King George winner Tornado Flyer on course for Cheltenham Gold Cup

King George winner Tornado Flyer heads to the Cheltenham Gold Cup.King George winner Tornado Flyer heads to the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Tornado Flyer heads to the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Tornado Flyer sprang a 28-1 shock when winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. Trainer Willie Mullins confessed that he was as surprised as anybody by the manner of the gelding’s victory. He has not raced since but Mullins has reported that he is on course for the Cheltenham Gold Cup next week. He will be attempting to follow in the footsteps of some famous horses to achieve the big race in the same season including Best Mate, Kicking King and Kauto Star.

Tornado Flyer set to race beyond three miles for first time

The plan at Kempton was always to hunt round towards the rear and pick of some tired rivals in the home straight. Frodon and Minella Indo probably over-raced that day and were back-pedalling well before the home straight but jockey Danny Mullins must have been surprised to be able to take a pull on Tornado Flyer before launching his challenge. He probably hit the front too soon but his nearest pursuer, stable companion Asterion Forlonge, crashed out at the last leaving him 9 lengths clear at the finish.

Bookmakers were unimpressed with the horse given a general 14-1 quote for the Gold Cup and he has been virtually friendless as the big race approaches. Perhaps there is still a sense that his victory was something of a fluke and the King George form has not worked out particularly well. Tornado Flyer still languishes behind his more illustrious stable companion Al Boum Photo in the betting, a dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner and third last year.

There are some top quality races in store at the Cheltenham Festival, not least the Queen Mother Champion Chase, but the Gold Cup does not look like the greatest field ever assembled. Galvin took a giant step towards the pinnacle by lowering the colours of A Plus Tard in the Savills Chase but his target 12 months’ ago was the National Hunt Chase.

No obvious pace-setter for Cheltenham Gold Cup

Tactics are going to be interesting this year with no obvious pacemaker in the field. A Plus Tard and Galvin are both likely to be held up in the early stages while Minella Indo won’t want to repeat his King George run and will be looking for something to track. Gordon Elliott could run Conflated who might be willing to take it up but it seems more likely that the task may fall to outsiders Aye Right and Santini.

A muddling pace seems likely which could suit Tornado Flyer on his first attempt beyond three miles. He is not a flamboyant jumper by any means but can pop away behind horses on the first circuit before working his way into contention. He has raced over two and a half miles at the previous two Cheltenham Festivals, finishing fifth in the Marsh Novices’ Chase and third in the Ryanair Chase.

Allaho and Min took them along at a furious pace in the Ryanair last season and Tornado Flyer was well adrift turning for home. He stayed on in the style of horse who needed three miles and it could be that we are only now seeing the best of him. He may not be among the market leaders but he could turn out to be the value each-way bet in an intriguing Cheltenham Gold Cup.