Photo of Cheltenham Gold Cup by Kerry Hendry of Love The Image. The feature race of the Cheltenham Festival and the one that everybody out there is desperate to win. Won in recent years by the magnificent Kauto Star, Denman and more recently Bobs Worth, who takes his place in the line-up once more to defend his crown. Bobs Worth has an impeccable Cheltenham record and has been undefeated in his three festival races and is unbeaten in five starts at the track. The hill compliments him perfectly and he is incredibly tough to beat at the track. His relationship with jockey Barry Geraghty is poetry and their performance in the Lexus last time should put him in perfect shape for this one. Trainer Nicky Henderson has released a further upbeat bulletin about him and when he takes his place to retain his crown you would hope he would go mighty close to putting him in an elite team of great horses. He no doubt has a mighty task on his hands with the likes of Silviniaco Conti and Last Instalment coming into the race in great form, but he always seems to find more up the Cheltenham run in and in a fight to the line you would not want your money anywhere else. Silviniaco Conti comes into the race looking better than ever and his winning run in the King George is superb looking form. He fell in the race last year when still going well, even it visually looked like a tired fall. Noel Fehilly is getting a tremendous tune out of him and it will be interesting to see how he fares in this one. He is a fantastic stayer and it will be great to see how he comes up the hill. His fall last year combined with his slightly disappointing run in the Betfair Chase means Bobs Worth is chosen in preference as the selection. Having said that, the Betfair is probably an unfair judgement point and he must have a terrific chance. The Gigginstown pair of Last Instalment and First Lieutenant both come into the race with solid claims. Last Instalment was seriously impressive last time and has to be considered on that. However, he is still a doubt with the Fenton yard shrouded in controversy and only time will tell if this has affected his preparation for the race with the likes of The Tullow Tank now not crossing the Irish Sea. First Lieutenant is a horse I have followed for a long time now, he has however been a tad disappointing and his performances this season do leave him with a bit to find. However, he is crying out for this trip and it will be interesting to see him run nevertheless. David Bridgewater has been oozing confidence about The Giant Bolster who put in a mighty performance to win last time. He will be in there pitching and is an admirable sort for a really attractive yard. He does however look to be little bit short of the standard required to win a Gold Cup. He has been placed and that is arguably the best performance of his career, which does leave him a bit to find on the likes of Bobs Worth. Triolo D’Alene was recently given the all clear to have a crack on route to the National. He worked well enough to warrant a place in the race. Listen to Nicky Henderson speak about him two seasons ago when he’d first arrived in the yard and you would think he was going to win a Gold Cup. He has got his act together after a slow start and now looks to have a great chance in the Grand National. However, he is the stable’s second string here and probably isn’t quite good enough to win a Gold Cup. Harry Topper has been a revelation this season and has shown he is a high quality horse. He won impressively last time, beating Al Ferof comfortably. He comes into the race in good form and must be taken seriously even if not from a win perspective. Two horses that I like at big prices are Boston Bob and Lyreen Legend. The latter ran a cracker in the RSA Chase last year, and looked just as good when shaping very encouragingly on his comeback run in the Lexus Chase. He was a bit disappointing in the Irish Hennessy but is worth another chance at a big price. Boston Bob was also running a blinder in the RSA Chase when taking a heavy fall. He has always been highly regarded but has been a bit of a nearly horse and hasn’t quite shown that potential championship race winning ability. If he could come back to his RSA Chase form he too would have a chance. He though however, is not a definite to line up in this with entries elsewhere. Of the others, Captain Chris and Dynaste are both useful performers and the former of the two comes into the race in better form than ever on the back of two wins in lesser company. Dynaste does have a bit to prove after his latest performance but is by no means ruled out on the strength of his Betfair Chase form. Although his Cheltenham form from last season is a bit worrying, where he didn’t seem to quite power up the hill as you would like. He may well give this race the swerve and run in the Ryanair instead. Lord Windermere won the RSA Chase last year but hasn’t looked to have trained on quite like Lyreen Legend, while Long Run now looks more like an Aintree type as the heat of many tough major races start to take their toll. Rocky Creek and Teaforthree will probably also find this too hot with greater tests of stamina more up their ally. Therefore. in conclusion the mighty Bobs Worth is hard to pass over and is a worthy favourite. Hould be a fantastic winner for all at Seven Barrows, in particular Barry Geraghty who bought him as a youngster. Lyreen Legend and Boston Bob are ones to note at huge prices. Selections: Bobs Worth 4pts WIN Lyreen Legend 1pt E/W
(Photo by Kerry Hendry of http://www.lovetheimage.co.uk)
Cheltenham Gold Cup is always hotly anticipated with the race providing a test of class and stamina over three miles, two furlongs. As usual, it will be run on the Friday and there are currently thirty six entries. Previous Gold Cups and last year’s RSA Chase, as well as last weekend’s Irish Hennessy and Denman Chase will provide many of the clues.
