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Gold Cup Preview

It all comes down to this, the highlight of the Festival, the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup. He's written all the intro spiel down below, so I'll simply hand over to Andrew Downes, @17forlife


Gold Cup Preview

The pinnacle of the entire Cheltenham Festival and the National Hunt season. It’s the race all jockeys and trainers want to win and the winners are remembered forever. It is often a crowd favourite as the same horses come back for another crack, year after year which means the horses carry a following from the punters and crowds.

This year is no different as last year’s winner, Bobs Worth, is the current market leader. One of the most popular horses in training for his never say die attitude and his record at the festival. The endearing eight year old has won at the last three Festivals winning the stayers novice hurdle and chase and the big one itself last year. He would, or should I say WILL, be a hugely popular winner with both punters and horse lovers. Current favourite at around 7/4 indicates that he has a huge chance of doing so.

Any statistic lovers out there will be screaming at the screen telling me that Bobs Worth cannot win! This is because it is very difficult to retain a Gold Cup. Only 2 horses since the late, great Arkle won his last Gold cup in 1966 have done so. This is mainly due to the race often being a very grueling race which can leave a mark on a horse’s career. 3m2f around Cheltenham over fences is a test for any horse but add to that, that it is usually run at a fierce pace means it’s a grueling test. Stats are stats, you can take what you want from them whatever you want and I’m fully in the, ‘stats are there to be broken’ camp. Everyone said the superstar Kauto Star couldn’t win in 2009 because no horse had ever regained the Gold Cup, well stats fans will have left Prestbury Park penniless that day, after he flew up the hill. The opponents, type of horse, conditions and preparation are more important than statistics.

The opposition

This year’s renewal is essentially a duel between Bob's Worth and Silviniaco Conti. The Paul Nicholls trained high class horse won the most important trial in December, when he won the King George chase at Kempton. He has all the attributes to trouble Bob. He was travelling far superior when he fell coming down the hill in last year’s race and it’s a shame we didn’t get to see them in the finish against each other as it would make analysis of this year’s race easier!

I believe his victory in the King George this year can be downgraded when analyzing the race. Cue Card is a top class horse but still carries the reputation of being a non-stayer. CC travelled all over Conti that day until he appeared to run out of stamina. Al Ferof has been below form all year and was far too close in 3rd to give the form a strong look. Mount Benbulben jumped horrendously and still finished within 16 lengths. Add to that Dynaste clearly didn’t run his race and the race starts to have a weak look to it, given that Cue Card didn’t stay. The strong negative surrounding Conti is an important one, his lack of Cheltenham form. He has never won at the course, albeit in only 2 attempts. It isn’t that he doesn’t act at the course, it’s the fact we don’t know whether he will or not. Compare that to the course and festival form of Bobs Worth and it would certainly be a worry for any Conti backer. Travelling well down the hill is a lot different that coming back up it and we know Bobs Worth loves nothing more than sticking his neck out and getting to the top of that hill with his head in front.

There are two Gigginstown House Stud owned contenders are very talented horses but can be dismissed for differing reasons;

Last Instalment (7/1) would be a highly controversial runner given that he is trained by Philip Fenton, recently under investigation for drugs found at his yard. He would have brought high class form into the race, similar to that of Bob and is still thoroughly unexposed. His victory in the Irish Henessy, albeit in a slowly run race, is similar to the Lexus victory of Bobs Worth. He beat most of the same horses and he won by a larger margin. That margin was slightly flattered in my opinion do the slower pace. Unfortunately the drying ground means his chance is limited. I still expect him to pull out on the day due to the ground. If he were to turn up and there was a freak rain storm, he’d be a danger to the selection!

First Lieutenant (10/1) brings a high level of form into the race, finishing close behind Last Instalment and previously a close second to Bob's Worth. They were both over 3miles and the extra couple of furlongs seem to be against him here. Both the horses he lost to were increasing their advantage at the line which isn't a good sign for the extra distance he will face in the Gold Cup. Last year he finished a gallant second to the very talented Cue Card in the Ryanair Chase, over 2miles 5furlongs. He doesn't strike me as a Gold Cup horse as he doesn't look a thorough stayer, which you need to be to win this race. He has won over 3m at Aintree but he beat inferior opposition on a lot easier a track.

