Cheltenham Festival: Diakali can turn tables to triumph over Our Conor

A look ahead to the final day at the Cheltenham Festival

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The Independent Online

The Irish start the final day of the meeting confident that their No 1 juvenile hurdler is Our Conor. He is certainly in the best of hands, in both his jockey and trainer, and extended his unbeaten record over timber to three with an impressive success at Leopardstown last month.

But it seems significant that Willie Mullins remains prepared to follow him here with Diakali (1.30) for the JCB Triumph Hurdle. Well held in second that day at Leopardstown, when obliged to make the running, Diakali had himself been tremendously impressive in two previous starts. With a strong pace likely in this much bigger field, he may yet reverse the form if ridden for a turn of foot.

Far West lived up to the esteem of his trainer, Paul Nicholls,  in a couple of visits here during the winter, but the field is too full of improvers to be dogmatic.

The same is true of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, a thorough test of stamina for maturing horses. After an icy start to the meeting, rain is expected today and that would help At Fishers Cross, whose trainer, Rebecca Curtis, is concerned that drying ground might unravel the improvement he has made in his jumping this winter. On the face of it, his form looks very strong after success of The New One  at this meeting on Wednesday, but that horse idled in front when beaten by At Fishers Cross in their trial at this course in January and it might not pay to take the form too literally.

African Gold, a stablemate of The New One, has also been made to look pretty special in recent days, with his Doncaster victim Close Touch impressing at Sandown last weekend, and he is respected if seeing out the extra distance.

Yet again, however, it is Mullins who could hold the key in Ballycasey (2.40). He has looked a class act in a bumper and two hurdle races and while he plainly needs to take the bare form to a new level, he seems certain to do so as his stamina kicks in.

Though Mullins flies the tricolour, it can prove another big day for his compatriots overall. Salsify (4.00) remains in his prime as he defends the CGA Foxhunter Chase, while Toner D’Oudairies (4.40) and Il Fenomeno (2.05) can profit from artful preparation for the two handicap hurdles.

The latter is ridden by Paul Carberry, who can also help the home team get the last laugh through Kid Cassidy (5.15).