Last year’s winner was the Irish-bred Bob’s Worth. He rounded a hat trick of wins for Barry Geraghty at the Festival. Bob’s Worth is five from five around the Gloucestershire track, and comes into the race this year as favourite. A poor showing at Haydock was followed up by victory in the Lexus Chase.
Only four remain from last year’s field, which includes Long Run, fourth-placed The Giant Bolster, and Monbeg Dude who was pulled up. Winning the Argento in January gave The Giant Bolster his third win round Cheltenham, and it looks like he could put in another good round. Long Run, while getting on a bit in age, won the race back in 2011. His usually very consistent performances have dropped off this season, including an unseating, while Monbeg Dude has won two Grade 3s round Prestbury Park. Knockara Beau saw off At Fisher’s Cross and Big Buck’s on his comeback recently, and both him and Long Run are engaged to run at Kelso next Thursday.
Katenko won on his first and only start round the undulating Cheltenham course and he picked up a Group 3 just over twelve months ago. His reappearance in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury saw him fall when travelling okay but he was very disappointing at the Berkshire track on Saturday. The winner of Hennessy, Triolo D’Alene, is a proven jumper, having also previously won the Topham Chase over the Aintree fences. He is the third of Nicky Henderson’s runners after Bob’s Worth and Long Run.
Last year’s first and second placed horses in the RSA Chase have also been entered. Lord Windermere went past Lyreen Legend as they battled it out up the hill last year. The former gave Jim Culloty a first winner at Cheltenham as a trainer, with Bryan Cooper in second in a week where he announced himself to the racing public as a future star. Boston Bob, who fell at the last, is also entered.
Cooper’s retainer with Gigginstown will likely see him ride one of their five entries, which are First Lieutenant, Last Instalment, Dedigout, Bog Warrior, and Roi Du Mee. Of those, Last Instalment could be the one he plumps for following his terrific win in the Irish Hennessy on Sunday.
The field as it stands is unlikely to have as many come March, with doubly-entered Teaforthree, Time for Rupert and Medermit unlikely to run. The latter two have entries for the Ryanair.
A revival of the form, which saw Captain Chris win two Grade 1s in 2011, including an Arkle in front of Finian’s Rainbow, could see him run well. Dynaste, meanwhile, has recorded nearly all his wins on flatter tracks. Last year’s hopes for him have faded and he may also go for the Ryanair.
Owner John Hales, who’s Azertyuiop won the Queen Mother ten years ago, is represented this year by Al Ferof and Unioniste. The former previously won the Supreme Novices’ and the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase but was very disappointing at Newbury on Saturday, while the six-year-old Unioniste finished fourth in the RSA.
Al Ferof and Unioniste make up two fifths of Paul Nicholls’ trained entries. He also has Silviniaco Conti, who will be going straight to the Gold Cup. He lacks a race since last year, as well as recording most of his wins on flatter tracks, such as Newbury and Kempton.
Fellow owner Rich Ricci, who owns the versatile Annie Power, has only one entry in Arvika Ligeonnaire. A big concern for him will be going left-handed; he distinctly jumped to the right in a Grade 1 Novice Chase at Leopardstown in December 2012.
