Thanks very much for joining me for the last four days. So the British-trained horses just edged their Irish counterparts 14-13 (the only Irish-trained entry in that last race nabbing second at a big price!) But it was an Irish trainer (Willie Mullins) who scooped the Thomas Pink leading trainer award. Ruby Walsh had five winners of his own to be top jockey. Cheerio!
RESULT - 1715 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Steeple Chase 2m ½f
1. Oiseau de Nuit (Steven Clements) 40-1
2. Askthemaster (Philip Enright) 50-1
3. Leo's Lucky Star (Danny Cook) 20-1
4. De Boitron (G Lee) 8-1
Winning owner Terry Warner:
"This horse was lame on Monday and this is my first winner of the year after 280-odd winners! We gave Tony McCoy his first winner in the Cheltenham Festival in this race, on Kibreet."
Super ride from seven-pound claimer Steven Clements, who lands big odds of 40-1 for trainer Colin Tizzard.
Oiseau de Nuit wins!
Anquetta is being pushed hard by Oiseau de Nuit.
Tanks For That has recovered from that error and is disputing the lead. Shoreacres is being ridden along. Anquetta also looks very handy.
Tanks For That and Pigeon Island make mistakes at the first, Fiendish Flame leads.
They're off in the Festival's final race.
I'msingingtheblues is from the David Pipe yard and deserves loads of respect. He's the favourite, with Shoreacres, the mount of Tony McCoy, the second most popular one in the betting.
Tanks For That is one of the leading fancies, but he's looking somewhat over-excited in the parade ring. Nigel Twiston-Davies has had a horrid Festival. Can Pigeon Island, last year's winner, bring some solace with Paddy Brennan on board?
There's only one Irish-trained runner in the Johnny Henderson. He's called Askthemaster and he's very much an outsider, so it looks like the GB team will just fend off the Irish for a narrow 14-13 overall win!
David from London texts:
"Long Run has only beaten horses that are back numbers now in Denman and Kauto Star. Diamond Harry and Wayward Prince will be first and second in next year's. Cheltenham Gold Cup." Sounds dangerously like sour grapes to me, David. I'll take Long Run in a match bet against either of your two.
By my reckoning, only if Pepe Simo wins the last (at 1715) can Paul Nicholls stop Willie Mullins from taking the leading trainer award back across The Irish Sea. What a week it's been for the Irish raiders...
RESULT - 1640 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle 2m 4½f
1. Sir Des Champs (Emmet Mullins) 9-2 Fav
2. Son Of Flicka (Henry Brooke) 28-1
3. 3 First Point (David Bass) 20-1
4. Indian Daudaie (James Cowley) 25-1
Son of Flicka the top-weight is collared at the last by Sir Des Champs and it's a lucky 13 for Ireland. Winning trainer is Willie Mullins, that's his fourth success of the week, better than any English trainer!
Indian Daudaie remains second and is coming in strongly but others are coming too...
Three fell in a melee at one flight, thinning out the field, it's still Barizan in front.
Barizan leads from Indian Daudaie.
Just two more races to go and it's a monstrous field for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle. I won't even attempt to look at the form for this one. Sorry. Race will be off at 1640...
"Can't watch the racing as at work (Hallelujah for your updates!) but Denman must have run some race! You have to wonder what he could have achieved in his career with a clean bill of health." An inspiring competitor, that one. Now here's a thought: I reckon Kauto might retire so maybe Ruby could ride a 12-year-old Denman next year? He's 12-1 to win it in 2012 with William Hill.
E-mail from Robin, Aberdeenshire:
"Anyone know if What a Friend will take its chance in the National? Thought he ran a cracker in the Gold Cup and if he gets some give in the ground, he has to have a super chance!" Agreed, though a bruising race here followed by another exhausting one at Aintree three weeks later is always a tough old proposition.
Not sure where I got that 6-1 price about Long Run defending his crown next year, because Ladbrokes won't even lay you half that. They go a skinny 5-2, the mean so-and-sos. Spokesman David Williams adds: "Last year we were laughing but this year we're crying into our empty satchels. It's been desperately bad. The punters are carrying the cash off the course in cranes." He reckons the industry has lost "upwards of £20m".
