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Cheltenham Festival tips: Champ to beat Al Boum Photo in Gold Cup?

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Champ looks to have an outstanding chance of providing Nicky Henderson with his third WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in the feature of what has been a captivating Festival, despite being behind closed doors.

Henderson suffered a blow with the late defection of Altior from the Queen Mother Champion Chase but he has a stunning prospect in Shishkin and Champ, who was named after Tony McCoy, ticks plenty of boxes ahead of the big one (3.05).

Last year’s RSA Chase winner had his jumping frailties as a novice, falling at Cheltenham previously, but he jumped and travelled remarkably well when second to Sceau Royal in the Game Spirit at Newbury. Sceau Royal could easily have won Wednesday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase with more luck in running.

The son of King’s Theatre probably has the dual Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo to beat. He had his traditional warm-up victory at Tramore and he comes alive at Cheltenham, edging Champ’s stablemate Santini last year. This could be his sternest test yet, given how well Champ jumped on his return, his first run after a wind operation.

Alan King won the JCB Triumph Hurdle (1.20) twice earlier this century and has one of the bets of the week in Tritonic. The son of Sea The Moon was a really classy sort on the Flat but he could be better again hurdling. Betfair goes 2-1, though punters may get a bigger price on the show, considering the market strength of Zanahiyr.

Zanahiyr did not have the same level of form hurdling as the selection, but he has developed into a really versatile jumper, and stablemate Denise Foster is having a week to remember.

Willie Mullins has won four of the last 10 renewals of the County Hurdle (1.55), targeting it with Saint Roi last season, and Ganapthi makes plenty of appeal in the colours of Al Boum Photo. He has only had three hurdle starts, winning his maiden before finishing second at Punchestown and not quite seeing out a staying trip at Leopardstown.

The Albert Bartlett (2.30) has seen horses win at big prices in recent years. Very Wood (33-1), Kilbricken Storm (33-1) and Minella Indo (50-1) all showed the importance of stamina in this contest and Vanillier could out-run his odds for Gavin Cromwell.

He was a sick horse when never travelling at Leopardstown and had Sattler back in third when winning his maiden at Naas. The absence of amateur riders renders the St James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase (3.40) something of a novel contest this year. Billaway, second last year, has looked better than ever this season. He finds plenty for pressure and should be very hard to beat for Mullins.

Friday marks the first renewal of the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase (4.15), with Mullins attempting to enhance his exceptional record in mares-only races at the Festival.

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