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Cheltenham - Racing: Day Four Preview

It's simply the most prestigious race on the National Hunt calendar and the centrepiece of the Cheltenham Festival - Friday is Gold Cup Day in the Cotswolds.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the prize every owner, trainer and jockey has designs on when they find a talented horse - this is the grandest stage of all, the historic race where legends are made.

From the bygone days of Golden Miller and Arkle, to modern greats like Best Mate and Kauto Star, winning this race is to write a chapter in racing folklore and the Gold Cup goes to post at 15:30 on Friday for the latest instalment.

Sam Thomas relives Denman's 2008 Gold Cup win

The supporting card boasts the JCB Triumph Hurdle at 13:30 and the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at 14:50, while the St. James's Place Festival Hunters' Chase follows the main event at 16:10 and is the Gold Cup for amateur riders.

All the Cheltenham action is available on our Sports Live Streaming platform and you can get some pre-Festival tips from our Upping The Ante team.

Here's our race-by-race look ahead to day four of Cheltenham 2022.

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13:30 - JCB Triumph Hurdle (2m1f)

The Irish look to have an incredibly strong juvenile team this year and that's reflected in their domination of the Triumph Hurdle market.

The big pair in the betting are 2/1 Vauban and 5/2 Pied Piper for Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott respectively.

A half-length split them on their respective hurdles bows at Punchestown on New Year's Eve, with Pied Piper calling the tune.

He has since laughed off the UK challengers in a trial for this race over course and distance in January, while Vauban readily won the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival from hitherto unbeaten Fil D'or - a stablemate of Pied Piper.

The top-notch Irish pair will be insanely popular in the betting, but Knight Salute is no backmarker for Britain.

Milton Harris is enjoying a fine season and his charge is five-from-five over timber, seemingly with no idea of how to accept defeat. He, too, won a trial for this in November and at 12/1 he may have something to say in regards to a possible 'green-wash' in the Day Four opener.

14:10 - McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle (2m1f)

The County Hurdle is routinely one of the tougher handicaps to read at The Festival and this promises to be no different.

Brian Ellison has pinpointed this race for bet365 Morebattle Hurdle winner Cormier and he's 14/1 to land a £100k bonus payout by going on to win at The Festival after that Kelso success this month.

Unexposed State Man is 5/1 for Willie Mullins, while 8/1 West Cork won a strong Greatwood Hurdle over the track and trip in November and could be one for trainer Dan Skelton, winner of this race three times since 2016.

14:50 - Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (3m)

An out-and-out test of stamina for novice hurdles, the Albert Bartlett picks holes in all bar the strongest of stayers.

Ginto at 11/4 is now Gordon Elliott's main contender following Minella Crooner's late injury, while The Nice Guy has won two bumpers and a 2m3f Naas maiden hurdle for Willie Mullins so far, and the 9/1 chance falls right into the 'could be anything' category. Stablemate Minella Cocooner is 13/2 having won a Grade 1 at last month's Dublin Racing Festival.

Archie Watson's Stag Horn is 11/1 and has won both starts since switching to hurdles - he's that rarest of breeds in having run at Royal Ascot last summer before turning his focus to jumping.

Henry Daly's 10/3 chance Hillcrest ticks a lot of boxes for this race. His only setback in five over timber was when hampered and unseating here on Trials Days in January, but he's since thrived upped to three miles at Haydock and this strong-travelling physical specimen could break the resolve of his rivals here.

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15:30 - Cheltenham Gold Cup (3m2½f)

Quite simply, the race that it's all about. A contest where legends are made in this glorious part of the Cotswolds countryside. Who will be joining the pantheon of greats next?

Last year's winner Minella Indo is [11/2], having finished second in the Irish Gold Cup last month, a run that pleased trainer Henry De Bromhead.

On form this season, 2021 runner-up A Plus Tard is favoured in the betting at 3/1, but Minella Indo tends to bring out his A-game at Cheltenham.

Dual winner Al Boum Photo is 9/1 to regain the crown, having finished third last time, though Kauto Star is the only horse in history to reclaim this prize after winning, then losing it.

Protektorat is the leading British hope in the betting for Dan and Harry Skelton, but will his defeat of since-retired Native River at Aintree in December prove a real barometer for this acid test? He's priced at 7/1.

Chantry House at 16/1 and Royale Pagaille at 16/1 are other British hopefuls.

However, 3/1 Galvin won the Savills Chase at Christmas - pipping A Plus Tard - and last year's National Hunt Chase winner could be going as well as any up the famous Cheltenham hill after three-and-a-quarter-miles for Davy Russell and Gordon Elliott, as Ireland bids to make it seven Gold Cups in eight years.

16:10 - St. James's Place Festival Hunters' Chase (3m2½f)

Run over the exact same and track and trip, this is the Gold Cup for amateur riders.

Billaway has finished second in the last two renewals and is 5/2 to end that sequence with a positive move, though his jumping can often be his undoing.

He was comprehensively defeated in Ireland by Winged Leader in January and, two years his junior, that rival surely can be a massive player at 9/2.

Few riders personify the amateur ethos better than owner/jockey David Maxwell and he's got a few contenders in this, 13/2 Bob And Co could be the best of them.

He was right in the fight when unseating in this a year ago (with Maxwell absent as the professionals replaced the amateurs amid restrictions then) and then beat Billaway in a pulsating scrap at Punchestown afterwards.

He warmed up nicely at Haydock last month and, if he can steer him home in front, there won't be a wider smile in the Cotswolds all week than that of the effervescent Maxwell.

16:50 - Mares' Chase (2m4½f)

The newest race on the Festival programme and one which Willie Mullins dominated last March as Colreevy beat Elimay in the inaugural running.

The record of the Closutton genius with mares at the Cheltenham Festival is quite stunning and it will be no surprise if he hogs this race in the coming years.

Elimay is 2/1 to go one better this time and the talented grey has enjoyed a fine preparation. Her experience may trump stablemate and 5/2 chance Concertista - a Festival winner over hurdles - but the score between Elimay and 9/4 Mount Ida stands at one apiece.

Gordon Elliott's charge won the Kim Muir last March, despite some alarming early jumping woes leaving her stone last in the field. She will almost certainly fail to peg back Elimay if repeating those shenanigans, as she goes left-handed for the first time since.

They are, however, the class acts and in the penultimate race of the Festival this Mullins vs. Elliott battle could be pivotal in the final furlong of the race to be leading trainer at the meeting.

17:30 - Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (2m4f)

It's sometimes hard to believe how quickly we go from Supreme on the Tuesday to this final curtain call, but that's the innate beauty of the all-action Cheltenham experience - it tends to fly by!

Since this race was added to the programme in 2009 the score stands at Ireland 7 Britain 6, though the raiders have bagged four of the last five to hit the front.

Langer Dan was second last year and is 9/2 to better that for Dan Skelton - he's only 2lb higher than when chasing home Galopin Des Champs last March.

Five O'Clock at 16/1 for Willie Mullins and Chemical Energy at 8/1 for Gordon Elliott are possible contenders for Ireland.

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