The final day of the Festival gets under way with a chance for the most maligned generation of juvenile hurdlers in many years to make their indignation plain. Certainly, Alaivan (1.30) retains every right to prove himself top-class in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, having won two of his three starts over timber on the bridle and deserving indulgence for a reverse at Leopardstown in between.
Having wasted energy when failing to settle in front that day, he could not match the acceleration of Carlito Brigante. The winner has since followed up at Musselburgh, but Alaivan has a much deeper staying pedigree and a strong pace here will surely help him switch off, so keeping enough in reserve to cut them down on the hill.
He was a Listed winner on the level for John Oxx, whose patient grounding gives him better prospects of progressing through the ranks than many recruits from the Flat. As it happens, another leading Irish contender was also stabled with Sea The Stars in his time, but while Pittoni is a really handsome individual still capable of further progress, he has had an interrupted preparation.
Secant Star could be dangerous, if inexperience no longer shows in his jumping, while Soldatino may prove best of the home team. He has been fast-tracked here after putting himself in the picture at the 11th hour with a startling British debut at Kempton.
Ruby Walsh rides the unexposed Tito Bustillo for Paul Nicholls in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle, but may be thwarted by his other main patron, Willie Mullins, through Tawaagg (2.05). Set plenty to do in a similarly competitive handicap at Leopardstown last time, he did not have the best of runs but still closed Puyol to half a length.
Mullins also has an extremely strong hand in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, even more so now Quel Esprit (2.40) has proved himself unscathed from an early fall here on Wednesday. He could do with a drop of rain, but Walsh's fidelity is instructive of the high esteem in which this future chasing star is held in a yard saturated with such prospects. The big Cotswold hope is Tell Massini, whose win here in November has worked out very well, but he remains an unknown quantity away from the mud.
Roulez Cool (4.00) certainly goes well on a quicker surface and, looking at some of the semi-retired veterans up against him, has youth and a progressive profile on his side in the Christie's Foxhunter Chase.
The last two handicaps of the meeting are hopelessly competitive for anyone trying to redress three and a half days' damage. Two trainers, in particular, have obvious incentives to win the races honouring their respective fathers, and Ashkazar hinted at a return to form for David Pipe at Ascot last time. He is certainly well treated on his best form, but gave signs of temperament during his journey down the ratings. Conversely, Peveril could prove ahead of the game despite his big weight, but preference is for another of Nicky Henderson's novices, Radium (4.40). Lightly raced since his arrival from France, he looked sure to be suited by this distance when winning here in January and was presumably not on top of his game at Haydock next time.
Henderson is having another purposeful crack at "dad's race" and French Opera's jumping has improved since he finished third as a novice last year. This time round it is You're The Top who trades inexperience for a fair rating, but Beggars Cap (5.15) has unfinished business here after falling when entering contention three out last year. He has shown practically nothing during a light campaign, but Ferdy Murphy has already reiterated this week how very artful he can be in targeting handicappers at this meeting.
The name game: Running today
Carlito Brigante (Triumph Hurdle) The eponymous character, a Puerto Rican criminal, from Carlito's Way, a novel by Edwin Torres. Later a 1993 film with Al Pacino in the title role.
Calgary Bay (Gold Cup) Bay on Isle Of Mull from which Calgary in Alberta, Canada, was named by settlers in 1876.
Fionnegas (Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle) The father of the Irish warrior of legend, Cuchulainn.
Keki Buku (County Hurdle) Turkish resort (translates as Goat Bay) off the Gulf of Hisaronu on the Mediterranean coast, much frequented by yachties.
Moon Over Miami (Grand Annual Chase) Charming 1941 musical romance, starring Betty Grable, Carole Landis and Charlotte Greenwood, about three sisters who go fortune-hunting in the Florida resort.
Tito Bustillo (County Hurdle) The cave near Ribadesella on the northern Spanish coast that is one of the great sanctuaries of Palaeolithic art in Europe, including a fine representation of a horse with a flying mane.
Our experts' tips
Nap Radium (4.40)
Next best Alaivan (1.30)
Long shot Thousand Stars (2.05)
Nap Kauto Star (3.20)
Next best Alaivan (1.30)
Long shot Any Given Day (2.05)
Nap Denman (3.20)
Next best Quel Esprit (2.40)
Long shot Westlin' Winds (1.30)
Nap Kauto Star (3.20)
Next best Tell Massini (2.40)
Long shot Bellvano (2.05)Reuse content