Inside two months now before the Festival and to keep the blog ticking over, why not have an antepost preview of the Gold Cup? Jon da Silva, @creamontop, pipes up with an early assessment in his own inimitable style.
The 'Who's Sponsoring It This Year?' Gold Cup
Let's deal with the elephant in the room, Vautour.
I have to say if there is one thing I dislike about National Hunt racing it's the constant veneration of Novice racing. Much of it is completely uncompetitive and runaway winners of novices merely prospects - "novice championship" being an oxymoron and far too many of them to even be a test. Yet before a fence and in some cases even a hurdle is jumped they are stars. On breeding Vautour's best at three miles like Kempton not the 3 miles 2f Gold Cup see park [course] 3 milers Quinz, Sir Des Champs, un Temps Pour Tout and arguably Quevega who ducked the big bucks taking on Big Buck's.
In many ways like anointed yet non superstar Champagne Fever Vautour has already shown his vulnerability and indeed won a execrable renewal of the Supreme. Fever at least pinged a couple of real stars in his Supreme. He then beat Clarcam as a novice chaser handed an easy lead and pixie jumping [posing in air] to a debut success before being mullered by Clarcam who did go on to win a toilet race at Aintree and has been buried every since. Vautour was then visually impressive in beating trees in the JLT, form that has not worked out - the 150 rated Gilgamboa seeing off his 15 length victims Apache Stronghold and Valseur Lido - toilet excuse they'd had a hard race three weeks before something hardly borne out when 3 weeks after that Valseur won an admittedly piss Grade 1 novice. Ptit Zig did win an ummh err grade 2* beating the pinata Clarcam and then being better at the weights than Vautour (!) at Ascot before being utterly exposed twice, falling when broken by 33/1 shots for this. Irish Saint was bullied at Aintree by the adequate chaser Saphir de Rheu. So his novice form is visually impressive and rating friendly but for me form-wise questionable and he lost to a tree, I know never start a sentence with so.
* Grade 2 is Gaelic for Shit.
Vautour at least does have alternatives. The Ryanair makes sense for Vautour in that he can run to 170 again over 2.5 miles and that would win it most likely. Ditto the standard of two-milers he could win as you may only need to run to 170 if Sprinter Sacre gags. However if you want to see how a two-miler jumps have a look at Desert Orchid's videos when pressed - he was prone to massive over jumps which get the publicity but he could take fences at the end of 3 miles like a hurdler, really fast whereas Vautour sails over em unlike a top two-miler. Not to mention on his one attempt in a Grade 1 two-miler he was beaten by Clarcam, out of sight.
Don (The) Cossack
Best horse in training. Error prone and course maybe not be in his favour being bigger than a big horse. Cheltenham is at some points twisty and turney and he did not enjoy Kempton hemmed in. He did win at Aintree in a field of 10 but I would view more runners for a horse who jumps much as I imagine a routemaster would if it could jump as problematic. They could use headgear and/or take him to the front but that merely shows not a straight forward hoss. Fairly priced as best horse with negatives.
Don (The Plod) Poli
Humourless [(c) Prof Hindsight] chaser who has some class but probably not enough here. I'd rather take 4s knowing it's a bog than 6 or 7 now. I think he needs a bog and that is not odds on. Like Bob's Worth yes he may travel better on better ground but so do the others but on a bog he can out last them.
Has fallen into favourite after last year's 2nd. Meaningless trends warning no horse has won a 1st Gold Cup at his 2nd or more attempt since See More Business (who was carried out on his 1st try). Djak' is 7 and appears to be as good as last year if not better. Given a beating by The Cossack at Punch and whilst unfit was never winning at ultra galloping Newbury last year. Thus I question whether Djak' has the pace for a fast ground race. Soft ground is not the prevailing March ground since the drainage was done. Oh and probably loses Ruby Walsh to boot.
Cue Cue Card
Cue Card is a bigger price than horses he beat. He is bred for it and with his wind straight should be up to the distance. With his history of physical issues and the lifespan of breathing ops I would wait for day if I really liked The Cue. I would be doubtful he would hold up on deep going but it would not be forlorn.
Road to Riches
Main negative is in same ownership as the 2 Dons otherwise looks cracking EW price but one has to factor he may not run and probably not good enough for a win bet. Goes on all ground and one that will probably give you a good run for your money. Would love it if he turned up in the Ryanair #wins.
Fourth or fifth best on some ratings no chance on the da Silva scale. Wide margin winner at gallopers heaven Newbury but well seen off in the King George. Might provoke interest if they decide to send him to the front but will have others on his tail not standing off respectfully in this.
No More Heroes
I don't even fancy him for the RSA. To take his entry here as a positive as some have done explain the entry in the 4 miler? Plodder.
Nice win in an intermediate chase. Needs to find 25 pounds improvement. Been injured not for me but of the outsiders one who could leap into it.
Fourth last year and trained by anyone else you'd say no chance. That is not a compliment merely that poor runs by Jonjo horses are more excusable. Can make an argument improves on better ground and butchered Don Cossack as a novice, who did not, but seems shy even at his best.
Of the rest Triolo D'Alene, Sir Des Champs who was second to Plod's Worth in the race, Valseur Lido probably worth a mention. There, done.
Usual race between the Out Blasters and the Out Lasters and since the drainage was repaired the Blasters have held sway. In a tight NRNB market value is hard to find but people habitually underestimate the chances of horses stepping up in trip and over extrapolate limited evidence. I recommend a NRNB on Vautour! Yes reintroducing the murderer in the last paragraph.
a) 3rd best [TF] rated in the race already after only two proper chases - one if you take my view of the Ptit Zigger.
b) Showed his best form yet stepping up in trip to 3 miles for the first time. Hunt fans like to call all their geese swans and I am saying is he was not a superstar before the King George just a goose with a regal neck.
c) Most likely of the King George 3 [Cue DonC V] to run his race.
d) Cheltenham form is in front of season's form the 2 years prior why not this year? Ditto if we got top of ground.
e) Kempton run was on a track he clearly jumps slight the wrong way on, this is not.
f) Could be the lone front runner or at worst the controlling speed.
g) NRNB also most likely of the big boys to switch races if conditions not ideal - Cue has a Million reasons to run.
h) It is an assumption it will be a better race than last year with favourite last year's 2nd! Illogical Capt?
i) Ruby Walsh
In simple terms he has the highest potential ceiling of these and frankly given the way race was run I rate him best gelding in the King George.