The legendary Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (G1) will be run on Friday as race 4. 16 runners are entered to go 3 miles and 2 ½ furlongs and all carry 164 pounds except the mare #16 SHATTERED LOVE. This year’s edition looks very competitive.
Willie Mullins has never won the Gold Cup even though he has won a record 61 races at the Cheltenham Festival. This year he has four entered and it looks like the drought is over. The question is which one?
#3 BELLSHILL was an even fourth to finish up last year in a group one in Ireland. Mullins brought him back in a three-mile group one four weeks ago and he held on by a nose despite jumping awkwardly. He has won on good, yielding and soft ground and Ruby Walsh returns looking for his third Gold Cup win. The nine-year-old gelding has a terrific record of 22-11-4-2 and has carried today’s weight of 164 pound to victory against this class level before.
Race 1 is the JCB Triumph Hurdle (G1) going just over two miles for four-year-olds. #12 SIR EREC is the early favorite and rightfully so. He is an improving sort that won a maiden hurdle race two starts back then blossomed with a six-length win against group one company in Ireland last out. Joseph O’Brien is the trainer so this son of Camelot could show up in the Melbourne Cup later this year. But, for now, he loves jumping and is bred to run all day over any kind of turf condition.
Race 2 is a handicap with a 26-pound spread of weight for the 26 runners. Paul Nicholls sends out one of the favorites, #14 CAPITAINE. He had three poor starts last year but woke up last out with a sharp win in a 14-runner field while carrying 154 pounds. He drops down to 150 today and the course condition could play a role in his chances since his recent wins came on “Good” turf but he shows a couple of wins way back on softer turf. The French-bred is very good and on his best effort can handle these.