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Homeracing

Cheltenham Festival 2022: Day 4 Spot Plays

Profile Picture: Alastair Bull

March 17th, 2022

The fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival saves the best for last. At a festival full of highlights, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the big one. For open steeplechasers over 3 5/16 miles, it’s the richest steeplechase in Britain held at set weights. Winners need class, speed, fluent jumping, and the extra bit of stamina for the final five-sixteenths of a mile, the last bit of which is up the testing Cheltenham hill that proves a great test for the best of them.

The program also includes two intriguing Grade 1 hurdle races, a Grade 2, a Grade 3, and two popular ungraded events, the Hunters’ Chase and the Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle.

TwinSpires has a Bet-Back offer at Cheltenham this week. If you opt in, you are eligible for your bet back with second and third finishers for all races, all week. We hope to help persuade you to be part of the fun. With that in mind, let’s have a look at the card!

FRIDAY, MARCH 18

Race 1: Triumph Hurdle (G1), 2 1/8 miles, four-year-old hurdlers

A solid 12-horse field contests the feature for juvenile hurdlers. Judging by how #9 Pied Piper beat the English juvenile hurdlers on this track Jan. 29, it looks like another race for the Irish. Pied Piper is headed in the market by #12 Vauban, who lost narrowly to Pied Piper on debut prior to Vauban’s destroying a useful field at the Dublin Festival. But given that he’s already beaten Vauban and with his experience at Cheltenham, Pied Piper can stay unbeaten. #6 Knight Salute and #10 Porticello look the best of the locals.

  • $20 win: #9 Pied Piper
  • $1 trifecta: 9, 12 with 6, 9, 12 with 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12

Race 2: County Handicap Hurdle (G3), 2 1/8 miles, open hurdlers

A full field of 26 has been declared, but much of the money is on #15 State Man. He’s only raced over hurdles once but couldn’t have been more impressive when winning at Limerick. He faces a much better field here, but the Mullins stable is in good form and you can’t ignore him. Perhaps the one most likely to test him is #16 Colonel Mustard, who has run great races behind Jonbon and Sir Gerhard at his last two starts.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #15 State Man
  • $20 show: #16 Colonel Mustard

Race 3: Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (G1), three miles, novice hurdles

This 19-horse novice hurdle has huge depth in talent as well as numbers, and several of these should prove to be fine hurdlers and steeplechasers in the seasons to come. However, the one that might prove outstanding is #10 Hillcrest, whose only defeat in five hurdle races was when another horse brought him down. The best Irish challengers look to be Grade 1 winners #7 Ginto and #13 Minella Cocooner, but if the ground stays testing after Wednesday’s rain, it could well be a local victory.

  • $20 win/$40 show: #10 Hillcrest

Race 4: Cheltenham Gold Cup (G1), 3 5/16 miles, open steeplechasers

The big one of the year, with $460,000 to the winner, and yet it looks very open. Ireland’s challenge is strong – it includes last year’s winner #7 Minella Indo, 2019 and 2020 winner #1 Al Boum Photo, 2021 runner-up #2 A Plus Tard, Savills Chase winner #6 Galvin, and King George VI Chase winner #11 Tornado Flyer.

The locals are headed by exciting Aintree winner #8 Protektorat, Cheltenham favorite #5 Chantry House, and the tough stayer #9 Royale Pagaille, who will love the rain.

It’s hard to oppose the Irish, but I was mightily impressed by Protektorat and if he can reproduce that form, he can compete with them. Galvin may be the best of the Irish given the likelihood of a strong staying test.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #8 Protektorat

Race 5: St. James’ Place Hunters Chase, 3 5/16 miles, hunter steeplechasers, amateur riders

An exciting renewal of this race looks set. Last year’s runner-up #2 Billaway is back, as is #3 Bob And Co, who looked a great chance until he fell three from home. The form horse, however, is #19 Winged Leader, who beat Billaway at Thurles Jan. 23. #4 Cousin Pascal is also worth a look.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #19 Winged Leader
  • $1 box exacta: 2, 3, 4, 19

Race 6: Paddy Power Mares’ Chase (G2), 2 9/16 miles, female steeplechasers

Just eight mares line up for this race, and the Irish runners are heading the market again through #1 Concertista, #3 Elimay, and #5 Mount Ida. However, I’m going to look at #7 Vienna Court, who has won twice on this course this season, including against the males in Grade 3 company in the New Year’s Day Handicap Chase.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #7 Vienna Court

Race 7: Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle, 2 9/16 miles, hurdlers, conditional riders

The festival ends with this very open 24-runner hurdle. There’s a good deal of talent in this race, but the one that stands out on form is #2 Hollow Games, who at his last two starts was third in Grade 1 novice events, once behind Ginto and the other behind Minella Cocooner. The best of the locals may be #15 Cobblers Dream, who looks worth a go with a place bet.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #2 Hollow Games
  • $10 show: #15 Cobblers Dream

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