For those of you interested in such things, and thanks for prompting me Karl, GB lead Ireland 13-12 with two races to go. That is still an Irish all-time record, mind, and what terrific excitement that little sideshow has produced.
RESULT - 1600 Christie's Foxhunter Chase 3m 2½f
Handicap Chase 3m 1½
1. Zemsky (Mr Derek O'Connor) 33-1
2. Mid Div And Creep (Georgina Andrews) 100-1
3. Oscar Delta (Mr D Murphy) 25-1
Baby Run unseats Willy Twiston-Davies at the second last, leaving Derek O'Connor to claim his second winner of the week by some distance on Zemsky.
It's still all about Baby Run with Zemsky making good progress. Dante's Storm has made one error too many.
Josh Halley is unseated from Herons Well, another terrible error from Dante's Storm in second.
A couple of early fallers, and an error from Dante's Storm, but Baby Run is bowling along in front, just like he did for Sam Twiston-Davies 12 months ago.
They're off in the Christie's Foxhunter Chase.
Apologies for failing to build up the Foxhunters' properly - anyway it's about to start with Baby Run not necessarily favourite as expected (young Willy Twiston-Davies on board for dad Nigel) - the Irish-trained On The Fringe has been very well backed.
Winning owner Robert Waley-Cohen:
"To have a runner in the Gold Cup is an honour, but to have your son riding the winner is a dream. He jumped the last really well and I knew they were never going to catch us after that. He's a gorgeous young horse."
E-mail from Dan in Wrexham:
"If you publish my e-mail on the BBC commentary page before I leave for work in half an hour I will donate my winnings from Long Run to Children in Need!" Not sure if that counts as accepting a bribe?!
FULL FINISHING ORDER
1st LONG RUN 7-2 Favourite
2nd Denman 8-1
3rd Kauto Star 5-1
4th What A Friend 25-1
5th Midnight Chase 9-1
6th Tidal Bay 16-1
7th Pandorama 14-1
8th Neptune Collonges 33-1
9th Carruthers 66-1
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Denman and Kauto Star:
"I thought they had it between them at one stage, but Long Run was always going well just behind. They've run absolutely amazing races. Kauto travelled great and jumped great and we were always going to be more positive on him. I always thought Long Run was the best horse in the race but I could not be more proud of my horses."
E-mail from Nick:
"The BBC radio commentary from John Hunt on the Gold Cup was outstanding. Pinpoint accuracy delivered with great gusto and emotion. Well done to him and the team there." Hear hear!
A few more comments from Henderson now:
"It was a great race because all the horses have run great races - there's no disputing it. Kauto Star was probably at his best today, but Long Run is a very good young horse." And I'll add this: Long Run made a pretty bad jumping mistake on the final circuit and managed to shrug it off well enough to win, so maybe prices of 6-1 about him winning this again next year are worth considering.
Winning jockey Sam Waley-Cohen:
"He's a whole lot better than I thought he was. That's a very special feeling and he's a very special horse. I want to say thank you to everyone for believing in me and the horse. This is beyond my wildest dreams. I didn't think we were going to get there, but he picked up, and I think he still had a bit left. When he got there he saw the crowd and he wanted to stop and have a look. What a horse he is."
This race really did live up to its grand billing as the three past champions, and the newcomer Long Run, all looked to have an excellent chance approaching the final stages. Imperial Commander was the first of the quartet to cry off, and the Paul Nicholls pair of Denman and Kauto Star seemed set to fight out another grand finish. Long Run never let either of them get too far away, and Sam Waley-Cohen's tireless practice - which he fits in when not running his dental practice business - paid off as he reeled both in up the hill.
Winning trainer Nicky Henderson:
"Sam gave him a beautiful ride. I thought he was going to need a bit more daylight coming down the hill, but Sam was very confident and he was very professional."
