Willie Mullins finally won the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup having previously saddled six seconds as Al Boum Photo won the Blue Riband for Paul Townend.
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LISTEN: Day 4 Cheltenham Gold Cup day review podcast
1740: This is the end
What a week. Altior, Frodon & Bryony, Paisley Park and Al Boum Photo the undoubted highlights. We're off to a dark room to recover, thanks for joining us on Sporting Life throughout the week, listen to our day four podcast by clicking the picture above and we'll see you in 361 days' time!
RESULT 5.30 Cheltenham – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle
1st EARLY DOORS
2nd Dallas Des Pictons
3rd Defi Bleu
4th Champagne Court
1700: It's been a long week...
1658: Bay of plenty!
Fifth in the race two years ago off 2lb higher, Croco Bay has only been seen once since in that timeframe and he shows heart and resolution to see off Bun Doran in the Grand Annual.
RESULT 4.50 Cheltenham – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase
1st CROCO BAY (66/1)
2nd Bun Doran
3rd Brelan D'As
4th Forest Bihan
1645: Grand finale.
Our racing team of Dave Ord, Ben Linfoot and Matt Brocklebank have just been recording the final Cheltenham Daily podcast of the week and it's fair to say fatigue has set in.
That'll be available to listen to shortly as the guys reflect on Gold Cup day, but before then we still have two races left at this year's Festival starting with the Grand Annual.
Ad this could be the Paul Nicholls show.
He's got Magic Saint, Brelan D'As and Le Prezien here and all three find themselves in the top five in the betting...
RESULT 4.10 Cheltenham – St James's Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Hunters' Chase
1st HAZEL HILL (7/2)
2nd Shantou Flyer
3rd Top Wood
1610: Mullins reaction.
On winning it with Paul Townend...
"I'm obviously delighted and especially delighted for Paul, to have him riding it was a real result. He's a fantastic rider.
"From an early stage he had him jumping in a rhythm and when you get into that sort of a rhythm in a race it's fantastic."
Talking about his run of Gold Cup seconds...
"It used to bug me, then I thought maybe it's not to be. Racing has been very good to me, I have fantastic owners and fantastic staff, I counted my blessings there and not focused on the Gold Cup."
On his mother being at Cheltenham to witness the Gold Cup triumph...
"She starts getting ready for Cheltenham two weeks before and she really enjoys it. I thought she was getting ready for a flu vaccination with the horses at one point!"
1555: Magic Mullins.
Willie Mullins has won everything now. The Grand National. Champion Hurdles. Stayers Hurdles. All those championships and big races in Ireland. And now the Gold Cup.
After six seconds, he'll never have to field a 'can this horse be your first Gold Cup winner?' again. Al Boum Photo is that horse.
I wonder if he can find a Champion Chaser now?!
1550: The Ord verdict.
1542: Photo finish!
A first Cheltenham Gold Cup for Willie Mullins after six seconds. Redemption for Paul Townend after his moment of madness on this very horse at Punchestown last spring.
AL BOUM PHOTO is your Cheltenham Gold Cup winner after a dramatic race.
Kemboy fell at the first. Bellshill was pulled up in the early stages. Things weren't going well for Mullins and then Invitation Only fell when forcing the pace with Might Bite.
It came down to Al Boum Photo. And he came up trumps after a relentless, no hiding place sort of race.
Townend said: “I want to thank the owners so much for putting me in this position. It is very emotional. This is the Gold Cup, there is only one a year and this is so, so special to win. It means so much to me.
"We struggled at first, but once we got into a rhythm he really got going and was magnificent. This is the best feeling I’ve had as a jockey."
RESULT 3.30 Cheltenham – Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup
1st AL BOUM PHOTO (12/1)
2nd Anibale Fly
3rd Bristol de Mai
1530: They're off!
And on time as well...
Anticipation builds now for a really special moment in the jumps racing calendar, the pinnacle of the sport, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
And what a story it would be if Presenting Percy can justify favouritism.
Trainer Pat Kelly only has about 10 horses and he never says a word to the media. But he has the reputation of a genius among his peers, partly because he's trained a winner at this very meeting the last three years.
Percy has won two for him - the Pertemps in 2017 and the RSA Chase last year. That's the last time he saw a fence in a race, one sole start this season, a win in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran, the only time he's been seen.
An unusual prep, yes. But he's an unusual horse and the one who could tear this field apart. It's Percy time.
1515: Going for Gold!
Right then. Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup time. The big one. Presenting Percy v Clan Des Obeaux v Native River v Kemboy v Bellshill v Al Boum Photo v Thistlecrack v Might Bite and more.
It really is a stellar renewal and this race has everything.
The reigning champion. The King George winner. A strong Irish challenge including a dual Cheltenham Festival winner who has an elusive trainer and hasn't seen a fence (in public) this season.
