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Friday Cheltenham Tips: Betting Picks For Gold Cup Day

Friday Cheltenham Tips: Betting Picks For Gold Cup Day
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Today's Horse Racing Tips

For Friday's horse racing tips, our analyst James Boyle looks at Gold Cup day of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, with five selections now online.

As always, you’ll find the most up-to-date odds at the best horse racing betting sites, but don’t sleep on our tipster’s predictions as those odds could soon be gobbled up by the betting public. Odds stated are correct at the time of publishing.

13:30 Cheltenham – Lossiemouth – 2pts @ 6/4

Willie Mullins runs no less than seven in the Triumph Hurdle and the three with ratings are only separated by 5lbs. They’re all open to any amount of improvement but I think the market has got it right in favouring Blood Destiny and Lossiemouth, as both of them seem special in their own right. Paul Townend has had the most difficult job of all in this race – picking which one of them to ride!

Lossiemouth is the one who has got the nod from Townend and I think he has chosen right. The filly is in receipt of 7lbs from her stablemate and that could just nudge things in her favour, for all that Blood Destiny is very highly thought of as well. She really should be an undefeated 4-4 but team tactics backfired at the Dublin Racing Festival and led to her finishing second behind Gala Marceau.

She had already hammered that rival in a Grade 2 on her previous start (when 3lbs worse off) and next time out Grade 2 winner Nusret was 16-lengths back in third, whilst Fred Winter third Risk Belle was 22-lengths away in fourth. At Fairyhouse, she defeated a number of talented rivals as well and there’s no doubting from the form book that she’s able to operate at a super high level already.

Blood Destiny has a huge engine and posted a fine time at Fairyhouse most recently, but his hurdling technique needs work and I’m hoping he’s just not as polished for this test as Lossiemouth is. It’s very tough to know and I usually end up picking the wrong market leader when it looks like it could be a match bet! Hopefully that’s not the case again, as I think the Mullins filly is a brilliant prospect.

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14:10 Cheltenham – Pinkerton – 1pt e/w @ 28/1

A typically competitive County Hurdle and it’s hard to know where to start, never mind where to finish up. The Irish appear to hold the strongest claims with the likes of Hunters Yarn and Filey Bay currently towards the head of the market, and both are improving novices who could have futures at a higher level. Whether they should be as short as they are is up for debate, however, and I’ll hunt elsewhere.

Pembroke will do better back in trip so it’s no surprise to see him front the British challenge, whilst Gin Coco ran a cracker here when last seen in November. The first mentioned will handle the ground with no problems but whether Harry Fry’s charge will, I’m not so sure. Magnor Glory is interesting, but has shortened already (ground a worry, too) and I like Path D’oroux as well. He’ll love the conditions.

Pinkerton is the one I keep coming back to at a big price. His last run makes it seem like he has stopped progressing but that was a farcical contest in which they crawled along throughout. He moved well but had pulled too hard to see out the longest distance he had raced over and I’d take a more positive view of the effort than the formbook would be suggesting. He really needs a proper pace to sit off.

There will be no pace issues here, with the drop in trip also a plus point, and his sole win came in a big field. He also ran second in a valuable Fairyhouse handicap on his penultimate start in December, impressing with how he cruised through that, and he will swing around Cheltenham on the bridle if all goes to plan. Whether he’s weighted to beat all of these remains to be seen but he’s a nice price.

14:50 Cheltenham – Seabank Bistro – 1pt e/w @ 16/1

I’m pretty certain that we haven’t got to see the best of Seabank Bistro and whilst he looks to be at least the second string of the Willie Mullins battalion, he has untapped potential up to three-miles for the first time. Fourth in last year’s Champion Bumper behind stablemate Facile Vega when shaping every inch like a pure stayer, he does at least have some festival previous – no other runner in this has.

His hurdling career got off to a slow start with a couple of odds-on defeats but the second of those came to Corbetts Cross before he moved to Emmet Mullins, and there was only a few lengths between the pair. That rival is around a 3/1 favourite for this following a couple of impressive performances over contrasting trips, whereas Seabank Bistro has only run in one more maiden.

That yielded a victory, nothing too mind-blowing, but was over just 2m 3f so I refuse to believe that’s the limit of his talent due to the trip holding him back. Nobody has a clue whether he’s good enough but he could be and the yard have won this with apparent second strings in two of the last six renewals. I hope history might repeat itself with one who should wind up being a smart chaser in time. 

15:30 Cheltenham – Protektorat – 1pt e/w @ 18/1

The 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup is a really appealing betting heat to me as Galopin Des Champs is simply too short and even if he wins, I’m happy to have opposed him. I’m not certain he’s going to stay this far, especially in what will turn into a war up the home straight, and the Irish Gold Cup wasn’t much of a contest. He’s a lovely horse and maybe he’ll do it, but no way could I play him at the price.

A Plus Tard will win if he turns up in the same form as he did last year but the ground is likely to be more testing and his well-being is an unknown with this season’s sole effort yielding a major flop in the Betfair Chase. If he was double-figures or something close to it, I’d understand the risk being worthwhile but after Envoi Allen won, he shortened further to 4/1 generally and that’s skinny as well.

Bravemansgame might be a flat track bully, is an iffy stayer and has only ran once at the course when hammered by Bob Olinger in the Ballymore hurdle. Noble Yeats and Stattler don’t strike me as classy enough. Will Conflated stay? Is Minella Indo as good as he was and will the ground dry up enough for him? So now that we’ve decided all of those definitely won’t win (I joke, of course!), who could do it?

The one I keep coming back to at the prices is Protektorat. Granted, I could use certain lines to dismiss his chance as well, such as why did he perform so poorly in the Cotswold when behind three of today’s rivals? Two of whom are bigger prices. However, Dan Skelton has been adamant that he didn’t have him where he needed to be to win that and I’m going to take his word on this and mark it as a prep.

On his sole other start this season he won the Betfair Chase, posting a career-best figure in the process. That task was made a lot easier by A Plus Tard’s flop but he was so impressive. He has plenty of course form to boot, including a third in this race last year and he was only a 7-year-old then. This may be his prime time so if he finds his rhythm and can tag on until the bottom of the hill, he’ll be a player.

17:30 Cheltenham – Au Fleuron – 1pt e/w @ 33/1

Gordon Elliott runs six in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap and I’m most interested to see how Au Fleuron will perform. He’s one of the longer priced representatives from the yard but wasn’t disgraced in this race twelve months ago when seventh of the 23 runners, beaten 10-lengths behind Banbridge, that despite the ground being faster than he would have cared for.

He also made his effort away from where the main action was happening, but came up the hill well enough to offer some encouragement that he could do better second time around. He was only a 5-year-old back then as well (did best of the five at that age) and is bound to be a bigger and stronger version now, for all that his form figures since (8-0-4) wouldn’t inspire an excess amount of confidence.

These handicaps can throw up some seemingly random results at the best of times and after a failed attempt at chasing, he offered a lot more encouragement in a good quality Punchestown handicap on New Year’s Eve. His jumping was poor on the day – it’s not usually that bad – and I thought he did well to get fourth on the run-in, understandably unable to get anywhere near the thrown-in front pair.

I doubt he was anywhere near peak fitness or sharpness there based on how he jumped and we could see the cheekpieces worn then for the first time have a better effect now. He’ll enjoy this stiffer test and Kieren Buckley, who doesn’t ride for the yard that often, was on board at Punchestown as well so will have learned more about the horse. I doubt he is a plot or anything but he’s an interesting runner.


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