This year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup looks an absolute cracker with the field chock full of quality. Just look at the betting if you need confirmation that we’re in for a highly competitive contest. When the 2 times winner of the Betfair Chase, Bristol De Mai and Monalee, winner of a Red Mills Chase are both 25/1 you know that all the horses below them in the betting must have shown some very good recent form.
The Gold Cup is a special test and what we need is a horse that has both speed to stay in position and stamina to get them up the hill at the end of what can be a gruelling contest. Often it pays to go for more of a grinder than a more flashy type, so we’re looking for a tough horse that stays, preferably one that’s open to improvement and not a flashy winner in small fields. I usually approach a race like this by looking for chinks in the armour of the main contenders, trying to find a reason that they won’t win, and then seeing if there are positives about some of the outsiders. In a race with plenty of strength in depth, this should help us to narrow the field.
This approach works sometimes. In 2010, I ruthlessly ruled out both Kauto Star and Denman from the Gold Cup, when pretty much the entire racing world thought it was between the ‘big two’.
- “Kauto Star – Blowout – Good chance but he’s been at the top for a while now. 10 yr old winners are rare.”
- “Denman – Blowout – Another 10 yr old in the Gold Cup. He was simply awful at Newbury.”
Despite getting tons of flak and trolling before the race, I was proved correct with Imperial Commander (which I tipped the previous December) taking the spoils. But enough of the self-congratulations! What you want to know is who’s going to take the Gold Cup home this year.
So let’s have a look at the main contenders in the 2020 Festival:
All prices mentioned are the best odds available at the time of writing on Friday 6 March.
Al Boum Photo – There’s no doubt he likes the test of the Gold Cup as he won the race last year but this race is stronger and he’ll need to improve. He’s had a quiet preparation which is sensible, given that back to back winners are rare. Best Mate was the last horse to do it with his treble 16 years ago. But despite this he’s vying for favouritism (with Santini) at skinny odds in a very competitive race so can be passed over.
Santini – Santini put in what seemed an improved performance when winning the Cotswold Chase but he’s an example of a horse that only has winning form in small fields. I don’t think he’s got enough guts to win Gold Cup and I’m surprised his challenging last year’s winner Al Boum Photo for favouritism. If you take his overall form, he’s more like an 8/1 shot in my book plus there’s a doubt he’s go ‘all in’ when he needs to. It’s worth noting that he was turned over at 11/10 at Kempton on Boxing Day in 2018 in his second novice chase. He could win but everything needs to go right for him including the ground which would need to dry up a fair bit.
Delta Work – Gordon Elliott’s charge has progressed nicely since his third behind Santini and Top Of The Game in the RSA Novices Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival. He comes into the race in good form having won the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on his last two starts. But the negative is that both those wins were hard fought victories and I think he’s left his best performances in Ireland.
Lost In Translation – This improving challenger from the West Country is a real old fashioned galloping type and brilliant jumper of a fence who’s improving. A real no-nonsense horse. The stiff challenge of the most prized event in National Hunt racing is tailormade for him and he’ll be grinding up the hill when the others have cried enough. I can see him being kept close to the pace on the first two circuits then taking it up at the second last. Some may be put off by his blowout in the King George at Kempton but that may be a blessing in the context of this race as he arrives here fresh. Plus since then he’s had a wind operation. Before Kempton he has racked up an impressive treble culminating in the Betfair Chase where he beat Haydock specialist and 2018 Betfair Chase specialist Bristol De Mai. Before that, he was second to Defi Du Seuil in the JLT Novices Chase at last year’s Festival and if that one wins the Queen Mother on Wednesday his odds will shorten. Trainer Colin Tizzard is no stranger to Blue Riband success having won the Gold Cup in 2018 with Native River, who misses this year’s race due to injury.
Clan Des Obeaux – Paul Nicholls’ horse was 5th beaten 11 lengths by Al Boum Photo in last year’s race. He’s a 2 time winner of the King George which was his last race so he goes into the race a fresh horse. But his weakness is Cheltenham and the hill on the run to the line. He’s run 5 times around Prestbury Park and been beaten on each occasion. It will be the same again on Friday.
Kemboy – He unseated in last year’s Gold Cup but since then has beaten both Clan Des Obeaux and Al Boum Photo at Aintree and Punchestown and those two are shorter odds. However, his better form is on flat tracks. On his latest start he was 2nd in the Irish Gold Cup following a battle with Delta Work. Like that one, he could have left his race in Ireland and he doesn’t quite have the form or the class to win here.
Presenting Percy – Was the hype horse last year when starting favourite without a prep run but never went a yard and finished lame down the field in 8th last year. He hasn’t done much since and should be double his current odds of 11/1.
Let’s take a look at a couple of outsiders who could be lively each way bets.
Monalee – Monalee was just touched off in his last race, the Savills Chase, by Delta Work who’s a quarter of Monalee’s 25/1 odds. That’s makes Monalee good value, especially as unlike Delta Work who had a hard race in the Irish Gold Cup, Henry De Bromhead’s contender comes here fresh.
Bristol De Mai – He’ll love the likely soft ground and has from mixed up with those much shorter in the betting. In his most recent race he was second behind Santini in the Cotswold Chase and was third in the race last year. At a generous 25/1 he makes appeal to be placed once again.
1. As you’ve probably guessed, Lost In Translation is my selection. At a tasty 7/1 there’s scope for an each way punt.
2. If Defi Du Seuil boost this form by winning on Wednesday, I’ll be going in again.