Willie Mullins is still trying to win his first Gold Cup. He's been second six times and has four chances this year - Kemboy and Bellshill and Al Boum Photo and Invitation Only.
Presenting Percy is your favourite and being backed. Clan Des Obeaux is very solid at 9/2. Native River is on the drift. Kemboy is the most solid of the Mullins quartet.
They're parading for the big one...
1500: Minella magic!
Wow. Rachael Blackmore gets her second win of the week for Henry de Bromhead on 50/1 chance Minella Indo who stays on resolutely up the hill to beat Commander Of Fleet easily.
Four lengths behind Allaho last time, giving him 3lb, that proved the key form-line and De Bromhead's charge reversed that form thanks in part to a fine ride from Blackmore.
She said: “I can’t believe it! I always knew he was a really nice horse and I felt he was coming with the right shape, but you never know until the race itself. I’m so thrilled for the owners and thank them for the ride. It’s been brilliant the support I’ve been getting, I’m so grateful and so pleased I can repay that. It’s been very special.
De Bromhead added: “We’ve been trying for a few years to win here and it is amazing to come out and win with this guy. We’ve always liked him and he really stepped up today. He pulled and pulled and was determined to get this one. We are so lucky to have Rachael as our jockey. She is brilliant and works so hard. We’ve made a good team”
RESULT 2.50 Cheltenham – Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
1st MINELLA INDO (50/1)
2nd Commander Of Fleet
1445: The Spud Race
It's the Albert Bartlett next and experience often comes to the fore in the race. Two interesting outsiders, with that in mind, are Aye Aye Charlie and Rockpoint, who have had 22 starts over hurdles between them.
They're both 33/1 shots and much more lightly-raced horses than those two head the market, with the JP McManus-owned pair of Birchdale and Dickie Diver up there towards the top of the betting, along with Lisnagar Oscar, Allaho and Commander Of Fleet.
JP also has Rhinestone and he's been well-backed, while Derrinross, the winner of the G2 Limerick Novice Hurdle at Christmas is an interesting runner especially with the ground still looking quite testing.
That Limerick novice hurdle has produced a few Albert Bartlett winners in recent years - Martello Tower and Penhill...
1430: Father's day
We've heard from the Skelton brothers, so what does Dad think?
1420: Plan A
That was the fruition of a '15-month plan' according to Dan Skelton, who told brother Harry that he had '10lb in hand today, go and use it.'
Use it he did, with Ch'tibello romping to victory ahead of We Have A Dream as the complexion changed just before the final flight.
Just before that Eclair De Beaufeu had gone clear, but his four-length lead evaporated between the last two flights and his fall at the last when headed was a tired one.
But, back to the winner, and joy for jockey Harry Skelton who said: "I ride for a very good trainer and this was a master class in training preparation. He’s had to come back from hard races and setbacks.
"This horse is such a competitor that he was down after recent results that didn’t go his way. But he’s come back from that. It took him time to get him going at start of year, he had a second and we built from there.
"We stuck to the plan, worked hard with him, he had a little wind operation and we got there. This is all down to the trainer and his planning."
RESULT 2.10 Cheltenham – Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle
1st CH'TIBELLO (12/1)
2nd We Have A Dream
4th Whiskey Sour
1402: County money
Four noticeably strong horses in the betting for the County Hurdle next up with Willie Mullins' Whiskey Sour heading the betting.
Mullins has a fine record in this race and his main rival for favouritism looks to be Monsieur Lecoq for Jane Williams, who bids to join her husband, Nick, as a Cheltenham winner this week following Siruh Du Lac's win yesterday.
Williams' daughter Lizzie Kelly rode that horse and this one, while there's two horses trading at 8/1, as well; Philip Hobbs' Crooks Peak and Gordon Elliott's Eclair De Beaufeu.
They're going down for the County...
1355: Nico top
Nico De Boinville is the only rider with three winners this week now so he leads the top jockey standings. Looks like there will be a new name on that particular trophy this year...
1350: Sombre mood
Confirmation that Sir Erec has been put down after breaking down in the Triumph. A terrible start to the day and an example of the lows of racing following yesterday's highs. Such a tough sport.
1348: Nico reaction
Nico de Boinville speaking on ITV: “He made a big error on the first, where he over jumped it. So to fight back and recover says a lot about him. He’s only raced once before over hurdles, so he is learning. But I rode him a few weeks ago and I really liked him. I said to the owners that we really had to take this horse seriously and develop him and push him because he has something.”
1345: Poor Sir Erec
A real sickener in the Triumph as Sir Erec broke down about a mile from home and that was truly awful to witness. We'll bring you news as we get it on him.
Pentland Hills wins the races on the back of one win at Plumpton, a 20/1 victory for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville.
But, to be honest, all thoughts are with Sir Erec now. He looked such a bright prospect for the jumping game and what a cruel twist of fate to see that happen to him in what should've been his finest hour.
