Proven Destiny can put it up to Lossiemouth

Friday 1.30pm

JCB Triumph Hurdle

(Grade 1) 2m 179y

An Irish dominated market for the traditional opener on Gold Cup day with Willie Mullins responsible for the first three in the betting, although long-time favourite for the race Lossiemouth has ground to find with stablemate Blood Destiny on the ratings.

The Rich Ricci-owned filly lost her unbeaten record in untoward circumstances at the Dublin Racing Festival as Jourdefete, carrying the same colours, fell back into the lap of the odds-on favourite when fading.

Stable companion Gala Marceau was best placed to take advantage of the misfortune, and a comparison of the two Mullins runners from the second last hurdle indicates Lossiemouth would have prevailed with a smoother passage as she covered the ground in 42.6secs, inclusive of the wide trip, compared to the winner’s 42.7secs with a straight run to the finish.

Comfort Zone finished third to Lossiemouth at Fairyhouse, finishing his race strongly after being inconvenienced on the home turn. Joseph O’Brien’s gelding has since gone on to Grade 2 glory at Chepstow over Christmas, and proved his suitability to the course and distance with victory on trials day, where he posted his most impressive time figure.

Blood Destiny has taken matters into his own hands on both starts in Ireland, making all or most of the running on both occasions. The second of the victories at Fairyhouse saw him clock the fastest time figure by a juvenile either side of the Irish Sea this season.

The bold jumping chesnut won with any amount in hand, quickening twice when asked by Paul Townend, to record a circuit time 4.2secs quicker than Whatcouldhavebeen who has since finished fourth in the Grade 3 Solerina Mares’ Hurdle.

Scriptwriter, who was narrowly beaten by Comfort Zone at Cheltenham, is the best of the home team. Milton Harris’ gelding needs to be delivered late so will test the skills of likely pilot Paddy Brennan to the maximum.

Favori leads the way

Friday 2.10pm

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

(Grade 1) 2m 7f 213y

This renewal of the Albert Bartlett is the deepest on record in terms of time figures as several of the key contenders have excelled on the clock.

Hiddenvalley Lake has been at the head of the market since winning at Cork, when he posted a time figure which would ordinarily see him head the ratings for this contest. However, since then Henry de Bromhead’s gelding has been upstaged by both Favori De Champdou and more recently Embassy Gardens.

A mistake at the third last failed to stop Hiddenvalley Lake from delivering his strong challenge, which produced a circuit time at least 6.7secs or 34 lengths quicker than the next best race on the day, won by Meetingofthewaters. Mention of Eugene O’Sullivan’s Meetingofthewaters is relevant as he also finished 45 lengths behind Embassy Gardens at Thurles.

Letsbeclearaboutit was fourth at Cork before finishing second to Favori De Champdou in the Grade 2 Dorans Pride at Limerick, when Gavin Cromwell’s gelding rated higher, virtue of going a stronger pace at the head of affairs.

Similar to the Cork event the final circuit at Limerick supported the rating awarded as the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding covered the ground 4.1secs or 20 lengths and 7.3secs 36 lengths quicker than Shecouldbeanything and Optional Mix respectively. The former has since finished third to Impaire et Passe in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.

Embassy Gardens improved out of all recognition on the clock for stepping up in distance as he followed in the footsteps of stable companion Monkfish who won the same race en route to this contest. The bare result will say the extra distance was the biggest factor although, given Willie Mullins’ gelding covered the final circuit 2.9secs quicker than Belle The Lioness, the performance was not devoid of speed.

Dawn Rising looks an out-and-out stayer over hurdles. The J.P. McManus-owned gelding has done all of his best work at the end of his races over shorter distances, so promises to rate higher here.

Three Card Brag would be another to consider judged on his strong finishing second to Inthepocket at Naas and emphatic Fairyhouse win, especially if brushing up on his hurdling.

The best races in Britain on the clock have been the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle, won by Grey Dawning who looks a thorough stayer with a determined attitude to racing.

Galopin has the tools to secure Gold

Friday 3.30pm

Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup

(Grade 1) 3m 2f 70y

A stellar cast will head to post for the Blue Riband of chasing, with at least four of them posting a Gold Cup standard time figure in their preparation for the main event.

Galopin Des Champs stamped his class all over the Irish Gold Cup and John Durkan Chase on his two outings this season, with his trademark display of foot-perfect jumping and powerful galloping evident.

Settling perfectly off a slow pace at Leopardstown the seven-year-old delivered a stunning finishing sectional to beat stable companion Stattler.

It looked as if victory was going to be hard fought, although once between Stattler and Fury Road the son of Timos knew exactly what was expected of him as he rattled off a closing sectional of 63.3secs, which was 2.8secs quicker than El Fabiolo and 2.7secs faster than handicap winner Final Orders.

Protektorat’s Haydock performance was overshadowed by A Plus Tard not shining on the day. However, the time figure achieved by Dan Skelton’s gelding would make it debatable whether the Cheveley Park Stud-owned would have won, even at his best.

The first indication of a strong time figure was the 12.8secs or 64 lengths superiority over that day’s handicap chase winner Fontaine Collonges. If support was needed, it came from a comparison with Hitman, who won a graduation chase on the card. From the first fence Protektorat and Hitman effectively jumped in unison, and even though Protektorat covered four furlongs before Hitman’s race started, he still completed the remaining two and a half miles 4.9secs or 25 lengths quicker than Hitman.

Noble Yeats finished a place in front of Protektorat in the Cotswold Chase and will likely sport the cheekpieces which served him well in the Grand National. The Aintree figure he clocked in the Many Clouds Chase needs to be improved on.

The Christmas Festivals at Kempton and Leopardstown saw Bravemansgame and Conflated win major races.

Paul Nicholls’ chaser rated slightly higher, although Conflated won cosily to give the impression he can rate higher. The pair are equally effective over shorter so will not lack for speed and the former in particular will be well suited by the jumping demands in the last mile.

A Plus Tard has proved effective off a break in the past and Minella Indo proved his wellbeing when beating Stattler at Tramore. Henry de Bromhead is sure to have the pair tuned to the minute for their big day.

Big two could serve up classic

Friday 4.50

Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase

(Grade 2) 2m 4f 127y

Although a race in its infancy the 2023 Mares’ Chase could be the renewal to firmly establish the race if the clash between Allegorie De Vassy and Impervious materialises.

The two mares are unbeaten over fences and will prove the ultimate test for each other with their contrasting run styles adding to the intrigue of the contest.

Allegorie De Vassy races exuberantly and although yet to achieve a time figure anywhere near the level of Impervious at Punchestown, Willie Mullins’ mare is still searching for a rival who can go her gallop early in a race.

Impervious was unflustered by a strong pace at Punchestown and although unlikely to be ridden forward can surely not afford to be too far out her ground.

Brian Hayes has produced Colm Murphy’s mare as late as the last fence in her two previous wins, there would be a question mark over whether the same tactics can be repeated, although what cannot be doubted is the mare’s bravery in a finish.

Scarlet And Dove and Elimay will need to improve on the time they ran in last year’s contest, while Dinoblue is worth considering given her proximity to Impervious at Cork.

The best of the British mares were readily outpointed by Jeremy’s Flame at Huntingdon so it would be a major surprise to see any of the home contingent involved at the finish.

This article is taken from The Irish Field Cheltenham Magazine 2023. CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY