As ever, the Magners Gold Cup is the highlight of the Cheltenham Festival.
A big field going hammer and tongs for three and a quarter miles, with racing’s ultimate prize up for grabs – does it get any better?
This year’s contest looks typically competitive, with the Irish contingent holding all the aces as 2019 winner Al Boum Photo bids to land the race again.
Here are the runners and riders for Cheltenham’s Blue Riband event…
Al Boum Photo – 3/1
An exceptional racehorse with a stunning turn of foot, Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old pulverised his rivals in last year’s edition.
He looked as good as ever on return at Tramore and will be very difficult to beat if producing a similar performance this time around.
Bristol De Mai – 25/1
Never has the expression ‘horses for courses’ applied more than with Nigel Twiston-Davies’ nine-year-old.
Bristol De Mai is almost unbeatable at his native Haydock, and if the Cheltenham Gold Cup was run there instead he’d be a good thing.
That said, he produced a fine performance in last year’s race to finish third behind Al Boum Photo, and could well sneak a place again.
Clan Des Obeaux – 15/2
A class act who’s now won the last two runnings of the King George at Kempton, Paul Nicholls’ contender certainly has strong claims if producing his best.
However, he was unable to lay a hand on Al Boum Photo in last year’s race, and will need to save a bit more energy for the closing stages if he’s to have a hand in the finish.
Delta Work – 9/2
The maroon and white of Gigginstown House Stud – and Ryanair supremo Michael O’Leary – have a number of entries in the race this year, but Delta Work is without doubt their number one hope.
Third in last year’s RSA Chase (the novice 3m chase event), he didn’t have quite enough stamina in the tank to get to the front two.
However, an extra year’s maturity seems to have worked wonders as he’s twice produced excellent performances at Leopardstown in the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup.
He could well have something to say at the business end if continuing his progression.
Elegant Escape – 100/1
A stalwart in this kind of race, Colin Tizzard’s admirable performer has always found life a bit tough at the top and is set to struggle again.
Chris’s Dream – 25/1
Has good each-way claims, with his last two victories showing how extremely progressive he is.
He’s a fine jumper and is worth keeping an eye on, though he possibly lacks that touch of class needed to win.
Kemboy – 9/1
Willie Mullins’ exciting prospect didn’t get any further than the first fence in this race last year, but showed that form all wrong with a commanding defeat of Al Boum Photo at Punchestown a month later.
If coming on from his run last time out, he’ll be a big player in the closing stages here.
Lostintranslation – 11/1
A big player in this before he put in a horror run in the King George, most punters are willing to give Lostintranslation another chance.
His defeat of Bristol De Mai at Haydock was a sensational performance and his trainer reckons he’s as good as he’s had – big chance.
Betfred boss Fred Done’s verdict…
“I’ve suffered massive highs and lows in the Gold Cup.
“I celebrated when Norton’s Coin won at 100/1 but I’ve also gone home skint when horses like Best Mate, Kauto Star and Bobs Worth all hosed up as favourites.
“I’ll be looking to get the first two in the betting in the book, which are last year’s winner Al Boum Photo and Santini, then just crossing my fingers.”
Monalee – 22/1
Only found Delta Work a head too strong at Leopardstown last time and has big claims on that form.
However, this trip may just stretch him and he needs to find a little more.
Presenting Percy – 11/1
Presenting Percy was all the rage for this race last year but after a far from ideal preparation, he struggled to get involved.
He’s not been at his best so far this season and victory looks unlikely, for all that he could run well for a long way.
Real Steel – 80/1
Participation here is something of a surprise given he looked better suited to the Ryanair on Thursday. Given little chance.
Santini – 11/2
Star chaser leapt into favouritism for this race following a resounding victory in the trial for this race, the Cotswold Chase.
He appeared to have everything required for the Gold Cup day – stamina, speed and a brilliant shape over his fences – and he’s sure to be hard to beat.
Nicky Henderson’s Festival record is outrageously good and he knows how good this horse is – and when he talks about him, you can see the glint in his eye. Provided he gets the extra two and a half furlongs here, he holds major claims.
*Odds correct at time of writing. 18+ T&C’s apply. See Betfred.com for full details. Begambleaware.org.