As Plan Bs go, the one applied to Big Buck's has had a lot to recommend it. A clumsy fall in a Hennessy Gold Cup prompted his redirection to the smaller obstacles and he is now top of the pile among staying hurdlers, unbeaten in six runs since that day at Newbury and the defending champion in the World Hurdle. Unusually, two of the seven-year-old's chief rivals this afternoon are also steeplechasers manqué, Tidal Bay and War Of Attrition.
Should the last-named, winner of the Gold Cup four years ago, triumph again here, it would the meeting's fairy tale. A place could be realistic, a safe return important above all.
Big Buck's (3.20) is a horse with boundless talent and a mildly recidivist attitude, for which Ruby Walsh's velvet-gloved iron hand on the reins is the perfect foil. He is the most likely winner but those looking for an each-way punt could do worse than consider the former two-mile champion Katchit.
The Ryanair Chase, the newest of the week's Grade One features, is still evolving but currently is something of a betwixt and between, the province of horses who lack the pace for the Champion Chase or the reserves of stamina for the Gold Cup, and the class for either. It is perceived as a match between the upwardly mobile pair who finished first and second in a valuable handicap at the track in November, in order Tranquil Sea and Poquelin. Better value may be found in J'y Vole (2.40), whose jumping impressed at Gowran Park last month.
The day's other four races are competitive handicaps, with Ainama (2.05), Door Boy (1.30), Jayo (4.00), who can fulfil his novice promise on better ground, and Shillingstone (4.40) the suggestions.
Our experts' tips
Nap In Compliance (4.00)
Next best Alfie Sherrin (2.05)
Long shot Lie Forrit (3.20)
Nap Jayo (4.00)
Next best Shillingstone (4.40)
Long shot Katchit (3.20)
Nap Alfie Sherrin (2.05)
Next best Karabak (3.20)
Long shot Voy Por Ustedes (2.40)
Nap Barbers Shop (3.20)
Next best Alfie Sherrin (2.40)
Long shot Tarotino (4.00)
Each day of Cheltenham, Totesport is donating a £100 bet, and paying the winnings to a charity. Today's punt is from Michael Dickinson. The former trainer, who sent out the first five home in the 1983 Gold Cup, picks Shillingstone (4.40) to run for the Injured Jockeys Fund: "Won his first two races this season, lost nothing in defeat last time out and Mark Walford is a most underrated amateur."
The name game Running today
Cape Tribulation (World Hurdle) Coastal feature in the Daintree Rainforest World Heritage site on the Great Barrier Reef coast in Queensland. Named in 1770 by Captain James Cook because "here began all our troubles".
Kia Kaha (Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup) Part of the ritual chanting which accompanies the haka, the Maori dance performed by the All Blacks. Translates broadly as "be strong".
Lie Forrit (World Hurdle) Another sporting exhortation, nothing to do with fibbing to get something. What you yell at a rugby scrum, in Scots dialect. Push forward, lads.
Oodachee (Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup) A long Japanese sword, usually just under a metre, originally used in battle on horseback but now associated with religious ceremony.
Planet Of Sound (Ryanair Chase) 1991 single from pioneering US alternative rock band The Pixies. Featured on the album Trompe le Monde and, like many Pixies songs, was about space travel.
Voy Por Ustedes (Ryanair Chase) The cry from a matador as he strikes the bull – it is Spanish for "I'm going for you".
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