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the big one - Cheltenham Gold Cup

Big race coverage comes from Clint Smith, better known on Twitter as @snipersnipes

Cheltenham 15:20
Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1)
£500000.00 added, 5yo plus, 3m 2f 110y, Class 1

Here we have possibly the most prestigious race of the week, a culmination of months of work and preparation, a lifetime of dreams and aspirations; everyone wants a Gold Cup Winner!

To the purist it looks a fairly straightforward fight with Long Run holding all the aces, can anyone turn a river card to bust the hand...let's see.....

A wonderful Bob Back bay gelding with some very competitive form in the bank, last time out (LTO) he ran Long Run to within 1/2L in an oddly run race over 3m, on that occasion he did seem to hit one or two flat spots and at 5f was being pushed along only to find his gears again. In a race with a lot more competition and a lot more pace I feel he will get found out, he will always be up there and challenging but he will also falter. It's folly to write off anything being saddled by the great man at the moment but the simple fact is that this one isn't good enough, although I do have it down as 3rd, so it could be a good bet for the place only or EW money and hope that one or two fall or fail to run to form.

A very inconsistent sort who runs poorly or unpredictably. At best was a shock winner (for most) two runs back in the Hennessey and has shown that he stays, can run at any pace and can mix it with the best but you have no idea what type of horse will turn up - the great jumping champion or the dodgepot with a bad attitude and temperament. From a betting perspective this is one to swerve unless you being offered odds that factor in both the horse's chance and the added gamble on what sort of mood it will be in on the day. His current Betfair odds are 80.0 W & 14.0 P this makes this a "fun" alternative to the obvious selections, this for me should be the housewives' selection and hope he's on a going day.

Not a lot to say regarding this beast, an average handicapper at best, not guaranteed to stay a fast run 3m2f, has shown tendencies to throw it in at the end of his races, weakens instead of quickening, his best run was probably Nov 2010 when he was in the mix with Long Run and Sizing Europe at Down Royal, he has everything against him today including a patent lack of scope or ability. One to avoid.

An old favourite, everyone loves "Arry". A real trier with a big heart and some decent form although current form leaves the impression that they are somewhat tilting at windmills at this present juncture. Has been soundly thrashed after not staying in his last two races. I'm afraid Arry will have to lower his sights before he enters the winners' enclosure again. Will not even place, his goose will be well and truly cooked a long way from home. This can only win in the land of fairytales. Great horse with great connections, just not today or any other day in this class (unfortunately a rating of 160 leaves fewer options).

The KING is back and is back in superb form, in fact he is as good as I've seen. His last two victories were imperious, jumped like a stag, travelled without moving and still has heart for a good head to head battle. Twice a winner of this race, beat Long Run last two times, first by an amazing eight lengths and lastly by an ever-decreasing 1.5L in which he bravely battled as Long Run challenged (but never looked like winning). King Kauto is a true star, a true stayer but may struggle to confirm form with Long Run today. I think the King will only manage 2nd here, I can see this with Long Run jumping the last with not more than a length separating them but this time Long Run will run on the better with Burton Port about 4 or 5 lengths back in third. However, if LR falters with his jumping like he has a tendency to do then Kauto will have this sewn up long before the's all going to hinge on the jumping today.

Another old hand that has met and raced with the best without being in front, just a shade and a few pounds below top class. A great performer, honest and reliable but is just under the top tier. Here today for the day out and living in hope of some place prize money ( 6th pays £6700 & 5th £13,400 ) which could be a possibility but has no chance whatsoever of winning.

And we finally move onto the star of the show, Long Run, a true champion, a true stayer and like the King is all class. He has struggled with fitness thus far this season and that has shown in his races making it look like hard work from the get go, but his class has enabled him to be bang there behind Kauto the last two times. I feel the extra 2f will play into Long Runs hands and the extra stamina is the key, Long Run is a better stayer over the extended distances as the 3m2f really does stretch Kauto to the limit. This is a horse only just entering its prime, will win today and will be a major force for some years to come. This for me is the winner, an obvious choice (it's the fav) but has so much in its favour including a lack of genuine contenders that it would be folly to play against unless you're a value hunter or a dreamer.

Interesting runner runner from Mulholland, a good looking sort with obvious ability. A true stayer and does have a touch of class about him. LTO won the Argento quite comfortably beating a few of today's rivals over the extended 3m+ and I see no viable reason why any parts of that form should be reversed. A superb jumper (only fell once before on unsuitable soft ground and when tired at Down Royal), a great mover, races quick between the fences and is tactically versatile. I like this horse and although I can't see past Long Run, this is a quality alternative and will be in the mix for the places. A genuine Group horse and a proper chaser on the upgrade.

The big Mullins hope, not this year matey. For this to get involved it needs two key factors: softer going and weaker opposition. It has run up a small sequence winning some nice races in Ireland against (IMO) very moderate opposition on ideal ground. It has also show a weakness or two with its jumping and rather erratic style. It's a nice horse in its own right and on its home turf, this isn't even the best horse in Ireland over 3m+ so to put it in here is slightly confusing. No chance, avoid.

The mount of the Mighty McCoy, yes take a bow brilliant A.P., and he is rubbing leather with a very curious beast indeed. This one-time failed chaser was being aimed at races like the National a few months ago after failing to cut it. He was no better than a decent handicapper that had potential but was just not putting it all in, then he started to string a few decent races together culminating in the destruction of Rubi Light and Quito de la Roque in the Lexus over 3m on decent ground. That was a stand out performance and if he can run to that level he will give them all something to think about. Do not under estimate, this could be the dark horse, the improver that everyone thought was a step too far and at 20.0 is worth a few shekels of anyone's money EW.

Simply not good enough, can't even understand why he is taking his place in this field. Short on ability, courage, stamina and class, this will get blown away. Not even worth a fun punt, this is just padding out the field and making up the numbers.

You get a certain feeling that as we come down the field the class starts to evaporate like water from a boiling kettle. From the Mullins Yard, maybe it's here to set a pace for others, has absolutely no chance whatsoever. Would need at least 13 other runners to fall to be a consideration, I wouldn't back this in a walkover.

Has been thoroughly thrashed and humiliated by the big guns several times now, has been beaten by the lesser lights and really is out of his depth. Will struggle to place or be with the pace, an ok horse in its own right but well under the class required for this, another that will struggle to find races with a big rating.

Was held in high regard by former trainer Ian Williams ,and new Trainer Donald Mcain has done a good job with the unlocking of this fragile geldings known potential, winning the Charlie Hall and then finishing best of the rest behind Kauto and Long Run in the Betfair Chase he has shown he has ability and will be fighting out the places again, top 6 i think for sure , the battle is truly on for the places.

And finally the last one in is What a Friend. This one led the supporting cast last year coming within a nose of running Kauto Star from 3rd place. Got back to something like his best when third to Long Run in the Denman Chase but as is usually the case with this one, he simply flatters to deceive. Never really puts it all in, looks good and travels well...then nothing, all style over substance.

CONCLUSION: This is Long Run's race for the taking and only he can lose it. A lot will depend on his jumping which has been a bit sketchy at times. I do feel however there will be a better race within this race and that will be for the places and the EW money as lining up behind ( nd possible winners should LR fail) are Kauto Star, Burton Port, Midnight Chase, Synchronised, Weird Al & What A Friend, this is your top 7 but in which order? That's the puzzle within a puzzle, the winner though is the rather obvious LONG RUN.



BEST VALUE BET : Place Only Dutch with SYNCHRONISED / MIDNIGHT CHASE ( 5.0 & 4.0 )

Visit Clint's blog to read more of his musings.


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