History being written in the most prestigious steeplechase of all - Long Run is the first six-year-old since 1963 to win this famous old race, while Sam Waley-Cohen is the first amateur to boot a winner home in this one for 30 years. Also it's Nicky Henderson's first winner in the race in a glittering 40-year career.
RESULT - 1520 Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase 3m 2½f
1. Long Run (Sam Waley-Cohen) 7-2 Fav
2. Denman (Sam Thomas) 8-1
3. Kauto Star (Ruby Walsh) 5-1
But back comes Long Run to swoop past the old boys at the end, surely the best performance by an amateur jockey in recent times!
Here comes Denman, and it seems like he has only Kauto Star to beat!
Imperial Commander is going splendidly but he still has Kauto Star to beat and he hasn't shrugged off Long Run yet.
All the main hopes are going very well, particularly Kauto Star. Long Run makes a slight mistake but is back to launch his challenge again.
Midnight Chase and China Rock continue to lead, with Weird Al already getting urged on at the back of the field.
Kauto Star is about fourth with Long Run tracking the double champion.
Neptune Collonges almost fell towards the back, China Rock and Imperial Commander are travelling pretty nicely. Long Run right in the mix too.
Tom Scudamore takes Midnight Chase out to lead. Denman is held up at the rear with Tidal Bay.
And they're off in the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup... Just what is in store for us in these next few minutes?
Circling at the start in Cheltenham sunshine. Tension in the stands.
Late cash for Imperial Commander, who goes 4-1 joint favourite on the course with Long Run. Punters at Cheltenham clearly feel it's between these two with the Paul Nicholls pair fighting for minor prize money.
These 13 tremendous specimens of National Hunt steeplechasing are out on the course. Horses are mounted and the jockeys have gone down to take each of these horses to look at one of the fences.
BBC Sport's Clare Balding on Radio 5 live:
"Long Run looks magnificent. He really does look well, so too does Denman."
Kauto Star owner Clive Smith on BBC Radio 5 live:
"He's in great order and I'm slightly optimistic. He's in very good form and he's looking lovely. He's in great trim. It's fun, of course it's fun. I think he's got a really good chance."
The jockeys leave the weighing-room to get the leg-up on their mounts for the big one. The likes of Ruby Walsh and Robert Thornton, normally so relaxed, look tense with nerves. Oddly, Sam Waley-Cohen, the amateur on favourite Long Run, looks one of the more chilled out of the riders.
It's celebrity-crazy today. After recent sightings of Lily Allen and Katie Price, a smartly-dressed and smiling Sir Alex Ferguson joins the beautiful people at Cheltenham. Ferguson and Ged Mason own What A Friend, one of the Gold Cup outsiders.
Blimey oh Riley. On betting exchanges Long Run has gone clear favourite for the Gold Cup, well clear of Imperial Commander now. Denman, loved by so many racegoers, is way out to about 10-1 and Pandorama is also drifting. Decent support for Kauto Star and Kempes, however.
BBC racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght on 5 live:
"Even Carruthers who's the outsider of this party of 13 was fourth last year. It's great that so many of them from last year are back."
Mick Fitzgerald on BBC Radio 5 live:
"Kauto Star is not a forlorn hope, he's a dual Gold Cup winner - you don't do that without having an enormous amount of ability. He survived a howler of a mistake when being placed in the King George last time..."
From AlexLawson8 on Twitter:
"I need Denman and and Baby Run for a five-horse 15,000-1 bet after winning the first three! Er... good luck! And if you know how to lay off your bets on Denman and Baby Run then I suggest you do so...
McCoy has to settle for another second place, but who can begrudge Geraghty, with four second places so far, landing a winner on what he describes as "my last banker of the week"? He adds: "I'm a realist, we've had good results, just not the right results." By the way, that was a hideous outcome for the bookies and the result has prompted Long Run to go joint-favourite with Imperial Commander for the Gold Cup.
RESULT - 1440 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle 3m
1. Bobs Worth (Barry Geraghty) 15-8 Fav
2. Mossley (Tony McCoy) 12-1
3. Court In Motion (Jack Doyle) 9-1
Bobs Worth wins from Mossley with Tony McCoy second. That's a 1-2 for Nicky Henderson!
