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Cheltenham Gold Cup preview

The feature of the final day, if not the whole Cheltenham Festival, is the Gold Cup. This year's cast isn't rated to be the strongest of all time but it certainly isn't a race where finding the winner is a simple task. And that's before the rain arrived!

In the hotseat for the blue riband event is Chris Day, @chrisday100.

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Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup
3m 2.5f New Course, Grade 1
Track GOOD at time of posting but significant rain forecast


What a festival it's been but for many the best is yet to come. We've had the point and fire victories of Mullins' big guns earlier in the week and the fight back of Paul Nicholls with Graded and handicap victories demonstrating just why many of us consider him to be the best trainer and placer of horses we've ever seen.

As we go into the final day the highlight is undoubtedly the Gold Cup, a race which retains the open look it has had since the days when Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander strode the stage.

Last year's contest, and the result itself, remain a mystery and, with his festival record and an owner, trainer and jockey with a brilliant recent history here it's impossible to write off last year's winner, Lord Windermere. He's won an RSA Chase and Gold Cup from his two visits to Prestbury Park and warmed up for this with a much more promising performance in The Irish Hennessy last time than he had put up prior to last year's race. He's obviously well suited to the test and I couldn't honestly put anybody off backing him.

The top two in the market last year, Silviniaco Conti and Bobs Worth, jumped the last looking likely to fight out the finish before being overhauled on the punishing climb to the winning line by Lord Windermere, On His Own and The Giant Bolster. Whilst it may have been easier to predict Nicholls' horse not quite seeing out the trip, Bobs Worth should have loved it and I cannot explain the run at all.

Since then, Silviniaco Conti has won a Grade 1 at Aintree, run disappointingly on his Charlie Hall comeback at Wetherby and put up arguably his two most dominant performances ever in winning Haydock's Betfair Chase and Kempton's feature, the King George. The question with him is whether he's better on a flat track or has Paul Nicholls just managed to improve him as he's done so brilliantly this season with Dodging Bullets?

Second in the market as I write is the admirable Many Clouds who has done nothing but improve this season. He's demonstrated his versatility in beating a high class opponent in Eduard over 2 1/2 miles at Carlisle with Holywell way behind, sitting in behind in The Hennessy before staying on stoutly as he'll need to here and then showing the course holds no terrors for him in winning here on Trials' Day. The significant thing about the latter victory was that he was conceding the maximum penalty, something which not many horses have managed in recent times. He represents connections who nobody would begrudge victory here, in fact it could be argued that he would be the most popular winner of the season if he could pull it off.

One trainer aiming to spoil the party will be Noel Meade, who runs Galway Plate and Lexus winner, Road To Riches, who's also been on a steep upward curve in the last year and The Lexus has now become the pre-eminent Gold Cup trial in Ireland. The form looks solid but I jut wonder whether he will have the brilliance normally associated with winners of this race.

The big plunge horse in recent days has been the Willie Mullins trained Djakadam, always highly rated and apparently now beginning to deliver on his promise with victory in the Thyestes Chase last time out. Apparently unfit in The Hennessy, he'd travelled like a class horse until entering the straight at Newbury and, as the saying goes, could be anything. If you're on at 20-1, good luck but I do feel he's too short at single figure prices.

One of the most popular quotes in tomorrow's media about the rest of the field will be "would have his chance if returning to his best" and this really does apply to the majority of this field which is covered by a ratings spread of generally less than 10lbs so a good or bad jump will be key and I've absolutely no idea who will be the benefactor or otherwise of fortune.

In the hope that we'll see a horse worthy of taking on Don Poli in 12 months'time, I'll take Many Clouds, who should benefit from overnight rain, to provide a dream result for us nostalgic types with Lord Windermere as runner up and Silviniaco Conti to be carried out on his shield in third.

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