Barry Connell, who has Our Conor to look forward to in the Champion Hurdle, is represented by Mount Benbulben. He won the Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown last year and is likely to be ridden by Danny Mullins, in what will be his second start in the UK, following on from a seventeen length fourth in the King George round Kempton.
Last year’s Ryanair winner, and recent winner of the Betfair Chase at Haydock, Cue Card is surely going to be a live contender, while stablemate Theatre Guide also holds an entry.
Last weekend gave us more form to digest in the run up to the Gold Cup. The Denman Chase over three miles at Newbury was run in heavy conditions and four of the five runners hold an entry for the March showpiece. Harry Topper prevailed by twenty five lengths, from Al Ferof, with Katenko in third, and Vino Griego pulled up for the Moore team. Harry Topper was following up from his win in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November.
The conditions in the Irish Hennessy came up soft-to-heavy with the field containing a further six Gold Cup entries. The Fort Leney form was confirmed as Last Instalment went eight lengths clear under Brian O’Connell. Philip Fenton, whose Tullow Tank was beaten earlier in the Novice Hurdle, trained the winner. Tidal Bay is unlikely to race in the Gold Cup, and he came in half a length in front of the other Gigginstown runner First Lieutenant. The RSA Form took a bit of a hammering, with Lyreen Legend and Lord Windermere in 5th and 6th, with Roi du Mee bringing up the rear.
Houblon des Obeaux and Cloudy Too make up the remainder of the field. The former won a good handicap at Ascot in November, while Cloudy Too won a listed race the same month in front of Tap Night.
As such, it is still a wide open Gold Cup. With plenty of double entries to negotiate, it might be adviseable to avoid any ante-post wagers. With Al Ferof and Last Instalment are still being considered for the Ryanair, I will play it safe and opt for last year’s winner Bob’s Worth to put in a repeat performance, and join the exclusive club of multiple-time winners of the great race.
Tip: Bob’s Worth
Feature photo by Kerry Hendry of Love The Image Stephen Smith takes a look at the big races on each day of Cheltenham Festival 2014. We start off with a look at the big race on Tuesday 11 March, which is a hurdle race over 2 miles.
Stan James Champion Hurdle
In what promises to be the race of the Festival, Hurricane Fly seeks to repeat last year’s triumph and win a third Champion Hurdle crown. Willie Mullins promises to have his charge primed for the Tuesday showpiece, but many argue that they stare down the barrel of a who’s-who of new hurdling blood. Favouritism is shared with The New One, the precocious 2013 Neptune winner who aligns genuine two mile speed with a proven ability to power up the Cheltenham hill. Amid a season of setbacks, Nicky Henderson concedes his best chance across the festival may constitute the impressive My Tent or Yours. After defeating The New One this season, the 7/2 currently available is certainly tempting, with last year’s second behind Champagne Fever doing little to diminish this season’s credentials. However preference is for the talented Our Conor, so impressive in securing the 2013 Triumph Hurdle in blistering fashion. Whilst the form of that race hasn’t been covered in glory this term, the progression in his Irish performances shows enough promise to believe a reversal with Hurricane Fly is inevitable. Jezki has done little to convince he’s of the class to line up here and can be dismissed. Depending on conditions, Melodic Rendezvous could arrive on the scene but would require bottomless ground. Selection – Our Conor – 9/2 (Win) Next up is Ladies Day where off the track the brave and beautiful ladies will compete for the title of the ‘Most Stylish Lad’ and a first prize of £5000 of Joules vouchers. On the track the big race is a chase run at a furious pace over 2 miles.
BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase
With Sprinter Sacre being rested until next season, Gary Moore’s Sire De Grugy is in pole position to pick up the considerable pieces on offer. Entering the race with a RPR of 174, it would appear that there’s no better two-miler in the country at the moment. Holes in his candidacy become gaping chasms under scrutiny. headlined by a defeat to Kid Cassidy in November, a horse who would surely have too much to find to win here. Ante Post gamblers have a few curveballs to negotiate here. Al Ferof’s disappointing comeback season has saw hints he could arrive here – heavy ground permitting. Connections of 2011 winner Sizing Europe are suddenly enthused by Sprinter Sacre’s withdrawl, but is the ability still there? No. The classiest animal in the race comes in the form of Willie Mullins Arvika Ligeonniere. The 11/2 on offer would be far shorter if his form went left-handed, but he’s oozed style and class too often not to contend here. Selection – Arvika Ligeonniere – 11/2 (Win) On Thursday, it’s the long distance hurdle Championship in which Big Bucks aims to win for an astonishing 5th time.
