We round off our Cheltenham Festival 2017 previews with the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2017, and whilst we perhaps lack the class of recent renewals we certainly won’t lack for competition on the day.
Injury has deprived us of Thistlecrack, the King George winner who was attempting to follow in the footsteps of Coneygree in 2015 to become the first novice to win the race in over 40 years.
That said we have a good turnout for racing’s Blue Riband where we get a mixture of age and experience against youth and potential, who will come out on top on the day? You’d be mad to miss it!
Cheltenham Gold Cup 2017
Indian River x Native Mo (Be My Native)
Notes: Has improved no end this season for Colin Tizzard who has proven a refreshing change for racing winning some good races this year. He finished second in the National Hunt Chase last season, before winning the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ at Aintree the following month. He was won both the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Welsh National this season, and then did a job on his rivals in the Denman Chase at Newbury in February. Very much come from under the radar this year but you can’t fault his attitude or his record and is very much a rock-solid proposition.
King’s Theatre x Wicked Crack (King’s Ride)
Notes: A true great of the jumping game who owes connections nothing. He has looked as good as ever this season aside from running below form in the King George for whatever reason on his penultimate start. He returned to the form of old when thrashing his rivals in the Ascot Chase (Grade 1) at Ascot in February and a big run again looks on the cards.
Saint Des Saints x Rainbow Crest (Baryshnikov)
Notes: Has finished second in the last two Gold Cup’s and is bidding to become the first horse since See More Business in 1999, to win the Gold Cup after being beaten in his first (and then second in Djakadam’s case) Gold Cup. This is easier than the last two he’s faced but there is a case of perhaps the bird may have already flown.
Stowaway x Western Whisper (Supreme Leader)
Notes: A horse which has thrived for the switch to Gordon Elliott this season, picking up the Lexus Chase (Grade 1) along the way. He was entitled to need the run on his seasonal return when second to Sub Lieutenant, and would have won at Clonmel but for falling at the last when clear. He then finished runner-up to Djakadam in the John Durkan which is really strong form before reversing that to run out a strong winner of the Lexus Chase outstaying Don Poli, Djakadam and many other useful recruits.
More Of That
Beneficial x Guigone (Esprit Du Nord)
Notes: Hasn’t gone on as you’d hoped after his brilliant win over Annie Power in the 2014 World Hurdle, but is beginning to get his act together over fences. Ran better than his performance suggests in the Lexus Chase when sixth behind Outlander, and was in contention when unseating at the last. Is said to be absolutely flying at home and has to be on the shortlist.
Midnight Legend x La Perrotine (Northern Crystal)
Notes: Campaigned almost exclusively at two-miles as a novice has really improved for the gradual step-up in trip slash switch to Jessica Harrington this season. An 8-length second to Douvan on his reappearance he followed that up with a win at Thurles in the Kinloch Brae, before winning the Irish Gold Cup with a strong staying performance to run down Don Poli and Empire Of Dirt late on.
Champagne West has made staggering improvements for the switch to Henry De Bromhead at the age of nine, although he always had plenty of ability he has struggled in the jumping department. He is in the form of his life and there is reason to suggest he would have each-way claims in the big one based on his last two efforts, but would need rain to be at his best.
Bristol De Mai improved beyond all recognition when much the best at Haydock two starts ago when winning a handicap chase off 154 by 22 lengths. Haydock is a bizarre track at the best of the times and he’s better judged on his previous form, which suggests he has a lot on his place at this table.
Minella Rocco beat Native River in the four-miler last year at The Festival, and ran a really promising race off 155 on his return at Cheltenham in November. He was staying on behind Many Clouds when falling at the last on his penultimate start before unseating Aidan Coleman in the Irish Gold Cup early on in the race. A dark horse with clear ability, he would be my outsider of choice to surprise a few.
Smad Place at the age of 10 isn’t getting any younger and has failed in the last two Gold Cup’s when coming into it in much better form. Not for me.
Tea For Two won a fairly poor Kauto Star Novices’ last season at Kempton, but returned in good form at Exeter in February matching his King George fourth behind Thistlecrack. Will appreciate the end-to-end gallop this race will present him but doesn’t have the class to trouble the judge.
Saphir Du Rheu is one of those horses that gets talked about like he’s the second coming, but hasn’t really delivered on that promise. He’s been in better form of late but is 66/1 for a reason here, and that’s because he’s not good enough.
Irish Cavalier caused somewhat of a shock when winning the Charlie Hall Chase at the start of the year but has been floundering on softer ground since. Finished fifth in the Gold Cup last year and a repeat of that performance will see him sneak into fourth/fifth if ridden tactically to achieve that.
One of the more competitive and open Gold Cup’s we’ve seen for a few seasons now and there are several that line up with chances.
Cue Card is bidding to become the oldest winner of the race since Mandarin in 1962 at the age of 11, and the first double-digit winner since Cool Dawn in 1998. The veteran has retained his form throughout his career and was going as well as anything until falling three fences from home.
Whilst the stats are against him I certainly won’t be upset if the old boy managed to add a Gold Cup victory to an already impressive CV.
Stablemate Native River has improved far beyond what I expected this season, and became the first horse since 1987 to complete the Hennessy Gold Cup/Welsh National double in splendid style earlier this season. He looked as good as ever the last day and has booked his place and worthy spot towards the fore of the market.
Djakadam has been beaten twice in the race, and like Cue Card before him will need to become the first horse since See More Business to win the race after defeat on his first run in the contest, and that was back in 1999. There’s argument to suggest this is the easiest renewal he’s encountered and you expect him to run another massive race here.
The Jonjo pair of Minella Rocco and More of That are two dark horses who have all the ability in the world, but haven’t unlocked it so far this season. There were signs of a revival from More Of That at Leopardstown the last day and is said to be flying at home so expect a bold show from both of these. Minella Rocco’s form with Native River in the 4-miler last year reads well in the context of this race but may just lack the gears needed to win this, unless of course they go too quick up front.
Sizing John has improved for stepping up in trip and the switch in yards but can we really see him winning a Gold Cup. He looks short enough now at the prices and although he’s done nothing wrong I think this is where his improvement ends for the season.
Which leaves me with my selection OUTLANDER, who has improved for the switch to Gordon Elliott who saddled the winner of this 12 months ago in Don Cossack. Has been fairly negative in his assessment of him thinking he won’t stay this far in the build-up, but I think he’s downplaying the horses’ ability in all honesty.
He was the best of these in the Lexus Chase, had given Djakadam a good race in the John Durkan and was showing no signs of stopping in either of those contests. This will be his first run in the Gold Cup and he’ll come into a lot fresher than a few of these and at over double the price of Djakadam he has to be the bet for me.