Cheltenham Festival tips: Irish angle – Five Irish-trained horses to watch on day 4 of the Festival

BOY WONDER Joseph O’Brien is only 25, but he has already won a Melbourne Cup on the Flat and he landed his first Cheltenham Festival winner on Wednesday when Band Of Outlaws won the Fred Winter.

This is the race that many thought would be his first though with the red-hot favourite Sir Erec in today’s Triumph Hurdle.

Joseph O'Brien has racing blood coursing through his veins
Joseph O’Brien has racing blood coursing through his veins
Reuters

Trained by his father before him, this fellow is a class apart – he’s bred more in the vein of a Derby prospect than a Cheltenham Festival one, but boy does he fly over his hurdles.

Talking of pedigrees – there aren’t many finer than Joseph’s.

His sire is the legendary Aidan, no stranger to Cheltenham glory before turning his hands to the Flat, and his dam is stunning model Anne-Marie, whose father Joe Crowley broke in and sold 1983 Gold Cup winner Bregawn – part of Dickinson’s famous five.

Joseph has racing blood coursing through his veins!

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There aren’t many Royal Ascots that Aidan turns up to without going away with more than one winner and Joseph will be hoping to do the same here at Prestbury Park with the Classic bred Sir Erec.

He’s still an entire, so I’m sure he’ll be on the lookout for some frisky fillies, but if Mark Walsh – fresh from landing the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday – can keep his mind on the job he looks a good thing.

His jumping is improving, he has tactical gears and he clearly stays well.

Benie didn’t deliver on Tuesday, but this fellow can – he’s the real Irish banker.

Gardens of Babylon also represents the Piltown handler and he’s no forlorn hope – he can make it a 1-2 for the boy wonder.

Better is expected from Closutton’s Tiger Tap Tap who has a bit to find with Sir Erec but today’s conditions will be more suitable.

Sir Erec and Joseph OBrien after their Grade 1 victory last time out
Sir Erec and Joseph OBrien after their Grade 1 victory last time out
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We’ve won the County six times in the last ten years and I would be shocked if we didn’t win it again this year. Heading the pack is Whiskey Sour, the mount of Ruby Walsh.

He was gambled into favouritism for the Galway Hurdle last summer only to be beaten fair and square by three of his stablemates on the day and the same could happen again here with Cut The Mustard and Mr Adjudicator both lively contenders for team Closutton.

You need to be near Champion Hurdle class to win a County and that’s what Mr Adjudicator could be – we all saw what Espoir D’Allen did on Tuesday and they have form together having beaten each other before.

The flashy five-year-old’s been in my tracker all season for a big handicap and this should really suit given he was second over track and trip here in the Triumph last season.

Paul Townend has ridden big priced winners of this twice in the last four years – he can make it three here.

Gordon Elliott has three too, the best of which looks to be the Jack Kennedy-ridden Eclair De Beaufeu.

Due Reward is interesting for Henry De Bromhead given he ran in a Grade 1 on his penultimate start and Brex Drago is available at huge odds for Champion Hurdle winning trainer Gavin Cromwell.

The Albert Bartlett is fondly named ‘The Potato Race’ and it’s the perfect lead-in to the big one – The Gold Cup.

It has all the ingredients needed for a championship staying race – class, speed, stamina, toughness – and it’s not a huge shock to find that even future Gold Cup winners have struggled to make the podium – Native River could only finish ninth in the 2015 renewal. Mark my words this is very much a savage race – it’s a proper test.

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THE new Sun Racing app is here – and it's sent the bookies running for cover.

The brilliant new app, which is free to download ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, features:

  1. Best Odds – our odds comparison tool keeps the bookies honest
  2. Predictor – rank the field by 18 different categories, such as weight, draw, career prize money and jockey wins
  3. Tips & news – get a steer from the best tipsters in the business in our news tab

Head over to the App Store to download it for free.

Usually you want a stayer with plenty of ability and nothing fits that bill more than Gigginstown’s Commander Of Fleet.

Thought good enough to contest the Royal Bond before stepping up in trip to win his Grade 1 at the Dublin Festival – this is a stayer with real gears.

Allaho is an interesting French recruit and I loved the way he went through the race at Clonmel last month. He lacks experience, but he has a big engine and if they can get him to settle early he’s sure to be a big player.

The money has poured in for Derrinross this week, but I am not sure if the ground is going to be soft enough for him and making all in this race is not the easiest thing to do.

Commander Of Fleet won well in a good race last time out
Commander Of Fleet won well in a good race last time out
PA:Press Association

The big question on everybody’s lips is will Presenting Percy win the Gold Cup – but there will be plenty of them also wondering if trainer Pat Kelly will give an interview if he does!

Kelly’s a very quiet, unassuming Galway man that shuns the media spotlight – but I hope he doesn’t this afternoon for his own benefit.

It’s his prerogative what he does with his time, but there’s not many that have won this race – the pinnacle of the sport – and it would be a pleasure to hear from the man carrying the hopes of a nation this afternoon.


Davy Russell knows what it feels like to win a Gold Cup having ridden Lord Windermere to victory five years ago and he is struggling to contain his enthusiasm for Presenting Percy.

