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Friday, 14 December, 2018

What to keep an eye on for the final day of the festival

Defi Du Seuil: heads the Triumph Hurdle betting
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Can anything stop JP McManus winning the Triumph?

All winter we have been expecting owner JP McManus to carry away the JCB Triumph Hurdle with one of his team of extraordinarily talented juvenile hurdlers.

Leading the pack is the redoubtable Defi Du Seuil, who has surprised everyone with his ability to keeping winning races. He heads into the Triumph with five wins from five runs this season.

His biggest rivals could be those carrying the green and gold colours of his owner in the shape of Charli Parcs, still held in the highest regard by trainer Nicky Henderson, and Landofhopeandglory, a leading juvenile at the start of the season.

Two certainties - Death and Elliott?

Gordon Elliott has been the dominant force at the Cheltenham Festival this year, and if you asked him at the start of the week which horse he would most fancy to give him a winner then it would have been Death Duty in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.

Owned by Gigginstown House Stud, Death Duty is unbeaten over hurdles and has been compared favourably with Elliott's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack. The trainer's regard for the horse is sky high.

The Albert Bartlett will be his biggest test to date, with the likes of Wholestone in opposition, but victory is expected from all those involved with the horse.

Cue Card is back for a second Ascot Chase after a four-year gap
Cue Card to bring the house down in the Gold Cup?

Would Cue Card have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup last year if he had stood up instead of falling at the third-last fence? It is one of the great festival imponderables.

What is not in question is the 11-year-old is back and looking as good as ever as he bids to capture his third race at the meeting. He has already pocketed the Betfair Chase and Ascot Chase this season and found only his uber-talented stablemate Thistlecrack too good in the King George.

It may be a stablemate that is the biggest obstacle to him winning the Gold Cup this year with Native River among the opposition. However, Cue Card will have an army of supporters behind him and there would be no more popular winner of the race than him.

On The Fringe on the way out?

On The Fringe has been the dominant hunter chaser for the last couple of years, but could this be the festival where his crown slips and a new name is carved on the mighty winner's trophy?

On the plus side, On The Fringe is twice a winner of the Foxhunter Chase, is trained by the maestro Enda Bolger and ridden by man-of-the-moment Jamie Codd. That's a lot of pluses.

However, he is now 12 years old and faces some serious rivals including the likes of Ask The Weatherman.

Nicky Henderson: training a horse for which former jockey?
The sweetest of victories?

Nicky Henderson has already enjoyed another fantastic festival, and he could sign off the 2017 meeting in style with victory in the race named after his father.

The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual brings the curtain down on Friday, and it is a race Henderson has won twice before.

This time he relies on Theinval, and another win would tie him with Paul Nicholls and Fulke Walwyn as the winning-most trainer in the race.

He's unbeaten over hurdles and has been compared favourably with Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack
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