The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the one big race that is missing off Willie Mullins’ CV and, though the well-fancied Vautour has sidestepped the big-race, he fires 3 of the 9 arrows targeted at this year’s Blue Riband event.
Four 8-year-olds, three 9-year-olds, two 7-year-olds, and one 6-year-old have won in the last decade, and Ruby Walsh is the only jockey to have won it twice in that period. Paul Nicholls has trained 3 winners in that period, and Nicky Henderson 2, but neither have an entry this year – and one of the 6 trainers involved this year will lift the trophy for the first time.
Here’s our analysis and tip!
Carlingford Lough 25/1
Won the last two Irish Gold Cups at Leopardstown but, though the better ground and longer distance should be up his street, he has performed below par at the Cheltenham Festival the last two years, firstly in the RSA and then in last year’s Gold Cup.
Cue Card 4/1
This season’s Betfair Chase and King George winner bids for a £1 Million Bonus that only the mighty Kauto Star has previously achieved. However, he’s got a great festival pedigree having won the Festival Bumper in 2010, been 4th in the Supreme in 2011, 2nd in the Arkle in 2012, and won the Ryain Air Chase in 2013. He’s missed the last two festivals through injury – but has returned better than ever.
His second in last year’s Gold Cup gives him a great chance, and he returned in great form with a scintillating win in the John Durkan. However, he’s fell in 2 of his 3 runs at Cheltenham, and there’s a suspicion that he’d prefer softer ground.
Don Cossack 3/1
Failed twice at the festival before, but has improved since and should relish the good ground. Likely to make a mistake somewhere as he doesn’t always travel as well as some horses, but he looks sure to rattle home up the hill if within touching distance jumping the last.
Don Poli 5/1
Got a few pound to find with Don Cossack and Cue Card, but could easily do that after winning at the last two festivals. The form of those wins could have worked out better, but he looks a guaranteed stayer if he can keep tabs early on.
Irish Cavalier 125/1
Won a handicap off 137 at last year’s festival, and has run some good races since, but needs to take another massive step forward if he’s to win this.
O’Faolins Boy 66/1
Won an RSA where he got up on the line to deny Smad Place, and he looks sure to enjoy this step-up in trip. Interesting that connections reach for first-time cheekpieces, and might run well at big odds.
On His Own 80/1
Now 12, which is surely too old to win a Gold Cup, but was second in 2014 and 5th last year.
Smad Place 9/1
Seemed to find massive improvement when winning the Hennsesey and Argento this season, but couldn’t keep tabs on the likes of Cue Card and Don Cossack at Kempton in between. Could go well, but stable form a worry.
Cue Card and Don Cossack standout on ratings and, as Cue Card has the better festival form, and jumps better, he gets my narrow vote, despite being older than ideal at 10.
Cue Card @ 4/1