Cheltenham Gold Cup – A Look Ahead From the New Year
Who Stands Out in the Non Runner No Bet Markets for the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup
The Cheltenham Gold Cup remains the pinnacle of jumps racing. An Irish 1-2-3, with the forecast going to Henry de Bromhead, summed up an incredible week of action in 2021. With both Bet365 and Betfred now offering Non Runner No Bet about the championship races at the Festival, Racing Tips have taken a deep dive into the race to see how the Gold Cup is shaping up.
Favourite – A Plus Tard
It was an A+ performance from A PLUS TARD when he took apart the field in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on his reappearance. His 22-length winning margin arguably falls short of demonstrating how superior he was on the day and it is clear that he is a staying chaser of the very highest order.
Having begun life with Henry de Bromhead as a novice chaser in the 2018/19 season, we are not often treated to his ability. He has only raced eight times since the beginning of his second season, often preferring a gap between his races.
When we do see him, it is usually exciting. His runner-up finish in the Gold Cup last season suggested that he would continue to be dangerous in the race in the future. He has only just turned eight-years-old and despite a surprise defeat by Galvin in the Savills Chase, remains a general 3/1 shot for the big one.
Likely Contenders – Galvin & Minella Indo
GALVIN had previously been considered a Grand National horse by those at Cullentra, but there is now no doubt that they had slightly underestimated his abilities.
Like A Plus Tard, his initial Festival experience over fences came in the now defunct novices’ handicap, in which he was second to Imperial Aura. That came in a winless first season over the larger obstacles, but he has been emphatic in making amends.
He won all five chase starts last season, culminating in the National Hunt Chase at the Festival. His return in Grade 3 company brought a battling victory, while he was only narrowly denied by a typically gutsy Frodon in the Down Royal Champion Chase.
However, now that he has beaten A Plus Tard in the Savills Chase, he is around 5/1 to follow up at Cheltenham.
MINELLA INDO will return as defending champion, but his form figures are beginning to look decidedly imbalanced.
His four runs either side of his Gold Cup success have all been disappointing. He fell in the 2020 Savills Chase, was only fourth of five in the Irish Gold Cup before Cheltenham and he has not shown much promise on return.
His third behind Frodon and Galvin at Down Royal was encouraging enough, but does not look as rosy in the context of him pulling up after a lifeless effort in the King George.
That said, he has, rather remarkably, improved at least 16lb on his previous start and 9lb on his previous best that season when running at Cheltenham. He simply loves the place and cannot possibly be ruled out at a general 7/1.
What About The Brits?
Six of the last eight Gold Cups have been flown away to Ireland and the market reflected a similar outlook for the 2022 renewal.
The main hope for the hosts at this stage appears to be PROTEKTORAT in his second season over fences for Dan Skelton. Wind surgery before his Grade 1 Manifesto Novices’ Chase victory seems to have done him the world of good.
His second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on return was more than respectable off top weight and he then established himself as a graded level staying chaser by hacking up in the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase at Aintree. He may even have improved for the step up in trip and looks set to go straight to Cheltenham.
That should ensure that he goes off a decent price for those faithful to him and he is around the 12/1 mark on the whole.
Otherwise, Nicky Henderson and J P McManus are who to rely upon if you remain fervent in support of the home side. The pair have both CHAMP and CHANTRY HOUSE entered in the race.
Champ is already a 10-year-old and it may just be that we will never know quite how good he may have been. Early setbacks have delayed his return in the last two seasons and back issues ensured he was pulled up early in last year’s contest.
He does have that extraordinary RSA Chase victory to his name though and he did win a Grade 1 on his comeback, albeit over hurdles in the Long Walk at Ascot. However, Henderson seemed relatively intent that chasing was still the aim for Champ and they will not be giving up the Gold Cup dream lightly.
Chantry House was initially the shortest-priced of the British-trained runners, but he looked to struggle with the frenetic pace in the King George. That may simply have been a shock to the system for the first time in open company and he retains potential.
That said, there are question marks over even the best of his novice chasing form. He does like Cheltenham and may be suited even better by the extra couple of furlongs in the Gold Cup, but more favourable evidence may be required off the back of his Kempton attempt.
The Rest of the Irish
While the Brits are relying on hope and potential for their leading runners, Irish trainers, aside from having the first three in the market already, also have experience and big race victories among their lower ranks.
No horse proves this more than AL BOUM PHOTO, two-time Gold Cup winner and still only 10 years of age. His wins may have come in weaker renewals in 2019 and 2020, but he was still third in the race last year and has undertaken the same tried and tested preparation by winning at Tramore on New Year’s Day.
Also among their ranks is recently crowned King George hero TORNADO FLYER. He may have scooted in as a big outsider at Kempton, but it was only his second attempt at three miles and he may benefit from being ridden quietly over this longer trip. Regardless of how the race set up, he still showed hitherto unseen levels of stamina to win that race and remains a generous enough price at around the 14/1 mark.
That’s without considering the enigma who is ASTERION FORLONGE. It is two non-completions in a row, but his jumping on the whole has been sound. If his quirks do not hinder him, he is a Grade 1 level horse and though he has a tendency to adjust to his right, the Gold Cup’s tempo may be perfect for him.
The likes of ANGELS BREATH and CAREFULLY SELECTED receive entries here despite being absent on track for over two years. Both have high class form over fences and would not be out of place if regaining their fitness. Nevertheless, one would imagine they will both need to prove their form to be genuinely considered as contenders. Both are between 50/1 and 66/1 in the antepost markets and their absence ensures there is greater value in their Non Runner No Bet odds.
Other fascinating entrants include AHOY SENOR, who has already looked capable of a very high level of form over fences. He has not been the most fluent jumper to date, however, and novice company is likely what he will continue to keep. Next year will be the race for him if he continues his improvement.
Then there’s MOUNT IDA, a winner over course and distance in last year’s Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup. She won that race impressively and though the Mares’ Chase and Grand National may be bigger targets, her two victories this season, coupled with her mares’ allowance, would not make her a hopeless outsider.
An Early Selection – Champ
In order to take advantage of the Non Runner No Bet markets from Bet365, the 14/1 about CHAMP still seems too big for a horse of his quality. He will have to defy a few trends, with no 10-year-old winning since 1998, but his lifeless effort on last year’s race can effectively be discounted given the enthusiasm he has shown on the two starts either side. We know he has the class and stamina for this test given his win in the 2020 RSA Chase. An NRNB bet suits for him given he may have the option of the Stayers’ Hurdle, but connections still appear more intent on giving him a shot at the big one over fences.