner (Bravemansgame) and runner-up (Royale Pagaille), a Grand National hero (Noble Yeats) and this season’s Betfair Chase victor (Protektorat) among others.

A horse that I haven’t mentioned is Stattler, who I uncharacteristically backed at 20/1 for this race 363 days ago. Not much has put me off in the interim - he’s the stoutest stayer in the field, and his accurate jumping and abundant stamina will see him pick up the pieces if the market leaders disappoint. I’m not going to go in again at half the price, but I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t finish in the top three. 

Stattler (right): former smart hurdler can be a major player in the Cheltenham Gold Cup

For those looking for the most likely winner, Galopin Des Champs would be my suggestion. He may not have wowed us at the Dublin Racing Festival, but he proved his stamina that day and settled in the early stages, which is key to his chance here. A Plus Tard has major questions to answer after his Haydock disappointment, while Bravemansgame has already run his ‘Gold Cup’ this season.

Selection: Stattler @ 20/1 ante-post

Hunters’ Chase (4.10 Cheltenham)

Honesty is the best policy, so it’s wise to tell you that I don’t spend much of my time watching hunter chases. That being said, I’ve seen plenty from the market protagonists and Vaucelet looks the most logical selection.

David Christie has a stranglehold on this division and opted to rely on just Vaucelet from three high-powered entries. Vaucelet bypassed Cheltenham last year - Christie called him ‘immature’ in the build-up - but he’s gone from strength-to-strength since and showcased his stamina inside the final furlong on his most recent outing. I’ll be tuning in but won’t have a bet. 

Selection: Vaucelet @ 11/4

Mares Chase (4.50 Cheltenham)

As talented as Allegorie De Vassy is, it’s ridiculously hard to win a chase at the Cheltenham festival if you repeatedly lose ground over the fences. Mount Ida proved it’s doable a couple of years ago, but I wouldn’t want to risk my money on a repeat happening here.

She jumped pretty terribly last time out at Thurles - out to the right the whole way and almost came down early on - but it was a similar case with Gaelic Warrior (albeit not as severe) on his prep run and he was better in the Ballymore on Wednesday. If she jumps straight she’ll go very close, but I have more trust in Impervious.

This seven-year-old mare has jumped with precision in three starts this term, and the form of her penultimate victory received a timely boost when runner-up Dinoblue filled the same berth in the Plate on Wednesday. If that wasn’t enough, she gave weight and a beating to the boys when last seen, which included subsequent winner Journey With Me. She’s clearly very good and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Selection: Impervious @ 2/1

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle (5.30 Cheltenham)

I will be surprised if the Irish don’t leave Cheltenham on a high, but this looks like a minefield. I’ve seen easier races for losing punters to get out of trouble!

Willie Mullins’ Spanish Harlem will be partnered by in-form rider Michael O’Sullivan, so he’s sure to attract significant market support. I’m not doubting that a mark of 135 seems pretty lenient, but this horse looks to be a proper three-miler in the making and I’m not convinced he will have the speed to win this.

The same could be said for Cool Survivor, though he’s achieved more in his short career and will relish the recent rainfall. He finished fourth in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown last time and now drops into handicap company off a nice-looking mark of 140. Sam Ewing is very talented, too.

Selection: Cool Survivor @ 11/2

Cheltenham Festival Friday Tips

1.30 Cheltenham - Blood Destiny @ 2/1
2.10 Cheltenham - Filey Bay @ 6/1
2.50 Cheltenham - Shanbally Kid @ 22/1, Seabank Bistro @ 25/1
3.30 Cheltenham - Stattler @ 20/1 ante-post
4.10 Cheltenham - Vaucelet @ 11/4
4.50 Cheltenham - Impervious @ 2/1
5.30 Cheltenham - Cool Survivor @ 11/2

All prices were available at the time of writing and will be used in the Cheltenham P/L, which will be posted at the bottom of my daily tipping articles this week. Current P/L to £10 win level-stakes after three days: -£15.36.

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