Gold Cup: Will another favourite win at the Cheltenham Festival?

Bookmakers were waving the white flag with one day of the Cheltenham Festival still to go after being given another pasting by punters.
David Bass (Red) - Image Lesley Rigg/ ShutterstockDavid Bass (Red) - Image Lesley Rigg/ Shutterstock
David Bass (Red) - Image Lesley Rigg/ Shutterstock

The layers were well and truly on the ropes after a third consecutive day of fancied horses going in.

Bookmakers were estimated to be £50 million in arrears, but they could well get a sizeable chunk of that back on Friday afternoon as there are some fiendishly difficult handicaps and the possibility of the fancied horses being turned over.

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Highlight of the day is the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, where the choice is Cue Card, who can add to his previous wins this season in the Betfair Chase and the King George VI Chase.

Winning the Gold Cup would chalk up a notable treble and mean connections pocketing a £1 million bonus.

Cue Card is trained by Colin Tizzard, whose stable will be buoyed by the impervious victory of Thistlecrack in the Ryanair World Hurdle on day three.

Barters Hill can kick off proceedings on the final day with victory in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, though the horse did provide a scare earlier in the week.

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The six-year-old, trained by Ben Pauling, won all his four bumpers last term and is unbeaten in three races over timber so far, for which he has been sent off odds-in every time.

After winning his novice at Huntingdon in November, Barters Hill took the Grade One Challow Hurdle at Newbury and landed a Grade Two at Doncaster in January.

Pauling reports his stable star to be all set for his big test, having given connections a scare when pulling out stiff on Wednesday.

"He's fit, healthy and ready to go," the trainer said.

"We're very excited. He's in the form of his life and we'll go from there.

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"It will be a good day and we're very much looking forward to it."

David Bass has ridden Barters Hill in all but one of his starts and has been counting down the days to this afternoon.

"I can't wait to get back on Barters Hill. He is just a very good horse. His profile is unbelievable and I cannot think of many horses who have done what he has at this stage of their career.

"To win four bumpers and three novice hurdles, including very good races at Aintree, Newbury and Doncaster, is some achievement and the form is working out everywhere.

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The race after the Gold Cup is the Foxhunters Chase when all eyes will be Victoria Pendleton, the Olympic gold medal winning cyclist, who is swopping saddles to partner Pacha Du Polder.

Pendleton's venture into racing has not been universally popular, though retired former champion Sir Anthony McCoy has given his backing, but he also added emphatically that the horse will not win the race on the grounds that he won't stay the trip.

Pendleton said: "If I get round on the horse and complete the course I feel like it will be a gold medal."