Cheltenham Festival 2017: Djakadam in the perfect shape to land Gold Cup

Ed Chamberlin
Djakadam ridden by Jason Deer on the gallops  - PA Wire

This is the biggest day of the year for the purist. The Grand National might be the day that the nation goes racing, but for the racing fan the Timico Gold Cup is as good as it gets.

Thursday belonged to Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh. What an incredible response. Four winners. What a statement.

Finally, a day to remember after a tough year. Mullins lost Vautour and then there have been the injuries to Faugheen, Annie Power, Min and others. The racing gods have not been smiling on them but I just have a feeling they will be favoured in the Gold Cup. That would make their year in one fell swoop, because the Gold Cup is the holy grail for Mullins, and I think his Djakadam has a massive chance.

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He has come second twice, including last year after a nightmare build-up. This year he has been trained for one day and one day only and the run-up has gone perfectly, as Mullins told me on air. The Gold Cup is a brutal test, and being fresh is a huge advantage. This is the only race Djakadam has been aimed at and his connections are delighted with his work and condition. 

While my head says Djakadam, my heart goes for Cue Card. As a journalist, the presenter of ITV Racing, and a fan I would love Cue Card to win it. 

To think that when he won the Bumper here Gordon Brown was still Prime Minister... and these are delicate animals. He has been on the go here since 2009, he has run 35 times. The longevity is remarkable, he is the public’s horse and everyone loves the connections. Colin Tizzard is just brilliant. I caught the train a couple of weeks ago with him from Waterloo to Andover and I laughed the entire way. The interviews will be great fun after a win from either Native River or Cue Card.

That’s my head and my heart, but as for my wallet, I have had a bet on Minella Rocco. He will be a huge price, I think about 33s, because he has had a nightmare year. He won the four-miler here last year, beating Native River, but nothing has gone right since. He fell at Aintree and it was a really horrible fall, and then he unseated Aidan Coleman in the Irish Gold Cup. But he is trained by a genius and there is nobody better at getting a horse ready for Cheltenham than Jonjo O’Neill. If there is going to be an upset he is the one I am going for.

Cheltenham course

Elsewhere on Friday, my Wednesday guest Nina Carberry has put the word in my ear about her old partner On The Fringe. She let us down with her tip in the Cross Country but AP McCoy and I can forgive Nina anything. She is awesome. She and On The Fringe were a lethal combination and she hands him over to Jamie Codd. ‘The Coddfather’ has had a brilliant week and I think he is a certainty in the Foxhunters.

As for me, I haven’t been to the Gold Cup this century because at Sky, Friday was my preparation day for Super Sunday and Monday Night Football.

Even that was always put on hold at 3.30pm. Being here is a great thrill and, most importantly, I hope viewers have enjoyed it as much as we have.

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