He has everything in his favour bar an unorthodox prep and Davy couldn’t have cared less about that when asked how concerned he was at a Cheltenham preview night. “Not a bit in the world. Not one bit. It doesn’t bother me in the least.” said Russell.

“Look, obviously it would be a huge worry if he didn’t run, but he’s had his run over three miles and it’s not the end of the world that he hasn’t run over fences this year.

Ideally you’d love to have got him out and everything, but it just didn’t work out and that’s it.”

He jumps, he stays and he has a touch of class that suggests he’s the king-in-waiting – if Pat Kelly’s stable star reproduces his RSA effort and the ground stays on the soft side he must have a massive chance.

Willie Mullins is the winning-most trainer in Festival history, but he’s still chasing his first Gold Cup after 20 years of trying.

Presenting Percy must have a big chance in the Gold Cup
Presenting Percy must have a big chance in the Gold Cup
Getty Images – Getty

The Closutton wizard runs four this time and I have always been a big fan of his Al Boum Photo.

The seven-year-old fell when seemingly booked for second behind Presenting Percy in last year’s RSA and he should really have won a Grade 1 at Punchestown afterwards, but for a moment of madness by today’s rider Paul Townend!

I would have preferred him to have had more than one run, but he’s a very good horse.

Kemboy should struggle to get home and Invitation Only has a bit to find at this lofty level, but Bellshill hits every trend possible.

He has relatively low mileage for a nine-year-old with only nine runs over fences and he has the look of a stayer who has been underestimated.

Bellshill ticks all the boxes in the big one
Bellshill ticks all the boxes in the big one
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He had to battle on ground too quick at Leopardstown and the smaller field would not have suited him – he can use his efficient jumping to good measure in this bigger field.

He will need to be produced late though – he has a tendency to idle.

Anibale Fly finished third last year, but lacks the tactical pace to be a true contender and if you ignore Shattered Love’s run at Leopardstown she would be half the price she is now.

Gordon Elliott’s mare hacked up in the JLT last year and I don’t think staying will be a problem – there are a lot worse bets today at 25-1.

IT will be a case of Stand Up And Fight in the Foxhunters.

Enda Bolger – famous for his On the Fringe exploits – might have a young pretender to the crown with this lad.

He has a big engine and he jumps for fun, but I do question whether he has the staying power for this race – if there is one man to conserve his energy though it’s Derek O’Connor.

Five to watch

Mr Adjudicator – County (Click here to compare prices and place your bet)

Ran a cracker in last season’s Triumph and we have yet to see the best of him over timber. Has been targeted here.
Due Reward – County (Click here to compare prices and place your bet)

Has a lovely racing weight and ran well at Leopardstown despite a slow pace. He looks great each-way value.

Commander Of Fleet – Albert Bartlett (Click here to compare prices and place your bet)

Held in some regard by connections and there was lots to like about the way he won at Leopardstown. He has a nice blend of speed and stamina.

Al Boum Photo – Gold Cup (Click here to compare prices and place your bet)

Stayer blessed with a high cruising speed and a real touch of class. Unexposed and lightly raced, but evidently crying out for a demanding test over further. He can give Willie Mullins an elusive first Gold Cup.

Defi Bleu – Martin Pipe (Click here to compare prices and place your bet)

Flopped badly in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown, but his earlier graded form reads well. Stamina assured and he looks potentially well-handicapped.

Ucello Conti has found a new lease of life in hunter chases and I like the way he went about his business at Navan – he will definitely stay.

One at a price who’s ex-Irish is Haymount.

He was a talented stayer for Willie Mullins, but he’s never been a natural jumper.

Saying that, if he did get things together on the jumping front he could be a huge price at 20-1 plus – he’s still young enough to be at his peak.

This will be fast and furious and the pressure will be on the sole Irish challenger Mind’s Eye.

He’s been highly tried this season in Grade 1s and if he can get his jumping together he could go well in this specialist two-mile handicap.

Nicky Henderson loves winning the Grand Annual
Nicky Henderson loves winning the Grand Annual
Reuters

He found the ground a bit too lively at Leopardstown last time and this will be near perfect for Henry De Bromhead’s seven-year-old.

Trying to find the winner of this race is usually difficult, but Nicky Henderson always has one in mind for the race named after his father and this year it’s the eight-year-old Whatswrongwithyou.

Paul Nicholls is another that targets the race and his three are all towards the head of the betting.

Magic Saint looks the standout given his prep, but Le Prezien is only 1lb higher than he was when winning this last year and Brelan D’As has a lovely racing weight.

Given Gordon Elliott learnt his trade from Martin Pipe, he always tries to have a plot-job for the race named after his mentor.

He nominated Dallas Des Pictons ever since he ran second in a Leopardstown maiden over Christmas and things have gone to plan since – winning his maiden at Punchestown and his handicap debut at Leopardstown over three miles.

He hits all the trends and looks a graded prospect for the future.

Stablemate Defi Bleu and Willie Mullins’ Getareason are both better than they showed at Leopardstown and are worth supporting at generous double-figure odds.

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