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Sunday 5 February 2023 Dublin: -3°C
Dan Sheridan/INPHO Russell after Tuesday's Handicap Hurdle.
# Oldest Stager
Opportunity knocks for Davy Russell as he bids for a second Gold Cup win
The Youghal man defied many doubters when he came back from 11 months sidelined last year.

HE TURNS 43 this summer and, while one can never second-guess the great Davy Russell, today may be his best chance to win his second Gold Cup.

The Youghal man defied many doubters, this writer included, when he came back from 11 months sidelined last year. Not only did he return: he seems to be as good as he ever was.

And in Galvin he has the perfect type to go really close in today’s Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.30). The biggest concern, without doubt, is the ground. He beat A Plus Tard on yielding terrain at Christmas but that was about as fast as yielding ground gets in December and his previous second to Frodon on soft at Down Royal wouldn’t nearly suffice here.

He has a terrific record at Cheltenham and Russell, as with trainer Gordon Elliott, will be hoping the sun continues to shine.

The money has come for Royal Pagaille, who has next to no chance unless it is soft or worse. Last year’s winner, Minella Indo, looks primed to go very close, with Robbie Power taking over. Jack Kennedy steered him to glory here 12 months ago, with stable jockey Rachael Blackmore steering A Plus Tard.

henry-de-bromhead-with-minella-indo Morgan Treacy / INPHO Henry de Bromhead with Minella Indo. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

It’s a curiously small field for the race that’s in it, just 11 runners at most, and some punters will be happy to back the pick of the Willie Mullins runners, Al Boum Photo, especially as he was 9-4 favourite here 12 months ago and, as a lightly raced ten-year-old, is now available at 12-1. He’s an exceptionally reliable jumper and a case can be made.

My bet of the Festival is Vauban in the opening Triumph (1.30). The ground should be fairly immaterial to his chance, though soft ground would not suit his old foe Pied Piper, who has been really weak in the wagering; stablemate Fil Dor, by contrast, has been backed.

This looks like wishful thinking as it is impossible to see him beating Vauban on their Leopardstown clash at the Dublin Racing Festival. Vauban is clearly a faster horse and the only real concern here is his tendency to lean right at times. All told, he is a potential superstar.

At a much bigger price, Icare Allen isn’t hopeless. He was no match for either Vauban or Fil Dor at Leopardstown but he was priced as if better were expected and he hacked up at Fairyhouse since, though the form wasn’t given much of an endorsement in the Fred Winter Wednesday.

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Hollow Games appeals greatly in the Martin Pipe (5.30), the closing race of the Festival. Noel and Valerie Moran, ambitious owners mainly supporting Gordon Elliott, have not yet had a Cheltenham winner, but they have a great chance today, Ginto running earlier on too.

Both of these horses were expensive and Hollow Games was hardly disgraced in finishing third to that stablemate at Naas in January. He’s gained experience of two Grade 1s now so he can slot nicely into handicap company and jumps well.

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