RESULT 1.30 Cheltenham – JCB Triumph Hurdle
1st PENTLAND HILLS (20/1)
2nd Couer Sublime
3rd Gardens Of Babylon
1336: And we're off!
Sir Erec is reshod... and they're off for the JCB Triumph Hurdle!
1330: Slight delay
Sir Erec is being replated down at the start. This won't do anything for Joseph's nerves and he's taking a slight drift in the betting as a result. The horse, though, looks very calm.
1325: Last call...
For your Placepots, Triumph bets, life-changing accas etc etc... They're going down for the opener and we're almost under way on Gold Cup day...
1320: Blog outsider...
Just a quick word for one each-way in the Triumph as John McConnell's Irish raider Hannon is an intriguing contender at a big price.
He was second against older opposition in a Grade Two last time, where he jumped well and stayed on strongly to be beaten a nose by Chosen Mate in a tight finish.
At 33/1 he's a big price because he comes from a much smaller stable, but McConnell is a shrewd handler and he's six from 14 in Britain this season.
1315: Arise... Sir Erec?
Almost there now to kick-off on Gold Cup day with the JCB Triumph Hurdle raising the curtain on what promises to be a stellar afternoon's sport.
Sir Erec is the banker of bankers for many and he's a 10/11 shot as punters at Cheltenham finalise their bets for the opener.
He looks a real class act and is understandably a strong favourite but the support for Quel Destin today has been sustained and he's a solid 5/1 second favourite now.
What could undo Sir Erec? They went slow at Leopardstown and he burned them off, so a proper strong gallop, bringing the future stayers into play, could leave him vulnerable but I guess we're nitpicking really.
We'll soon see anyway...
1300: The Lucky Last.
It used to be the County Hurdle, then it was the Grand Annual and now it's the Martin Pipe. The Lucky Last doesn't get any easier although two horses dominate the market for the race today.
They bet 3/1 Dallas Des Pictons, 4/1 Early Doors and it's 14/1 bar those two, a two-horse market in one of the most competitive handicaps of the week, even if a few at bigger prices are being nibbled as well.
But, the big two. Dallas Des Pictons won in handicap company at the Dublin Racing Festival and he's a rapid improver up 10lb for a neck win and he stays well, so this test should suit.
He was second to Ballymore winner City Island earlier in the season.
Then there's Early Doors, trained by JOB, owned by JP and ridden by Jonjo junior. He's been well beaten by Apple's Jade in Grade Ones the last two times he has run, but was third in last year's Martin Pipe off just a 2lb lower mark.
Pay your money and take your choice. Gordon or Joseph? It's becoming a familiar poser for punters.
1235: WATCH: Saved by the Bell...
Oli Bell has had a busy week on ITV Racing this week and his interview with Bryony Frost after Frodon's victory must be a career highlight.
The below video probably isn't one of those, but, professional as ever, he spins through the card with Sky Bet's Michael Shinners and our columnist Daryl Jacob, who rides Bristol De Mai in the Gold Cup today.
1215: Farewell, Noel
There were some stories yesterday and in amongst it all Noel Fehily announced his imminent retirement in an emotional interview sensitively handled by Lydia Hislop on Racing TV.
He's been a magnificent jockey over the years, winning a Champion Hurdle on Buveur D'Air and a Champion Chase on Special Tiara here at Cheltenham, but his last ever rides at the Festival come today.
He rides Cut The Mustard in the County Hurdle and Doreels Pierji in the Albert Bartlett, both for Willie Mullins and Jared Sulliven.
Good luck, Noel!
1156: All the major celebs are in attendance at Prestbury Park this afternoon...
1154: It's a huge day obviously and that's why we got the big names of Lydia Hislop, Ed Chamberlin, Simon Holt, Donn McClean, Ben Linfoot and Mike Cattermole all in one place to pore over the major talking points.
You can enjoy that feature right here...
1150: It's been a massive meeting for Cobden already with Topofthegame providing him with a memorable moment in Wednesday's RSA.
He must be one of the most improved jockeys of the season and has a massive future and a massive day ahead. It could be significant, especially given how highly regarded that Pic D'Orhy is by the team, that Cobden rides Quel Destin.
He's hard as nails, stays, jumps well and looks a typical Triumph Hurdle. Sir Erec is the only issue in his way and it's quite a significant one.
1140: On the subject of Ruby Walsh, I wonder who Harry Cobden's hero is...
1132: Racing TV ambassador Ruby Walsh has been chatting through his chances on the day and when the great jockey speaks, it's always worth paying close attention.
1125: From the Champions League to a future Champion Hurdle hope in Sir Erec. Joseph O'Brien has the best juvenile hurdlers around and has already snared the Fred Winter this week with Band Of Outlaws defying a big weight in that handicap.
