There’s a real changing of the guard in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup which has a whole slew of second season chasers attempting to claim jump racing’s crown. It appears to be very open with a whole host of contenders but how many have the credentials and ability to claim jump racing’s big prize? Read on to find out.
Year in year out at the Cheltenham Festival, the form from previous Festivals comes to the fore. Despite this punters and bookmakers alike place greater value on recent form and get carried away with the ‘buzz’ horses of the moment. Therefore, a good place to start the search for this year’s Blue Riband winner is last year’s race which you can view by clicking the image below:
The ill-fated Synchronised claimed victory through stamina staying on up the hill to beat The Giant Bolster who was 50/1 with favourite Long Run 7/4 in third. The placed horses from last year could well be the only two from the 2012 renewal that make this year’s although What A Friend might join them.
Long Run hasn’t quite lived up to expectations and jumps fans find it hard to warm to him. But you can’t argue with his record of being placed in all 24 starts and bagging over a £1 million in win prize money. At Cheltenham he’s taken the 2011 Gold Cup and came third in both the RSA Chase and Paddy Power Gold Cup in 2010. But for all that, this year will be tough as he faces many new contenders that are likely to improve past him. There are other negatives; doesn’t travel with the same élan as he once did, lots of miles on the clock and the tendency to make mistakes. He’s ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen, son of the owner and an amateur jockey who’s competing at the sports highest level. This isn’t necessarily a negative but in attempting to pick the winner I’d rather have a professional jockey on my side. Long Run is currently a general 7/1 chance.
The Giant Bolster has plenty going for him. As can be seen in the screenshot above he jumped the second last in front only to be overhauled by Synchronised on the run in. He’ll face tougher opposition this year but that experience could give him the edge over well fancied but less battle hardened contenders like Silviniaco Conti; yet to run in any chase with more than 7 runners and with no experience of Cheltenham fences. In contrast The Giant Bolster has won twice over the larger obstacles at Prestbury Park.
If you look at the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2013 entries it would appear that Ireland are fielding a formidable raiding party and have good prospects. Before the Lexus Chase, which contained the main Irish contenders, there was a feeling that an Irish star would emerge followed by a plunge in the victor’s odds. Whilst the odds of English winner Tidal Bay were shortened Gold Cup prices for Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs lengthened. Following the bunch finish the bookmakers shortened up Bob’s Worth at the head of the market; they were right to do so. I have doubts about Flemenstar staying the trip and acting on better ground plus there are doubts about him turning up. He has other options if he under performs in the Irish Hennessy and he’s also a bad traveller. Sir Des Champs is trained by the right man in Willie Mullins but I’m just not convinced he’s good enough and he’s been making a lot of jumping errors this season. Perhaps the best of the Irish and certainly the best value is First Lieutenant who is very consistent at the top level. The Lexus was an amazing race to watch but the bunch finish and a win by Tidal Bay casts doubt on the form. Paul Nicholls has revitalised Tidal Bay who’s name often appears in the same sentence as with ‘rogue’, ‘enigmatic’ and ‘frustrating’. But surely at the age of 12 he can’t win a Gold Cup?
Favourite for the race is Bobs Worth who must have an outstanding chance. He’s unbeaten in four runs at Cheltenham, is the right age and has the best form. But there’s a problem. I’m of the same opinion as Tom Segal who likes his chances but points out ‘The problem for punters is he’s only a 3/1 shot and will almost certainly be bigger on the day, so it is hard to suggest backing him now’.
Of the others last year’s handicap sensation Hunt Ball could go well. I was at Kempton when he stayed on to be second to Menorah in the re-scheduled Peterborough Chase on ground he would have hated. He’s been trained with The Gold Cup in mind but on what he’s achieved he should be a 50/1 shot.
So that brings us back to last year’s runner-up. You could argue that The Giant Bolster doesn’t have the class to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup but the same was said about many past winners including Synchronised. What you have in The Giant Bolster is a solid option with pace and stamina who has a better chance of winning than his odds of 25/1 suggest. The first thing I look for when having an ante-post bet is to be sure as I can that the horse is being trained for the race. Ever since Cheltenham last year David Bridgewater has been clear that Gold Cup 2013 is the plan for The Giant Bolster. He hasn’t set the world on fire this season but his comeback run behind Silviniaco Conti at Haydock was just that and he couldn’t cope with the extreme conditions in King George. It’s worth pointing out that he was heavily backed before Kempton so one can assume he’s been showing something special at home. There’s every chance that Champion and last year’s Gold Cup winning jockey Tony McCoy will be on board which is another big plus.
Take the 25/1 on The Giant Bolster which is generally available.
I’d be very interested to hear about your fancy for the big race too. Please post in the Comments below or tweet me @jpfestival.