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Pinnacle for Ryedale-trained Cheltenham hope Kashmir Peak
John Quinn, so close yet so far with third-placed Countrywide Flame in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle, has an outstanding chance of making it into the Cheltenham winners’ enclosure today by launching a twin assault on the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Twelve months ago the Norton trainer won this prestigious juvenile contest with Countrywide Flame and this time around he is doubly represented by Kashmir Peak and Hidden Justice, two horses with strong claims.
Kashmir Peak may have suffered a blip at Musselburgh last time – a stumble which almost put him on the floor and gave his jockey no chance of staying on board – but he had previously won both his races, including a Grade 2 event at Doncaster.
Hidden Justice is unbeaten in two starts, at Wetherby and under a penalty at Catterick, winning handsomely both times. He is a strong stayer who goes well on soft ground, while Kashmir Peak gives the impression that a sounder surface suits him best.
It is difficult to split the Highfield duo – perhaps anyone intending to back one, should back both – but marginal preference, with the ground drying out, is for nap selection Kashmir Peak to do what Countrywide Flame did last year and provide Quinn with a Grade 1 success.
Brian Ellison and David O’Meara are other North Yorkshire trainers with chances on the final day of the Festival.
Ellison saddles Viva Colonia in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase.
The gelding is two-from-two over fences for the trainer, who has had this race in mind for him for some time. Danny Cook takes the mount on Viva Colonia, who deserves serious respect, but top trainer Nicky Henderson has six runners in a race named in memory of his father.
O’Meara runs Ifandbutwhynot in the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle and the recent Musselburgh winner is short-listed to figure in the money in yet another wide-open handicap. He is still progressive and the drying ground should suit him.
The green, white and gold of the Irish flag has received a thorough airing already this week at Cheltenham, but never will it be displayed more proudly than if Sir Des Champs wins today’s showpiece event.
The Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup is the race everyone wants to win, but Irish raiders have fallen short since War Of Attrition won in 2006. Sir Des Champs may be the horse to end the drought.
Trained by Willie Mullins, Sir Des Champs has been primed for the Gold Cup all season. His form has got stronger with each of his races and his latest win in the Hennessy Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown suggested he was a horse peaking at the right time.
The Gold Cup is a not-to-be-missed event. Nicky Henderson is strongly represented by Bobs Worth, winner of the Hennesy Gold Cup winner and four-from-four at Cheltenham, and Long Run, Gold Cup hero of 2011 and twice a winner of the King George.
Paul Nicholls has rising star Silviniaco Conti, who may well be good enough to emulate the trainer’s former winners Denman and Kauto Star.
In this neck of the woods, all eyes will be on Cape Tribulation.
Trained by Malcolm Jefferson, he would be a celebratory winner for Ryedale. Triumphant over hurdles at this meeting last year and a Grade 2 chase winner on this course in January, Cape Tribulation is a high-class horse.
He will need a career-best performance to win.
Tom O'Ryan's tips
1.30 Kashmir Peak (NAP), 2.05 Ifandbutwhynot, 2.40 African Gold, 3.20 Sir Des Champs, 4.00 Cottage Oak, 4.40 Toner d’Oudairies, 5.15 Viva Colonia.
Today’s other meetings: Fakenham, Lingfield and Wolverhampton.
1.45 Wordiness, 2.20 Ladies Are Forever, 2.55 Teophilip, 3.30 Miblish, 4.05 Erodium, 4.40 Mia’s Boy, 5.15 Cool Sky.
Tomorrow’s other meetings: Ffos Las, Kempton, Uttoxeter and Wolverhampton.