Cheltenham Festival: Gold Cup Preview & Tip

Jim CullotyThe Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase is the most valuable and prestigious race of the Festival. An unusually large field will line up in the hope of bagging the lion’s share of a £550,000 prize fund (3.20pm, Friday on CH4). It includes the first five home last year but the betting suggests a very different finishing order this time.

The current title-holder Lord Windermere (12/1) succeeded by the shortest of margins last year and was the principal beneficiary of disappointing efforts from the market leaders. He looks to have a stiff task ahead of him.

He was last seen finishing third in the Grade 1 Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February, nine lengths behind John Kiely’s Carlingford Lough. In his previous run in the Lexus Chase Lord Windermere finished 11 lengths behind Road To Riches in seventh with only Bobs Worth behind him. His owner, Dr Ronan Lambe believes he is in with more of a chance than his odds suggest and that his trainer Jim Culloty (pictured) has him spot on for this race. This nine-year-old  is two from two at the Festival, taking the RSA Chase in 2013. Prestbury Park seems to suit him better than Leopardstown but others have stronger claims.

Latest Cheltenham Gold Cup Odds

The 2014 Gold Cup runner-up, the 11-year-old On His Own (33/1) is sent out again by trainer Willie Mullins. Mullins also saddles Boston Bob (25/1) and the six-year-old French-bred Djakadam (8/1). Stable jockey Ruby Walsh has chosen to partner Djakadam suggesting he is a better prospect than his stablemates.

Djakadam fell four out when going reasonably well here under Paul Townend in the JLT Novices’ Chase last year. Next time out, he started as the 5/1 favourite in the Hennessy Gold Cup in November but weakened on the testing ground. He finished nearly 30 lengths behind Oliver Sherwood’s Many Clouds.

In his only other start this season he won a valuable three mile one furlong handicap chase at Gowran Park in style. That was on heavy ground in January off a mark of 145. He’s now rated 162. Djakadam has only encountered ground faster than soft once before – when he fell here.

It’s difficult to assess him but he’s obviously very progressive and open to further improvement if he enjoys conditions. The Mullins stable is in superb form and we can trust Walsh to pick the best of the stable’s trio. Only one six-year-old has ever won this race, the French-bred Long Run. Djakadam may well become the second.

Many Clouds (9/1), Sherwood’s Hennessy hero, also lines up. He followed up with a win here in the Betbright Cup Chase at the end of January. He beat Alan King’s Smad Place (20/1) by just over a length. Many Clouds has won his three starts this season, progressing from a rating of 144 to 165.

Sherwood admits that this eight-year-old is at his best on testing ground and that he would have been delighted if it had rained all week. For once the weather has been set fair so far and it is difficult to fancy him in a field of this quality on good ground.

Noel Meade’s Lexus Chase winner, Road To Riches (11/1) is another progressive eight-year-old. He has been successful on decent ground and may even prefer it. He was the 14/1 winner of the Galway Plate (handicap chase) on good ground last summer. He also won the Grade 1 Champion Chase at Down Royal in November on soft, beating Nicholls’ Rocky Creek (who went on to win the Betbright Chase) by 11 lengths.

This is Road To Riches’ first visit to Cheltenham and only his second trip across the Irish Sea. Meade is delighted with the way he travelled over and says he is ‘bouncing’. Road To Riches’ only other visit to England was very disappointing. He started as the second favourite in a novices’ hurdle at Aintree in 2013 and finished last. His tendency to jump left is a concern but he has won twice in fields of this size and may enjoy conditions. Meade is understandably optimistic about his chances.

The 2013 Gold Cup winner, Bobs Worth (14/1) started as the favourite here last year but wandered dramatically on the run in, nearly unseating Barry Geraghty. He finished fifth, beaten four lengths by the winner. In his only start this season he was sent off as the 5/2 favourite in the Lexus Chase but came last.

Trainer Nicky Henderson blamed the ‘awful’ ground and admits things have not gone smoothly since. Bobs Worth’s blood was apparently wrong in January and ‘everything went wobbly’ but he has reportedly bloomed recently. Henderson described him as ‘a fragile little chap’ two years ago. He’s now a ten-year-old and presumably even more fragile. No horse has a greater will to win but it is difficult to have any confidence in him here.

John Kiely’s Carlingford Lough (10/1) and Mark Bradstock’s Coneygree (10/1) both share a rating of 166 with Bobs Worth. Kiely’s nine-year-old Hennessy Gold Cup winner at Leopardstown had a very hard race last time. He experienced the full force of an AP McCoy drive, unhindered by rigorous whip rules. He would be some horse to manage a similar effort so soon.

Fortunately Richard Johnson did not have to chuck the kitchen sink at Coneygree to win the Grade 2 Denman Chase at Newbury in February. He made all and was in control from two out, beating Venetia Williams’ Houblon Des Obeaux (50/1) by seven lengths. In his previous run Coneygree won the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase comfortably by 40 lengths at Kempton on Boxing Day. His task was made easier after his closest rival had capsized.

This likeable, talented little horse is the apple of his trainer Mark Bradstock’s eye but it is not a mutual thing. Coneygree tries to take a chunk out of him if dares to enter his stable.

Running a novice chaser in the Gold Cup is a bold move. The last one to succeed was Captain Christy back in 1974. Coneygree’s usual running style of making all in a field of this size and quality over a distance he has never encountered could be problematic. Bred by the late Lord Oaksey, he would be a popular winner.

Unlike Bradstock, Paul Nicholls has form in this race, winning it four times. He saddles two including the 4/1 favourite, Silviniaco Conti, who finished fourth here last year. Like Bobs Worth, he wandered about on the run in but was given a thorough check up afterwards and found to be suffering from quite serious stomach ulcers. In the 2013 Gold Cup he was going well when falling for the first time ever three out.

This season he could only finish fifth on his debut in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in early November, looking to need the run. He was beaten eight lengths by Philip Hobbs’ Menorah. Three weeks later he reappeared in cheekpieces for the first time and reversed the placings at Haydock in the Betfair Chase, beating Menorah by two lengths. He pricked his ears as he crossed the line.

We last saw Silviniaco Conti on Boxing Day winning the King George at Kempton, getting the better of Dynaste by over four lengths. That was on good to soft. In the past Silviniaco Conti looked to need more testing ground to succeed over three miles, especially on a flat course.

Now a nine-year-old, Silviniaco Conti has five Grade 1s to his name but has never scored on this track. On the positive side, he is rated 7lb above the rest of the field and has been laid out for this race by a man who is masterful at executing a long term plan. Silviniaco Conti seems to be coping with faster conditions better than before. He looks a worthy favourite.

Nicholls’ second string, Sam Winner (25/1) also merits a mention. He scored in a three mile three furlong handicap chase here on his seasonal debut in November. He got the better of Neil Mulholland’s The Druids Nephew (who won here on Tuesday) by a length and a half when giving him six pounds. Sam Winner went on to win a listed race at Aintree and was last seen finishing third by some three lengths in the Lexus.

This sometimes lazy eight-year-old is rated 12lb lower than his stablemate but has clocked up four wins here. He has realistic each-way claims.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Betting Tips Conclusion

This is likely to be a strongly run contest favouring amenable horses with plenty of stamina. That puts a big question mark over the otherwise very appealing Coneygree (10/1) and Road To Riches (11/1).

  • The 4/1 favourite is not only the classiest horse in the line-up but he ticks both those boxes. His trainer Paul Nicholls sent out two winners on Wednesday and has a superb record in this race. SILVINIACO CONTI looks very likely to give him a fifth victory and has to be our pick to win, best priced at 4/1 with Paddy Power.

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