Bellshill can give trainer Willie Mullins a long overdue breakthrough victory in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, the feature of the final day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.
The now nine-year-old has looked an entirely different prospect in the last two seasons when compared to younger days. He has always looked potential high class, but it has taken time for him to put it all together.
Off for almost a year before making his seasonal debut in early 2018, he ran three times in the space of two months and ran his heart out each time. On the first occasion, he won a Grade 3 race in a canter, and followed up by finishing a somewhat unlucky fifth, beaten just one length, when carrying top weight in the Irish Grand National.
Just three weeks later he again produced a top-class effort to win the Punchestown Gold Cup at the expense of stablemate Djakadam.
He made this season’s return in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown and looked very much in need of the run when finishing fourth behind Kemboy, who also runs today.
He still looked in need of the outing when touching off Road To Respect in the Irish Gold Cup over the same course and distance in early February. That should have put him spot-on for today’s race and the progressive chaser, whose measured jumping and stamina will be a distinct advantage in a race like today’s, is versatile ground-wise. He is an each-way price and rates a great each-way bet but with a little luck in running he can take this race at the expense of fellow raider Presenting Percy.
The latter is unbeaten in two runs at this meeting, having won last season’s RSA Chase in great style and the Pertemps Final of 2017 in similar fashion. He hasn’t had a run over fences since the RSA victory, but he won well on his seasonal debut, in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park.
As one of the least exposed horses in the race, he could be a superstar but probably will need to be so to win this race having so little experience out of novice company.
But for Sir Erec’s recent hold-up due to a stone bruise, he would be banker material in the Triumph Hurdle. A high-class horse on the flat, he looks just as good, if not better, over hurdles, and will take a great deal of beating.
His trainer, Joseph O’Brien, winning the Fred Winter with the very impressive Band Of Outlaws is a boost to the prospects of Sir Erec and he can take this before making his mark in open company.
Ucello Conti will take a great deal of beating in the St James’s Place Foxhunters’ Challenge Cup. Gordon Elliott’s horse was a classy sort in regulation events and he won a point to point in January before returning to the track to win a hunter chase at Thurles and another at Navan. He looked better last time, at Navan, than he did on his previous outing and is sure to have been primed for today’s. With a clear round of jumping, he will be hard to beat.
Stand Up And Fight is an interesting runner for Enda Bolger. The lightly raced seven-year-old looked very promising back in 2017, when his form included a runner-up finish behind Al Boum Photo in a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle. He won his first two point to points this season but was a long way below his best when turned over at odds-on last time. He is unproven over today’s trip but if he stays he will have a major say.
1:30 Sir Erec
2:10 Mr Adjudicator
3:30 Bellshill (nap)
4:10 Ucello Conti (nb)
4:50 Magic Saint
5:30 Early Doors