Fakir D'Oudairies ran a belter in the Sky Bet Supreme, running on into fourth late on, and he's a smart stayer in the making. So O'Brien junior could be forgiven for being really disappointed if Sir Erec is turned over today.
He's already a Grade One winner after storming to an impressive success in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle and that's generally a good pointer. In a nutshell, he's a top-class Flat recruit and he jumps like a top-class hurdler.
The fly in the ointment is definitely Pic D'Orhy, Paul Nicholls' French import who has quality form from his time in France. Nicholls has previous in winning at the Festival with horses first time out for him and the vibes over the past few weeks have been strong.
Nicholls has had a brilliant week and could yet sign off with a fantastic Friday. We got the lowdown on his team, including Quel Destin, Clan Des Obeaux, Magic Saint and the mercurial Pic D'Orhy himself...
1118: Champion League Quarter-Final Draw:
Ajax v Juventus
Liverpool v Porto
Tottenham v Man City
Barcelona v Man Utd
1115: Our reliable, fresh-faced (!) team of in-house experts have had a busy week in front of the cameras and in the final instalment of the Daily Festival Briefing, there's plenty of Gold Cup chat and a few tips elsewhere on the card too...
1102: The ITV7 jackpot was shared between 20-odd people yesterday and there's another £250,000 up for grabs today. You can find out the details of today's game here, while if you need some inspiration then have a look at this passionate fella's tweet.
1048: The Standings.
It's often almost done and dusted in the leading trainer and jockey standings going into the final day of the Cheltenham Festival. Not so this year.
Nicky Henderson, Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott all have three winners apiece, while there is a bunch of jockeys sitting on two winners with Mark Walsh, Barry Geraghty, Ruby Walsh and Jamie Codd all at the double.
As for the Prestbury Cup, it's Britain 10-11 Ireland after 4-3 to Ireland the first two days and the reverse scoreline yesterday.
1035: As for the depth of the Gold Cup in terms of quality, the key here is that half the field are aged just seven or eight.
Five of the last six winners have fallen into that bracket in terms of age and in the shape of Al Boum Photo, Clan Des Obeaux, Elegant Escape and Kemboy we have three seven-year-olds who could be about to produce significant career-best efforts.
At the other end of the spectrum, Thistlecrack is the only 11-year-old while Definitly Red and Might Bite are the two 10-year-olds.
Simon Holt makes a good case for Elegant Escape in the below article, highlight the strong recent record of Welsh National winners ("Burrough Hill Lad, Cool Ground, Master Oats, Synchronised and, indeed, Native River...").
Could the drying ground be against this stout stayer? It does look to be the case on what we've seen of him so far but yesterday's Ryanair Chase win for Frodon was a good boost for Elegant Escape after the pair finished one-two in the Cotswold Chase here last time.
We paid Colin Tizzard a visit in the build-up to the Festival and here's what he had to say on Elegant Escape...
1030: Simon Claisse, Clerk of the Course at Cheltenham, is of the belief that we could see a bit of good in the going description later on if the rain stays away. "Very different conditions than last year" is his summary.
That, on the face of it, is bad news for the likes of: Native River, Elegant Escape, Bristol De Mai and Al Boum Photo.
And good news for the likes of: Clan Des Obeaux, Kemboy, Might Bite and Thistlecrack.
Bellshill, Invitation Only and Anibale Fly will likely go well on any type of going, while Presenting Percy... he's a bit of a law unto himself, but he seems just as effective no matter the conditions.
Just the one run for him this season, but he delivered the goods in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park...
1025: Gold Cup tips... it's what everyone is after this morning. Thankfully, we've pulled together all the selections of our ten leading experts in a bid to help you pick the winner... Click on the image below to find out who we're backing.
1020: What can we expect on Gold Cup day then? After yesterday's drama, it will be hard for the fourth and final instalment to live up to Thursday's action which included memorable wins for Paisley Park, Frodon and Siruh Du Lac.
Well, Sir Erec is banker material in the opening Triumph Hurdle and Pacha Du Polder goes for a remarkable third win in the Foxhunters' Chase.
There are three brutish handicaps to solve in the County Hurdle, Martin Pipe and Grand Annual Handicap Chase, and the Albert Bartlett is normally a proper spectacle at a big field of stoutly-bred novice hurdlers battle it out over three miles - experience could be key in that one.
Here's our Mike Vince setting the scene for you all...
1000: Morning all and welcome back to our live Cheltenham Festival coverage.
Still going strong? A few winners on the bag already? That's the spirit.
Earlier news from the course this morning is that following a dry night it's now Good to Soft all over on the New Course - so no excuses ground for Gold Cup day, that's a relief (for most connections, anyway) after last year's slog in the mud.
Here's last year's winning trainer Colin Tizzard, who fires three bullets at the big one this time around...