Wayne Bailey: Don to strike Gold and finally be crowned king
In 1892, an American bloke by the name of John Philip Quinn wrote a book called Fools of Fortune, which was a comprehensive history of betting - and indeed the destructive effects it can have on people.
In one chapter, he explains how the dingy gambling dens of America had poker tables with a hole in the centre, and a metal box underneath in which money could be collected. When a player lost money, he'd push it in the hole.
After the game, the owner of the den would empty the box, take a large cut, and then pay out the winner. Those unfortunates who had put all their money in the hole were usually unceremoniously kicked out.
On St Stephen's Day just gone, I ended up deep in the hole myself when a bet of half a monkey (€250) went awry on the Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack in the King George. It wasn't a great way to end the year but it's all part of what is sometimes described as the glorious uncertainty of racing.
While I cursed my own luck after his fall, I suppose the important thing here is that the horse and jockey were OK afterwards and on Wednesday, Elliott's stable were given a stark reminder of how this game can dish up contrasting fortunes at will.
Having won the Coral Cup with Diamond King, we learned a few hours later that Elliott's ultra-talented No More Heroes had to be put down after being injured earlier in the RSA Chase, and I'm sure any success at the Festival is not taken in the least bit for granted by all the staff at Cullentra House.
As upsetting as it is to lose a horse, the world keeps on turning and focus now is on the Gold Cup (3.30). The big question, of course, is whether Don Cossack would have beaten Cue Card in the King George had he stayed up. In my view, the answer is yes but then again, I am a bit biased having had a financial interest in the event.
Having lost his way mid-race, he rallied gamely four fences out and was closing the gap before crashing out. It's one of those questions we can never answer, although he gets another crack at the whip today.
Like many, I must admit I underestimated Cue Card in the King George and he deserves enormous respect today, having beat yesterday's Ryanair Chase winner Vautour into second. I'm finding it hard to say anything negative about Cue Card although the last ten-year-old to win was Cool Dawn in 1998.
Last year's runner-up Djakadam has very strong claims although Willie Mullins is yet to win the race in 14 attempts.
Djakadam's fall last time out is also a concern. A few weeks ago, I mentioned how horses which fell last time out have a poor record at the festival although that didn't stop Ballyalton winning one of the handicap chases on Tuesday.
Don Cossack had a good warm-up when winning the Kinloch Brae at 1/8 and I think he'll just about scrape it, finally confirming that he's one of the greats - just like Elliott predicted a few years ago. When you throw Don Poli and Smad Place into the mix, we are in for a real treat this year.
In the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (2.50), Barters Hill is the one to beat, priced around 3/1. With seven wins in as many races, he beat Tuesday's Supreme Novices' winner Altior in a bumper at Newbury last year and battled gamely to win the River Don Novices Hurdle last time, having made some mistakes throughout.
Stat attack: Vincent O'Brien country hurdle
Paul Nicholls has an excellent record in the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle (2.10) with four wins and three places since 1999. Had you backed each of his 23 runners blindly, you'd show a level stakes profit of 23 points, although the Irish also have a good record here.
The Ditcheat handler has three representatives today, namely Modus, Some Plan and All Yours.
Fifth in a Wincanton handicap last time, All Yours is the most popular of the three in the early markets around 12/1, having won a Grade One hurdle at Aintree back in April.