Ladbrokes World Hurdle
If the Champion Hurdle promises to be the race of the Festival, the showdown between Big Bucks & Willie Mullins champion-elect Annie Power won’t be far behind. After last year’s open renewal won by Solwhit, the 11 year old Big Bucks has it all to do to claim a historic fifth crown. With defeat tasted in his comeback, connections are still bullish on Paul Nicholls ability to get the great horse back to his imperious best. Regardless of the 2/1 being short, he could be 20/1 and opposable. He’s simply not demonstrated his ability and can’t be backed. But is Annie Power the heir apparent? Not for me. She’s beaten Zarkander twice this season, utilising a mares allowance. Those victories weren’t impressive enough to hand her the title, and has she peaked already? Memories of Pont Alexandre loom large and we should look elsewhere for the winner. A positive word is had for Rule The World, so impressive last year but has too much to find in this company. My idea of the winner is the horse described by some as the biggest disappointment of this season – At Fishers Cross. Rebecca Curtis has brought the horse back from a shaky start by beating Big Bucks in the Cleeve Hurdle, and has aimed the horse towards this race all year. The 6/1 is far too short considering his earlier season form, but the bookmakers sense the animal’s class. Selection – At Fishers Cross – 6/1 (Win) On Friday, it’s the week’s showpiece event and climax to the meeting where the best chasers from England and Ireland do battle to take the crown in Jump Racing’s Blue Riband event.
BetFred Cheltenham Gold Cup
Dubbed as the ‘cash machine’ by Cheltenham backers, Nicky Henderson looks to guide Bobs Worth to a second consecutive Gold Cup – and a sixth Cheltenham win on the bounce. Putting a disappointing Betfair Chase behind him, Henderson’s charge returned to form with a resounding Irish Lexus victory, seeing his price tumble into today’s 7/4. An out and out Cheltenham horse, bookmakers dread the consequences of a successful defence. The winner of an Albert Bartlett, RSA Chase and Gold Cup, it’s only the brave who would desert such a reliable animal. Braver still as this year’s renewal lacks the firepower of the last six years. With the withdrawals of Sir De Champs and Cue Card, Dynaste’s preference to go back in trip and Long Run’s capitulation, only Silviniaco Conti lays down a serious challenge. The King George winner dug deep to overhaul Cue Card that day, and while the Nicholls horse has no Cheltenham form, he lacks the obvious flaws that every other rival has. For me, Silviniaco Conti is the likely winner, but at a short 3/1 it’s a gamble which I won’t be making. Value lies elsewhere in a race that’s cutting up badly. Last week’s performance by Captain Chris has given hope that he’s the best he’s ever been. Groans are heard from those who remember his recent left-handed form, but the horse is an Arkle winner and has earned his RPR of 170. His price is being trimmed all the time, and the 14/1 available today is great value to finish on the premises. Selection – Captain Chris – 14/1 (E/W)
The prestigious Gold Cup is one of few races in the horse racing calendar that bookmakers start producing odds for months in advance. With racing betting proving a very popular activity in Britain, putting bets on the winner of the Gold Cup is one of those events that attract casual as well as seasoned racing fans. So which horse would be a decent pick for those looking to put a bet on?
Only a selection of the horses in this years race look capable of winning. Currently the market favourite with bookmakers
is Bobs Worth with most of the major sports betting sites are offering just 9/4, with some as short as 2/1. If you’re looking to avoid the favourite in order to get some bigger odds then there are plenty of other options, including Silviniaco Conti (7/2) and Cue Card (8/1), Last Instalment (8/1) and First Lieutenant (16/1), although much can change ahead of the actual race. Indeed this is why some people prefer to hold off until closer to race time.
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(Photo credit: Pic Kerry Hendry of Love The Image)