Cheltenham Gold Cup preview

We are a month away from the big jumps meeting of the year at Cheltenham and things have been shaping up nicely in recent weeks with regards to the Blue Riband contest, the Gold Cup.

The starting point for the 2022 renewal has to be the contest from last year as the first three home should all clash. Minella Indo got the run of the race that day under a great ride from Jack Kennedy, holding off the sustained challenge of A Plus Tard with the winner of the previous two years Al Boum Photo back in third.

Minella Indo has though been underwhelming in defeat on all three starts this term, even though he did give a much better showing in the Irish Gold Cup last week. Everything points to his Henry de Bromhead stablemate A PLUS TARD (100/30 Betfred, Paddy Power) turning the tables. A year younger at eight, he easily disposed of the best England had to offer that day, and again when winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November. He was narrowly defeated by Galvin at Leopardstown at Christmas, but the yard was out of sorts at the time and is likely to be firing on all cylinders by mid March

Galvin himself has to be considered as he was a Festival winner in the National Hunt Chase last season and has clearly improved since. Able to handle any ground, he looks sure to go close, but does he have the class of a Gold Cup winner?

Al Boum Photo’s time at the top has surely come to an end at the age of ten, and I am not sure Willie Mullins has any Gold Cup winners waiting in the wings. Tornado Flyer was a battling winner of the King George, but he tends to get behind in his races, not something you really want to be doing at Cheltenham, and he does not have a great Festival record.

That leaves Conflated, who would not have been anywhere near most people’s lists until his revelatory performance in the Irish Gold cup. He seems to have come good now he has learned to settle in his races, but I still don’t seem him as a Cheltenham winner.

I’ve not yet mentioned a British trained horse, and frankly just as in 2021, the home challenge looks likely to be feeble. Protektorat is the shortest in the market after winning impressively at Aintree in the autumn, but he is yet to take on the best of the Irish.

If there is one challenger who could emerge, it might not be from England but Scotland. AHOY SENOR (20/1 general, most bookies NRNB) looks a relentless galloper, not unlike Coneygree who ended the hoodoo of novices in this race when winning in 2015. Of course Lucinda Russell’s charge needs to prove he can handle the undulations of this track, but he looked seriously impressive at Wetherby and I can see him getting loose on the lead. Stamina won’t be an issue, and if he can get into an early rhythm, he could prove hard to pass.

That said he is no certainly to even run at Cheltenham, let alone go for Gold instead of the novice route. However on the non runner no bet market he appeals as the best each-way price on offer.

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