The Cheltenham Gold Cup remains the prize they all want to win at the Festival. Ahead of Friday’s showpiece event, our editor has analysed the field, while if you bet £30 on Friday, you can get a £10 Free Bet on the big race.
Al Boum Photo (Willie Mullins, Paul Townend) 12/1
Two-time winner of this race, who seeks entry into the record books for the second successive season. He failed in his first hat-trick attempt last season when third to Minella Indo, but he has taken in his usual preparation for the race at Tramore once again. He knows his way around here, looks to have retained all of his ability and should be firmly in the mix once again.
A Plus Tard (Henry De Bromhead, Rachael Blackmore) 7/2
Last year’s second has form figures of 21212. It would be no surprise if he continued that alternating structure after his blistering display in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November. That appeared to set him up to dominate this division, but he faltered when odds-on in the Savills Chase. He was run out of the finish by Galvin and there remain a few lingering doubts about his propensity to finish strongly up the hill.
Asterion Forlonge (Willie Mullins, Bryan Cooper) 22/1
The great National Hunt character, Willie Mullins’ grey is a top class horse…when he wants to be. Unfortunately, though he may have gone very close in both the John Durkan and the King George, he has two non-completions to his name instead. Similarly, the left-handed nature of Leopardstown did not suit last time, nor has it at Cheltenham in the past. Likely to give away too much ground at his fences even if he gets over them.
Aye Right (Harriet Graham & Gary Rutherford, Callum Bewley) 50/1
Earned a thoroughly deserved first success since his novice days when successful in Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase in November. That form has worked out well and he did so from a mark of 151. Put simply, he is too high in the handicap now to compete in those races, but he would still need to improve at least a stone to factor here. Held by Chantry House on their clash in January.
Chantry House (Nicky Henderson, Nico De Boinville) 16/1
Completed an excellent novice season with back-to-back wins in Grade 1 company at this meeting and at Aintree. Things have not gone to plan this season despite two victories. The first of those was in a routine match in a Graduation Chase, but the King George proved too much on his first proper start out of novice company. Similarly, despite eventually justifying favouritism in the Cotswold Chase in January, he did so only in very workmanlike fashion and much more would be needed against the Irish contingent here.
Galvin (Gordon Elliott, Davy Russell) 3/1
Better than ever this season, winning twice and being beaten only by a gutsy Frodon at Down Royal. However, it was a clear career best when overcoming A Plus Tard at Leopardstown, especially when he did not get everything his own way up the straight. The extra two furlongs here should play right to his strengths given he won last season’s National Hunt Chase. A relatively sound jumper who goes on any ground, he may well be the one to beat now.
Minella Indo (Henry De Bromhead, Robbie Power) 9/2
Last year’s winner is without a success since and until most recently, it looked as if he would be coming here in fairly terrible form. However, after showing nothing in the King George, he bounced back with a decent runner-up finish in the Irish Gold Cup to the speedier Conflated. Moreover, he has improved on his previous season’s best to the tune of at least 10lb at each of the last three Festivals
Protektorat (Dan Skelton, Harry Skelton) 15/2
The chief British hope who could be open to any amount of improvement at the top level. He took the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree last season over 2m4f and only narrowly failed to reel in Midnight Shadow in the Paddy Power Gold Cup under top weight in November. Upped in trip, he simply kept galloping in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree, winning by 25 lengths. The form is questionable, but the visual impression he gave was outstanding and he is a dark horse in this race.
Royale Pagaille (Venetia Williams, Charlie Deutsch) 10/1
The deluge of water on Wednesday would have delighted all connected with this eight-year-old. He has won two Peter Marsh handicaps at Haydock on heavy and soft ground, this season’s coming off a whopping mark of 163. He has so far fallen short at Graded level, though the ground has been too quick on each of those occasions. He has never been disgraced though and any extra rain, plus a race suited to the stamina-laden types, could see him go close.
Santini (Polly Gundry, Nick Schofield) 40/1
Second in the race when trained by Nicky Henderson two years ago, the ten-year-old has been much maligned for his lack of pace over the years. However, you have to have some class to go close in a Gold Cup and with an extra two strides, he would have won in 2020. Though his form has not been of the same level since, he was much better in the Cotswold Chase. Nevertheless, he looks outclassed nowadays.
Tornado Flyer (Willie Mullins, Danny Mullins) 12/1
The King George was Danny Mullins’ mount’s first victory in over two years, but it was achieved by a considerable nine-length margin over two-time winner of that race, Clan Des Obeaux. The son of Flemensfirth has not been seen since, but freshness should not be too much of an issue. He will have to prove that performance was no fluke, but it was only his second try at three miles. He appeared to revel in coming from off a decent gallop and he has no forlorn hope of staying here.
Big Race Verdict
A second Gold Cup can go the way of both Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell, as GALVIN has improved to match the levels of Henry De Bromhead’s duo. Both A Plus Tard and Minella Indo should be right there once again, with Tornado Flyer the other who could make a fight of it.