In part four of our antepost review series with Paddy Power, we take a look at horseracing’s Holy Grail, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Last year’s renewal was billed to be a clash of the titans, with Long Run and Kauto Star seemingly battling it out for the sport’s ultimate crown. However, the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Synchronised spoilt the party that day, in what was to be sadly his final race, but his greatest victory.
This season’s renewal is as competitive as ever, with some new additions to the old guard.
As it stands, it is already shaping up to be one of the best Gold Cups of recent times.
Visit Paddy Power’s antepost Gold Cup page here.
Here the Stable View blog picks out the horses fancied for Cheltenham glory.
The antepost favourite for the Gold Cup is Bobs Worth at 3-1, and it is incredibly hard to oppose Nicky Henderson’s charge for this race.
The eight-year-old won on his seasonal reappearance in the Hennessy Gold Cup with a magnificent show of jumping, after travelling so effortlessly around Newbury.
This combined with the fact that Bobs Worth is a Cheltenham specialist, and that he won a very competitive RSA Chase by two and a half lengths at last year’s Festival, bodes well for those that have already backed him.
However, his absence in Saturday’s Argento Chase is a big worry for me, mainly because he possibly could just go straight to the Festival without another preparation run.
This is a dangerous tactic, as I personally believe it is imperative that most horses should race after Christmas before heading to Cheltenham, unless the horse goes best fresh.
For this reason, and the low odds on offer about him, I would want to oppose Bobs Worth.
I find myself in a similar position when talking about Silviniaco Conti (7-1), who will be next seen in March at the Festival.
The young pretender was a visually impressive victor of the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby last year, before beating Long Run in the Betfair Chase in November.
However, I would argue that, despite Paul Nicholls holding this horse in high regard, that Long Run will be a much fitter horse by the time they next meet.
Ditcheat’s other charge, Tidal Bay, interests me more, and it is my understanding that Nicholls is desperate to run him in the Gold Cup.
If it were possible to read into the future to find out what the conditions will be in six weeks time, the 14-1 shot would be one of my picks.
But, the uncertainty of whether he runs in this or the World Hurdle means that he is not great value at all.
The Irish contingent is strong for this renewal. Sir Des Champs (9-2), Flemenstar (11-1) and First Lieutenant (12-1) all have excellent claims.
However, I am put off by all of them.
Despite the besotted love affair of some punters for Flemestar, I really doubt he will be able to stay the distance for the Gold Cup.
In my opinion, a Gold Cup horse needs to be able to keep on further than the 3m2½f if they are to win at Cheltenham. This is mainly down to the exertions needed for the daunting hill.
However, I do argue that he can stay 3m on the basis that he finished half a length behind Tidal Bay in the Lexus Chase, despite travelling best of all with three furlongs to go. Connections are also desperate to run in this.
Sir Des Champs is a tremendous stayer and will relish conditions for the Gold Cup. Though, I have serious reservations on his jumping. His price, therefore, does not interest me.
First Lieutenant seems a decent price for each-way, and has good form behind Bobs Worth in the Hennessy Gold Cup and RSA Chase in 2012. But, I have found a more lucrative bet to claim a place with.
That horse is The GIANT BOLSTER.
It amazes me how some punters are incredibly fickle and impatient with certain horses and this is the case with the David Bridgwater-trained eight-year-old.
After an outstanding second-place in last year’s Gold Cup, he reaffirmed his ability when finishing third in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, behind Long Run and Silviniaco Conti.
Though, a disappointing run in the King George on Boxing Day has meant that some punters have left him stranded.
Excuses can be made for this effort.
The Giant Bolster goes best when running on a left-handed track, which Kempton is not, and also the omission of regular jockey Tom Scudamore will have had an affect on his performance.
Scudamore knows the horse inside out and will no doubt partner The Giant Bolster in this year’s renewal of the Gold Cup, following Grands Crus’ failure to impress in the Argento three days ago.
For these reasons, the 20-1 available for The Giant Bolster is excellent each-way value.
The other horse in the race that takes my eye is LONG RUN.
After nearly losing faith in him following another second place finish in the Betfair Chase as favourite, I managed, just, to convince myself that he would win the King George.
He duly did.
Henderson’s only Gold Cup winner, in 2011, has never finished outside of the top three in all of his starts under rules in England and France, which is some record when on a closer look he has ridden in 12 Grade 1s (six wins), three Grade 2s (three wins) and four Grade 3s (two wins).
These statistics suggest that he is almost a certainty to place – if he turns up.
Long Run last year was in the shadows of Kauto Star. Many believed that he had an off-season, which in all honesty makes his track record achievement in last year’s Denman Chase even more astonishing.
Kauto Star and Denman won the race, which has been more commonly known in the past as the AON Chase, in the year’s they both went on to win the Gold Cup.
Long Run managed to beat their times last year, during a season not in his prime, whereas when Denman and Kauto Star won, they were.
After seeing him at Haydock, it was quite visible that the eight-year-old had become much stockier and powerful.
This enthused me greatly. It makes me believe that this could be his year again at Cheltenham and with conditions in the United Kingdom being softer than they have been for many years, the conditions could be perfect for a stamina race.
That is why 7-1 at Paddy Power for Long Run to win the Gold Cup is a bet you cannot afford to miss out on.
Long Run @ 7-1 (Paddy Power) – straight win advised
The Giant Bolster @ 20-1 (Paddy Power) – e/w advised
Comments welcome. Follow me on Twitter @JamesYellen. Special thanks to Paddy Power. Visit their website here.