The rest pose very little danger to the market leaders.

The Giant Bolster (16/1) came a close 4th last year but hasn’t quite been the same horse this year. He ran well below par in the Betfair Chase, unseated at Aintree and then flopped over hurdles from a very low mark in a handicap at Cheltenham. He has since narrowly won an Argento chase at Cheltenham however he was getting a lot of weight from some smart but not Bob or Conti class chasers. He appears to have slightly regressed and his jumping errors mean he doesn’t offer great each way value at a 16s. He couldn’t get within 15 lengths of Bobs Worth on bad ground in last year’s race; he certainly won’t be getting any closer on the predicted good ground. Lord Windermere (33/1) and Lyreen Legend (40/1) were expected to become contenders for the top 3 mile chases this year however neither have been able to do so. Both have been disappointing and nothing they have done this year entitles them to get involved here. Lyreen legend is expected to improve for the better ground and may outrun current odds of 40/1 but not enough to get involved in the finish.

Triolo D’alene (12/1) has been the subject of some market support this week after being confirmed as an intended runner by his trainer Nicky Henderson. This year’s Hennessey winner follows a similar passage into the Gold Cup to that of Bobs Worth last year. He lacks the Cheltenham form, in fact he has run at Prestbury Park when he pulled up when favourite for the Paddy Power Chase and disappointed in a festival handicap. He is improving and thoroughly unexposed. His work at home has apparently been very good which would agree with the recent market support. The price has now gone and is as short as 12/1. Too short a price for a horse with such bad Cheltenham form although he is probably the most likely candidate to finish third but doesn’t appeal as a place bet at the price.

I apologise to those looking for a big priced horse that will save their festival on the final day, I will not be suggesting backing any horse on here apart from that of Bobs Worth. He is the festival banker for many and is certainly mine. Every single box you could possibly want to tick and he ticks it. A short price to many at 7/4 but that is seriously tempting value to me about a reigning Gold Cup champion. He should be trading at much nearer even money in my tissue.

He won a much better renewal last year when conditions didn’t suit. Ground conditions are a huge factor in my confidence behind Bob. Last year he was fortunate to have such a genius riding him. Barry Geraghty, who will be riding again, had to nudge Bob along as he struggled in the mud. He doesn’t travel as well on the bad ground but it says all you need to know about the horse that he managed to beat the best 3m chasers around whilst hating the ground the entire way round. His attitude is one of his best features and you can be assured that should he need to battle against any rivals on Friday, then he will and will not be found wanting.

This season started off on a bad note when he struggled the entire way round a bottomless Haydock in the Betfair Chase. This just emphasizes how ground dependent I believe Bob is. He then went to Ireland for one of the most competitive and high class staying chases of the season in the Lexus at Leopardstown. He finished very strongly and that of a quicker horse than people realised to win by a cosy two lengths on Yielding/soft ground. That is the best form around (except the unlikely to run Last Instalment, see above). The extra two furlongs and Cheltenham hill along with the better ground will help him enormously so it is a credit to Bob that he was still as impressive as he was.

I cannot get across how important Cheltenham and Festival form is when analyzing these big festival races is. Bobs has been there and done it. Will Conti get up the hill? We have no idea but we KNOW Bob does and does it very well. The atmosphere and buzz around the Gold Cup can cause some horses to sweat up or get on their toes hence why when we know a horse can deal with all of the buzz and excitement, it’s very reassuring.

The selection is Bobs Worth who is easily my banker of the entire Cheltenham Festival. He somehow managed to win last year in a far better renewal on conditions he hated! A worse renewal and more importantly better conditions under feet mean he is impossible to opposable in my opinion. If you like a horse with a huge engine, a decent jumper, a very good turn of foot for a 3 mile chaser, the biggest heart in racing, almost indefinite amount of stamina, a 5 time course winner and superior ability to his opposition then you will agree with me that Bobs Worth retains his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown!


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