The Gold Cup in focus
It is hard to believe that we have reached the final day of the Festival already. It has been a cracking week so far but today we have the big one, the Blue Riband of National Hunt Racing, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The first five home in last year’s renewal are back for another crack, in what is surely one of the toughest Gold Cups to call in many years.
Here we have a brief look at all seventeen runners set to go to post in race card order….
Bobs Worth – The 2013 Champion is back for an attempt to regain his title but he has slightly gone by the wayside since then and many feel his best days are behind him. He is never the best traveller in his races but one thing he does do is stay, particularly up the Cheltenham hill which is oh so important. He, like a few of his rivals, wandered around on the flat in last year’s renewal but still was only four lengths behind the winner. Like so many here he has e/w claims but he will have to be back to his best to grab anything better than a place.
Boston Bob – Another that can be described in the ‘past his best’ category but he is also another one that stays very well. He finished last season with two Grade 1 wins but hasn’t looked the same horse this year, with his best effort coming when second to Don Cossack in the John Durkan at Punchestown in December. Overnight rain will not have helped his cause and he is one that can probably be ignored.
Carlingford Lough – John Kiely’s charge booked his place as a big player here with a dogged victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup last time and he is tasked with supplying A.P McCoy with a magical finish to his final Gold Cup appearance. Only sixth in last year’s RSA, he seems to be improving all the time and his very shrewd trainer will have him spot on for today. He has a tendency of making the odd blunder in the jumping department but if he is foot perfect today, he must be a leading candidate to be part of an emotional end to the Festival.
Coneygree – Connections took the brave decision of testing their Novice in the biggest race of the year in favour of the RSA earlier in the week and it may well be a decision well made, particularly after the impressive performance of Don Poli in the RSA. He is a fantastic jumper and will be trying to burn them off from the front and ground conditions have come up perfect after overnight rain. He must have solid claims and what a day it could be for the very talented youngster, Nico de Boinville who gets on very well with Mark Bradstock’s 8yo.
Djackadam – It is amazing to think that the all conquering Willie Mullins has yet to taste Gold Cup glory but he must have a terrific chance of breaking his duck this year with the young pretender, Djackadam. His stable have always thought an awful lot him but he had been struggling to live up to the hype until producing a terrific weight carrying performance in the Thyestes last time. Another that will appreciate the cut in the ground, he could well end what has been a terrific week for Mullins, Ruby Walsh and Rich Ricci on a high note.
Holywell – Jonjo O’Neill’s charge will have plenty of supporters after his easy confidence boosting victory at Kelso last time. Before that he had struggled to make an impact in his first two starts this season but his stable was desperately out of form and he only seems to come alive in the Spring. Being a two time Festival winner, he obviously loves it around here and he is another that has terrific e/w claims under the hard working Richie McLernon.
Home Farm – A Listed win on his first start of the season was a career best for Henry de Bromhead’s charge and he has been well beaten in two subsequent Grade 1 efforts, Formerly trained by Arthur Moore, the 8yo is obviously talented when at is best but he is out of his depth here and will struggle to keep up.
Houblon Des Obeaux – Another one of the complete outsiders but probably has more of a chance of reaching a place than the above. The 8yo has been running well this season and wasn’t far behind Coneygree in the Denman Chase last time and was close up to Many Clouds in the Hennessy earlier in the season. He will be staying on late in the day but will struggle to live with his top class rivals.
Lord Windermere – Last year’s winner, and it just goes to show how competitive this race is, that he can be backed at huge prices. Granted he has been bitterly disappointing this season but his good third in the Hennessy Gold Cup last time was a step back in the right direction and he is another that only comes alive at this time of the year. Unbeaten in two starts at the track, he is respected, but the overnight rain may have been the final nail in the coffin for the defending champ.
Many Clouds – A huge improver this season, Oliver Sherwood’s charge has beaten all before him and has shown a wonderful attitude in doing so. Has yet to register at the highest level but he showed that he can handle the hill with a dogged winning performance in the BetBright Cup last time against a couple of today’s rivals. Will need to improve again to win but it would be a fairytale victory for his very popular trainer.
On His Own – Last year’s unlucky runner-up and a third runner for Willie Mullins. The out and out stayer is another to have struggled this season, although he did run well behind Road To Riches in the Lexus at Christmas. He tried to make all in the Hennessy Gold Cup last time but couldn’t keep up the gallop and eventually faded back into a well beaten sixth. Like his conqueror of twelve months ago, Lord Windermere, he is available to back at a silly price and there is nothing to stop him running into a place.
River Choice – Very little is known about the French raider, other than he has won a few Chases in his native land but all at a lower level. He is getting into veteran territory at 12 years of age and can surely be ignored in a quality race like this.
Road To Riches – Noel Meade’s stable star has been living up to his name this season and has paved a road of success with two Grade 1 victories in his last two starts. He is improving at a rate of knots and beat off a lot of today’s rivals in the Lexus over Christmas. He looks an out and out stayer, so the trip is no worry and he has been kept fresh for today which could make all the difference. A leading contender.
Sam Winner – One of two for Paul Nicholls in the race, he was just over three lengths behind Road To Riches in the Lexus and is another that is probably a tad overpriced. He seems to be still on the upgrade and there is likely more to come over fences but this is a big ask.
Silviniaco Conti – Nicholls’ number one and the long time ante-post favourite for the big one. This will be his third attempt in the Gold Cup, having fallen when going well two years ago and seemingly haven thrown the race away last year. Connections have said that he is a better horse this year and he seems to finishing off his races a lot better with the aid of cheekpieces. He was very impressive in the King George, although it wasn’t the best renewal, but he is the one to beat, despite the worries about his ability to get up the hill.
Smad Place – Alan King’s charge has been unlucky not to register a Festival victory in the past, none more so than when going down by 1/4 length in the RSA last year. An out and out stayer, he put it up to Many Clouds in the BetBright Cup but he was in receipt of plenty of weight that day and will struggle to overturn the form. His price looks about right and he should be on the peripheral of the places.
The Giant Bolster – David Bridgwater’s gallant old warhorse completes the field and with a Gold Cup record of 243, he has probably never been given the respect he deserves. He was carried out in the closing stages last year but was only 3/4 length behind the winner in the end. This is a far better renewal but odds of around 50/1 is a bit of an insult!
Silviniaco Conti is a very worthy favourite but I do have doubts about his ability to stay on to the line up the hill. The new kids on the block, Djackadam, Many Clouds and Coneygree should put up brave efforts and Road To Riches is very much respected on this season’s form. I am going to let my heart rule my head, though and take a punt on Carlingford Lough bringing the house down under A.P McCoy. He is vastly improving this season and if his jumping holds up, he will be in the shake up for what promises to be the race of the week.
Kevin Walsh 13/3/15
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