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Delta Work can shatter Al Boum Photo's double quest and be this year's Gold star

 

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On course: Delta Work can win the blue riband Gold Cup

On course: Delta Work can win the blue riband Gold Cup

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Al Boum Photo defended the Gold Cup

Al Boum Photo defended the Gold Cup

Getty Images

Willie Mullins

Willie Mullins

�INPHO/Dan Sheridan

On course: Delta Work can win the blue riband Gold Cup

Names like Arkle, L'Escargot and Cottage Rake roll off the tongue and Al Boum Photo bids to join that illustrious list today as a back-to-back winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

So many questions will be answered just after 3.30pm with one of the biggest prizes in jump racing down for decision.

1.30pm Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle 4yo 2m1f

The home team have a stronger juvenile squad with an English-trained trio leading the betting.​

Paul Nicholls' Solo dazzled on his English debut when landing a Kempton Grade Two to earn a rating of 157 - 5lb clear of his nearest rival here - but that may flatter him slightly and his inexperience is a worry.​

Allmankind has done little wrong for Dan Skelton with a hat-trick of victories but his headstrong nature is a concern given that he won't have things his own way up the front with Henry de Bromhead's Aspire Tower likely to vie for the lead.​

Aspire Tower fell at the last when he had a battle on his hands at Leopardstown last month and it remains to be seen if he can bounce back in a top-class renewal.​

Goshen is the selection with Gary Moore's charge winning with lots to spare on all three hurdle starts. He is tactically versatile - he can lead or sit in behind - and may come with a wet sail at the finish to score.​

Verdict: Goshen to land the odds for Gary and Jamie Moore.​

2.10pm Grade Three Randox Health County Hurdle 2m1f

No favourite has obliged in the last decade with just one winner in single digits but that trend may be bucked with Willie Mullins - who won the race in 2015 and 2017 - making a five-pronged attack.​

Betfair Hurdle second Ciel De Neige will enjoy this cavalry charge having finished third in the Boodles as a juvenile at last year's Festival and is of serious interest, as is unexposed stablemate Saint Roi.​

Aramon, a Grade One winner over hurdles last season, is another interesting type, while 2018 winner Mohaayed comes back for another crack for Skelton, who has landed this prize for the past two years.​

Verdict: Ciel De Neige can get the job done for Mullins.​

2.50pm Grade One Albert Bartlett Nov Hurdle 3m

If ever a three-mile stamina test up the famous Cheltenham Hill in testing conditions was going to suit a horse, then it's Latest Exhibition.​

The comeback kids, trainer Paul Nolan and jockey Bryan Cooper, bid to make their mark at the Cotswolds after some quiet years and they have the perfect horse to do so.​

The seven-year-old's only hurdling defeat from four runs came when second to subsequent Supreme second Abacadabras over two miles and while not the flashiest type, what you see is what you get and he is expected to outlast his 18 rivals after showing his Grade One class at Leopardstown.​

Last year's Champion Bumper third Thyme Hill is three from three over hurdles and acts on the track with Philip Hobbs' landing a Grade Two here in November but while he is tough, he is unproven at the trip and is taken on, while David Pipe's Ramses De Teillee, which was runner-up in last season's Welsh National, is another that will thrive in conditions.​

Mullins' Monkfish is another to consider - as is stablemate Janidil - but steps into graded company for the first time and may be caught out against some battle-hardened foes.​

Verdict: Latest Exhibition (Nap) to excel for Nolan and Cooper.​

3.30pm Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup 3m21/2f

Mullins had to wait until last year to end his Gold Cup famine and Al Boum Photo bids to go where no horse has gone since the great Best Mate and retain the blue riband.​

The eight-year-old has gone the same trusted route as last season and he will be hard to beat if showing up in similar form, but it is an enormous ask in what is another intriguing edition of the season's most prestigious chase.

There are doubts about Lostintranslation after bombing out in the King George where Clan Des Obeaux was the runaway winner and since put away by Nicholls with this in mind.​

His Cheltenham record of 2-6-2-2-5 doesn't inspire confidence, though, while stamina may be suspect in demanding conditions. The same can be said for last year's third Bristol De Mai but he is a huge price.​

Can Pat Kelly produce a remarkable training performance to claim the spoils with Presenting Percy? He is the forgotten horse despite being a dual Festival winner and going off favourite in last year's renewal, and Kelly will have him finely tuned.

Delta Work has had his number on their last two meetings, however, and that Irish form may provide the key with the seven-year-old superb in his last two outings when taking the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup.​

He also had Kemboy - who unseated at the first in this race last season and seems to be at his best on flatter tracks - behind on that occasion and he can reverse last year's RSA form with Nicky Henderson's Santini and use his greater stamina to soar highest under Mark Walsh.

Verdict: Delta Work can etch his name in Gold Cup history.​

4.10pm St James' Place Foxhunters' Chase 3m 2 1/2f

There are already three back-to-back winners of this race in the past decade and Philip Rowley's Hazel Hill has to be respected, although his jumping at Wetherby - when defeated by Minella Rocco - wouldn't inspire confidence.​

Jonjo O'Neill's Minella Rocco has to be respected given his CV with success in the 2016 National Hunt Cup and his second in the 2017 Gold Cup​ but this may go the way of Mullins.​

Billaway beat Enda Bolger's Staker Wallace - which impressed after a long lay-off and could get closer on this occasion - by eight lengths at Naas in January and looks a hugely progressive type for Mullins.​

Patrick Mullins is in the saddle once again and Billaway can land a first Foxhunters for the father-son duo.​

Verdict: Billaway is open to more improvement.​

4.50pm Grade Three Grand Annual Handicap Chase 2m 1/2f

Last year's winner Croco Bay, when a 66/1 shot, cannot be dismissed despite his veteran status at 13 in a race where just one winning favourite has obliged in the past decade.​

Nicholls has won this twice in the last four years and Greaneteen is likely to head the betting with a four-timer in sight having won all three chases in impressive fashion.​

Whether the free-racing six-year-old will handle a big-field handicap with these undulations is uncertain, though, and preference is for Elliott's Eclair De Beaufeu with the Meath trainer in scintillating form.​

Seán O'Keeffe's 5lb allowance could prove crucial and the fact that he enjoyed the bustle of the County Hurdle last season is a big plus to follow up his big handicap victory at Leopardstown last month.​

Verdict: Eclair De Beaufeu can continue Elliott's sensational week.​

5.30pm Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle 2m 4 1/2f

The last race of the Festival has gone Elliott's way in 2017 and '18 while he saddled the second and third last year in a contest that he always targets with smart types.​

The Cullentra handler sends a quintet into battle with Column Of Fire and The Bosses Oscar both well respected but owner JP McManus holds the best cards.​

Gavin Cromwell's Ilikedwayurthinkin won twice at last year's Galway Festival and looks primed for a big day out after a pipe-opener at Leopardstown over Christmas.​

The other McManus charge is marginally preferred, however, with last year's winning team of Joseph O'Brien and Jonjo O'Neill jnr represented by the unexposed five-year-old Front View and he could improve significantly from his Thurles run​

Verdict: Front View can come home to score under Barry O'Neill.

Belfast Telegraph