That headline applies to both Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh after a sensational 4-timer on Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival and all the speculation concerning the stable well-being has been dispelled.
Fourth and final day of the horse-fest witnesses the most eagerly awaited Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase at 3.30 and even the absence of Thistlecrack does little to diminish the excitement.
Colin Tizzard still has the second and third favourites in the shape of Native River and dear old Cue Card, both available at 5-1.
Native River has not stopped improving all year, taking the Hennessey and the Welsh Grand National before warming up for today with a demolition of Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Denman Chase. Serious from, that, and although Cue Card is the highest officially rated runner (170), at the age of 11 there must be a doubt that it can still quite run to it and the four years younger ‘Native’ will come home ahead.
Good as both the above two are, however, they may both have to settle for fighting out the places behind two of the Emerald Isle’s finest in Djakadam and Outlander.
The Willie Mullins’ trained Djakadam seems to have been around for ages, having finished second in this race for the past two years, yet is still only 8. Last year’s effort followed a rushed and interrupted preparation, so can be upgraded and with the trainer brimming with confidence after a trouble free prep, Djakadam should be your first port of call for a bet at 3-1.
Outlander, trained by Gordon Elliott has a victory and a defeat against Djakadam this season and it is significant that the defeat was over 2m4f while the victory was over 3m. There is little doubt that Outlander is potentially a stronger stayer than Djakadam and, if the Cheltenham fences don’t catch it out, this 9-y-o will be slugging it out at the finish. That, however, is quite a big ‘if’, as the horse is prone to throw in a purler every now and then (2 falls in 10 chases) and won’t get away with any of that nonsense round this course. At 11-1, though, we can afford an e/w bet and hope.
The JCB Triumph Hurdle kicks off proceedings at 1.30, with the favourite being Defi Du Seuil at 9-4. This horse is unbeaten in five since joining Philip Hobbs and also 3 from 3 over this course, so what’s not to like? Well, I could be wrong, but every time I have seen it run I’ve experienced a sense of unease about its determination and commitment. In the hurly burly of this race, I can see it backing out of a scrap and for that reason, the Spanish Archer comes into play.
I think this race revolves around the Nicky Henderson trained Charli Parcs. Considered unbeatable by its handler, Charli was making hard work of it at Kempton before coming down at the second last. However, it was getting there and just starting to pick up, so will be ideally suited by the Cheltenham hill. The trainer hasn’t lost faith in the horse, and neither have I. At 4-1, this rates a goodish bet.
The winner of the Kempton race was Master Blueyes, trained by Alan King, which showed much improved form after being thrashed by Charli Parcs in December. Given there is probably not that much between them, an e/w cover bet at 7-1 is recommended.