Jetnova is a faller, Bobs Worth on the stands side looking very good.
Six or seven could win this, among them Champion Court who is travelling quite beautifully, so too Court in Motion.
Bobs Worth is being wound up now by Barry Geraghty to launch a challenge.
Now the field has bunched together again. Radetsky March is just behind No Secrets at the front now.
Quite strung out already - No Secrets from Fiulin at the head of affairs with Bobs Worth (15-8f) further back and racing on the outside.
As the sun continues to beat down at Cheltenham, having avoided the south-east of England all week, we are OFF in the 1440.
Twitter fans will be interested to note that the only two Gold Cup contenders "trending" on the social network phenomenon are Kauto Star and Kempes.
The next race, off at 1440, and the last race before the big one, is our second novices' hurdle of the day, this time at the longer distance of three miles. I've virtually given up tipping or backing anything this week, but I will bring you news that Bobs Worth is a hot order in the betting. If he bolts up then you can guarantee Long Run will shorten for the Gold Cup. Both horses are trained by Nicky Henderson, who remarkably has not yet netted a winner this week.
Winning jockey Ruby Walsh:
"I didn't think we were going to get anywhere near as close after the first. I don't know how we stood up. He stood so far off it and hit between the top bar and middle bar and smashed the hurdle wide open. He has done well to get back into it and he was good and gutsy from the back of the last."
BBC Radio 5 live's Peter Scudamore:
"If Denman was a human being he'd be a Joe Frazier or a Mike Tyson."
For those that need this kind of info, Sir Pitt was fifth in the first race, but the full result for the 1400 is not yet through. Meanwhile, Katie Price has been spotted at Cheltenham with an enormous pair of... pink stiletto heels on. How appropriate.
BBC Sport's Frank Keogh
on Twitter: "Hardly anyone else agrees, but feel 33-1 shot What A Friend, with blinkers fitted + drying ground, is a big price in the Gold Cup"
Willie Mullins joins Paul Nicholls on three winners apiece, and you may as well hand the leading jockeys' title to Ruby now - he's on five, three clear of his nearest challenger.
Not many people thought Final Approach had got there, it looked for all the world as though Tony McCoy on the Jonjo O'Neill-trained gelding was staying on much better up the hill. But in the last couple of strides the Willie Mullins-trained horse laid down his challenge and won by a nostril hair.
RESULT - 1405 Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle 2m 1f
1. Final Approach (Ruby Walsh) 10-1
2. Get Me Out Of Here (Tony McCoy) 7-1
3. Nearby (Chris Davies) 66-1
4. Cockney Trucker (Richard Johnson) 33-1
Final Approach is declared the winner, the big gamble on the JP MCManus-owned horse is foiled.
Those two great jockeys McCoy and Ruby Walsh fought out a stunning finish, Walsh arriving late on the scene. So who got the verdict? It's remarkably close.
Get Me Out Of Here and Final Approach are in a photo-finish.
Get Me Out Of Here is making a big play now.
Two flights left to jump and Hunter View is in excellent shape with Ski Sunday coming up the inside.
The Tony McCoy-ridden Get Me Out Of Here is in mid-division as the sun comes out at Prestbury Park. But Gloucester is out at the back. Ellerslie Tom is making the running.
There are 26 runners in this race, and among the interesting outsiders is Gloucester, priced at 66-1 and with five-pound claimer Conor O'Farrell on board. Huge gamble on Get Me out of Here and they're off!
Our next race is the 1405 Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle. It's a spectacularly trappy contest, with no obvious favourite but the current market leader is Alarazi, trained by Lucy Wadham and ridden by Dominic Elsworth.
Willie Twiston-Davies, 16, on BBC Radio 5 live:
"Imperial Commander seems as well as ever. Dad's very pleased with him, Paddy Brennan's very pleased with him. I'm lucky to be where I am, and it's unbelievable that I'm here with two Festival rides. Dad's third in the trainer's title every time and he's not expected to do well in these big races."
