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2011 CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP: Imperial Commander looks to defend his title

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CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 01:  Imperial Commander ridden by head lad Sparky Bevis on the gallops on March 1, 2011 in Cheltenham, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: Imperial Commander ridden by head lad Sparky Bevis on the gallops on March 1, 2011 in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
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On Friday, Cheltenham Racecourse in England will feature the Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup, the most prestigious of all National Hunt Chase events.  Fourteen horses aged five-years-old and up will run approximately three miles and two-and-a-half furlongs while jumping twenty-two fences.

If you don't know much about this style of racing (or Cheltenham), check out the post by one of our readers, andrewp, who has provided a great take on the entire festival and each day's races in the earlier Cheltenham Festival post. You can read his take on today's card, including the Gold Cup, here.

If you haven't watched any of the Festival, or hurdle races in the past, I'd highly recommend it.  The racing is distinctly different from flat races, but there's a level of stamina and athleticism that you just don't experience with the majority of the racing in North America.  And while the element of raw speed is greatly diminished, when you watch a horse run two or three miles, jumping 15 to 20 hurdles, while running over a course that features an uphill finish...well, it's a truly impressive display of staying ability. 

Admittedly, I don't have a clue how to pick a winner in any of these events, but I'd like to think I know good horse racing when I see it, and the Cheltenham Festival has been brilliant all week.

Imperial Commander (IRE) is the defending champion after defeating Denman (IRE) by seven lengths in last year's running.  That race produced one of my favorite reactions from a horseplayer that I've ever seen.

Both Denman and last year's favorite, Kauto Star (FR), are back in 2011 looking for a bit of revenge.

Entries and approximate current odds are listed below (via Racing Post (UK)).  Albertas Run (IRE) won the 3rd race on Thursday's card, so it would appear that he'll scratch out of the Gold Cup.

HRTV will have live TV coverage of the Gold Cup in the U.S., and various ADWs (including TwinSpires.com) will provide video streaming.  Additionally, you can watch the live, U.K. coverage online.

No. Horse Odds
1 Albertas Run (IRE) 50/1
2 Carruthers (GB) 80/1
3 China Rock (IRE) 33/1
4 Denman (IRE) 13/2
5 Imperial Commander (IRE) 4/1
6 Kauto Star (FR) 6/1
7 Kempes (IRE) 12/1
8 Long Run (FR) 9/2
9 Midnight Chase (GB) 14/1
10 Neptune Collonges (FR) 33/1
11 Pandorama (IRE) 12/1
12 Tidal Bay (IRE) 20/1
13 Weird Al (IRE) 25/1
14 What A Friend (GB) 33/1