MELISSA JONES SAYS: All eyes on Star of the Gold Cup
6:10am Friday 16th March 2012 in Melissa Jones
BE prepared for the roof of Cheltenham’s main stand to come off should wonder horse Kauto Star cross the Gold Cup finishing line in pole position.
The French bred has been a horse of a lifetime for his owner Clive Smith and, aged 12, it is remarkable he is towards the head of the betting to take a third Blue Riband crown.
Regardless of whether he finishes in front or behind his younger rival Long Run, he has done a marvellous amount for jump racing and in 40 starts has amassed £2,375,883 in prize money.
The dream lives on for his lucky connections in today’s race but win, lose or draw, an honourable retirement surely awaits.
Robert Waley-Cohen told me in the paddock he was excited for today’s race and his treasured Long Run is fit and well.
But despite him being my idea of the winner earlier in the season I feel that the unusually quick ground for a Festival could throw up an unexpected winner – and Weird Al could be the one. Compared to the likes of Kauto Star, the nine-year-old is a different kettle of fish, having been reduced to just ten starts due to his fragility. But when on song, like at Wetherby first time up this season, he is capable of cruising comfortably through a race on the bridle. If in-form Jason Maguire can keep on the heels of the likes of Long Run and Kauto Star coming down the hill for the final time, I would much rather have 12-1 each way about Weird Al than a skinny 7-4 about the former.
Aside from those three, and possibly Burton Port, it is a field of quantity rather than quality.
That’s why the price about Donald McCain’s runner to finish in the first three may look a good bet at 3.25.
An even better one, should he be given a place in his desired race, is Grams And Ounces, says his trainer.
John Flint told me: “If he gets in he’s got a massive chance.”
The Bridgend maestro, who is adept at improving horses by focusing on each individual, has helped the horse to a three timer and rates his five-year-old highly.
“You need a fast and furious race with him. We’ve schooled him over fences already and he was electric,” he added.
Despite his big price, Countrywide Flame is capable of getting into the money in the Triumph Hurdle, but the race can fall to the impressive Balder Success.
Trainer Alan King has an embarrassment of riches in the race, with Grumeti as well, but this one’s unbeaten in four.
MELISSA'S TOP TIPS FOR DAY FOUR: 1.30 Balder Success 2.05 Magnifique Etoile 2.40 Mount Benbulben 3.20 Weird Al (e/way) 4.00 Barbers Shop 4.40 Street Entertainer 5.15 Toubab