BBC Sport's Frank Keogh
on Twitter: "Early quotes of 16-1 for Zarkandar to land 2012 Champion Hurdle, a race which his trainer Paul Nicholls has never won."
Winning jockey Daryl Jacob:
"I have to thank the owners for keeping me on him after he'd won the last day. He took me into the race so easy and he is very tough." Winning jockey Paul Nicholls:
"I loved him the first time I saw him at the Aga Khan's sale but he was very difficult when he first arrived and he was a challenge. I felt he was next year's horse but I'm delighted. He'll be some horse with another summer on his back."
Lily Allen on BBC Radio 5 live:
"I live just up in Stroud so I though it would be rude not to drop by. I love the cricket, love the football, looking forward to the Olympics, love the tennis, everything. I'm going to have £40 for each race to play with and maybe £100 in the Gold Cup." Lily, who tweeted that she had won on Zarkandar, is involved in today's Comic Relief
Sam Winner, ostensibly the leading contender from the Nicholls yard, was never travelling but did pretty well up the hill and arguably finished the best of all; he's definitely one to look out for next season. The other two placed horses justified their market support.
RESULT - 1330 JCB Triumph Hurdle 2m 1f
1. Zarkandar (Daryl Jacob) 13-2
2. Unaccompanied (Paul Townend) 11-2
3. Grandouet (Barry Geraghty) 13-2
4. Sam Winner (Ruby Walsh) 4-1 Fav
That takes Paul Nicholls to the top of the leading trainers table this week, he's the first to three.
Zarkandar wins it, was delivered late up the stands side by Daryl Jacob.
Sailors Warn is being reeled in by Zarkandar.
Sailors Warn is the new leader - almost anything could win it though approaching the finish.
A Media Luz is making good headway with Unaccompanied travelling nicely.
Houblon des Obeaux is at the front, First Fandango and Molotof also looking handy.
They're off in the Triumph Hurdle!
E-mail from Michael:
"Re Henry in Nantwich. Our second grandson, Harry, was born this morning in Wellington NZ. Our first, Oscar, arrived in January, in Barcelona. So I too am having a double in the 4.00 - Baby Run and Oscar Delta. But good luck Henry!"
We need to cool the Gold Cup excitement for a second as we're three minutes away from the Triumph Hurdle. Sam Winner is the clear favourite for this one now while the one outsider being shown some support is the Colin Tizzard-trained Third Intention.
From Mick Fitzgerald on BBC Radio 5 live:
"Last year it was billed as a two-horse race between Kauto Star and Denman, but Nigel Twiston-Davies came here with Imperial Commander and stole the show. This year it's fascinating, there's a feeling that the new guard are ready to take over."
SMS from Henry in Nantwich to 81111:
"I'm currently in hospital waiting for my first baby to arrive. It's being very stubborn at 2 weeks overdue, so naturally have got a double on Get Me Out of Here and Baby Run! It's definitely going to be a jockey!" And that is, without doubt, the best comment from anyone all week!
A few people have asked for
selections. The BBC Radio 5 live expert tipped Sizing Europe to win the Champion Chase and here are her selections today. 1. A Media Luz 2. Get Me Out of Here, Ski Sunday 3. Gagewell Flyer, Join Together 4. Long Run (Denman ew) 5. On the Fringe, Oscar Delta 6. Sir des Champs, Shoegazer. 7. Oh Crick, De Boitron
on Twitter: "Looking forward to the Gold Cup with all those old favourites trying to win again - suggest it will be a first time winner, Long Run."
BBC Sport's Frank Keogh
on Twitter: "Must admit a bit more rain was in the plan when selecting Pandorama for the Gold Cup. Wonder if trainer Noel Meade feels same."
Irish-trained filly Unaccompanied
is also popular in the Triumph Hurdle, while Channel 4 reckon the bets are now coming for defending Gold Cup champ Imperial Commander,
plus Tony McCoy's mount, Kempes.
I expect some volatility in the market for the big race.
