SMALL BUT SELECT FOR TRIUMPH
One of the smallest Triumph fields in history, but this looks a potentially high-class renewal, with the unbeaten former stablemates Zanahiyr and Quilixios facing off, while Tritonic and Adagio fly the flag for the home team. Just to muddy the waters, Willie Mullins runs two that have raced just once apiece over hurdles, including the formerly high-class German flat performer Tax For Max.
NINE FOR NICHOLLS
This won’t be the first Festival in recent years in which Paul Nicholls heads into the final day without a winner on the board, but Gold Cup Friday has long treated him well and he has nine chances to get on the scoresheet, including two in the Albert Bartlett; Barbados Buck’s and Threeunderthrufive. Near enough the only novice event of the week lacking a star Irish contender, they look the champion trainer’s best chance of a winner, despite not having won the race since its inception in 2005.
The two at the top of the alphabet head the betting for the Gold Cup, with dual winner Al Boum Photo facing last-time-out Savills Chase winner A Plus Tard, who bids for a second Festival success on his first try beyond three miles. Given the Festival his rider Rachael Blackmore and trainer Henry de Bromhead are enjoying, it is no surprise to see there has been plenty of support for him in the market.
Al Boum Photo has been run very sparingly in recent seasons, using the Grade 3 at Tramore on New Year’s Day as his sole prep run each season for the past three years. He bids to become just the fourth horse to win three consecutive Gold Cups in the post-war era, after Cottage Rake, Arkle and Best Mate.