Quel Esprit to spring surprise
In a race in which virtually every horse has some sort of question to answer, Quel Esprit is taken to spring a surprise in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
This horse has been overlooked in the build-up, but those who can cast their minds back to the immediate aftermath of his Irish Hennessy win might just recall a nugget from Willie Mullins that seemed quite telling at the time.
Mullins is never one to talk up his geese as swans, and while conceding the grey had plenty to find on the book he was quietly at pains to stress he had left a fair bit to work on. A torrid last season saw everything that could go wrong pretty much do so, but the word from Ruby Walsh and Mullins was that he has always jumped well.
He has got his act together in no uncertain terms this season, and Walsh said it took an age to pull him up after passing the post in the Hennessy, a race rarely won by a bad horse.
With stamina assured and the potential to be a big improver, particularly as an eight-year-old, he is a perfectly plausible each-way call.
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Boston Bob should not be missed in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Mullins’ decision to go for this three-mile event with the Graham Wylie-owned seven-year-old looks the right one and makes him banker material on the final day. And, on what could be a great day for Ireland, the Dermot Weld-trained Hisaabaat can land the JCB Triumph Hurdle for a first win for the raiders in this race since 2002.
Tough and progressive, with the ability to travel strongly and stamina not a concern, he has all of the attributes needed to go close.
The Christie’s Foxhunter Chase is the amateur riders’ Gold Cup and old stager Cloudy Lane can roll back the years for Donald McCain. He was beaten fair and square by Chapoturgeon at Newbury in January, but was giving his conqueror 7lb and was having his first run since the 2010 Grand National. An easy winner since then, McCain has been making upbeat noises.
Kid Cassidy might not be the most straightforward of horses, but has lots of class for a race like the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup. Trained by Nicky Henderson, who, for obvious reasons, likes to win this race more than most as it is named in honour of his father, the six-year-old held an entry in the Arkle earlier in this week.