Where's the big money going? Long Run
and Midnight Chase
are the two horses shortening in the Gold Cup market, while Sam Winner,
representing the Ruby Walsh-Paul Nicholls team, is attracting lots of support for our opener, the endlessly puzzling JCB Triumph Hurdle (off at 1330).
Text message from Will, Birmingham:
Chances everywhere in the County Hurdle (1405) and a big each-way offer, lots of horses like the going good. How much rain has come down at Prestbury Park this morning? The consensus is that not very much fell overnight and no more is expected so the going will not really have altered. That also partially explains the lack of support for Denman in the Gold Cup market this morning.
Denman's jockey Sam Thomas:
"I don't see why he can't win, I couldn't be happier with the way he is. He gave me a great feel on Friday. I wouldn't swap him for anything."
E-mail from Christopher:
"Just a quick one for the Gold Cup, not that my advice is worth much, but it might be worth taking a look at China Rock
for this. It's a big price for a decent each-way shout. It is guaranteed that this horse will love the ground and personally I think it has a good chance today." Among other outsiders, Tidal Bay would be a fun one for some each-way money, a past winner round here who loves to finish with a late sprint.
It's not all about the Gold Cup today. The Foxhunter Chase follows hot on the heels of the day's feature, and and strong fancy Baby Run
will be partnered by a 16-year-old jockey in Willie Twiston-Davies. There is also a gambled-on Irish contender who looks interesting, On The Fringe.
My daily each-way selection is also from that race - Dante's Storm.
He's only been beaten once in 10 starts in points and hunter chases.
From BBC Sport's Frank Keogh:
"On-and-off fine drizzle has greeted racegoers to Cheltenham for a potentially memorable Gold Cup day. Scarves of the three previous winners are worn proudly. The black-and-white army are backing Imperial Commander.
Purple, green and yellow showcases the Kauto Star
lovers while Denman
has his fans in green and white. This is the first time in 53 years that a trio of former champions have contested jump racing's showpiece race for steeplechasers. I've seen an FA Cup final penalty shoot-out, the Ryder Cup classic at Celtic Manor and spell-binding Ashes drama. But there is no sporting fixture in the world for me that matches this one day in March. May the best horse win and may all return safely."
Lots of non-runners today, and the first to make you aware of is Albertas Run,
in the 1520. He won the Ryanair Chase on Thursday, so no surprise there. It also means there will be no horse carrying number one in the Gold Cup, with the 13 horses numbered 2 to 14. In the 1405, Cheshire Prince
and Snap Tie
will not take part, and in the 1440 Rif
and Fully Funded
have also been withdrawn. Finally Dantari
(1440) is also a non runner.
BBC Sport's Frank Keogh
on Twitter: "Early market drifter for Cheltenham Gold Cup - reigning champion Imperial Commander 9-2 from 4s. Going on new course - Chase (Gold Cup) is good (was good, good to soft places), Hurdle is good, good to soft in places."
Our doughty reporter Frank Keogh has plucked out the Irish-trained Pandorama
to spring a surprise at a nice price in his
Gold Cup runners and riders guide
while in a separate piece Frank also writes about how
racing's new order
has lent a fresh look to today's main event.
Even more fascinatingly, one of today's leading fancies, King George winner Long Run,
has never appeared in this race. The Nicky Henderson-trained hope is judged by some too young at six to be a Gold Cup winner, and yet fans of long-term trends will also note that no horse older then nine has won it since Cool Dawn in 1998. That statistic would rule out the other three leading contenders, who are either 10 or 11. It's a muddling picture.
In 2007 and 2009 the classy French-bred Kauto Star
won; he's back for another go today. Those two wins were broken up by Kauto Star's gallant galloping stablemate Denman
- he's in his box at Cheltenham all ready for another crack. Last year, the Paul Nicholls stranglehold on the race was stalled when rival trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies sent Imperial Commander
to glory. Yup, you guessed it - he's defending his crown today.
So here we are again - Gold Cup day at Cheltenham, and with three previous winners of National Hunt racing's most prestigious steeplechase locking horns today what a tantalising prospect we have for you at 1520.