15:30 at Cheltenham Racecourse on 19th March
Best Mate became the fourth and last horse to win three Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2004, and it’s no surprise to see the bookies have made Al Boum Photo the favourite to be the fifth horse to complete the hat-trick by winning the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
But in the 17 editions since Best Mate won his third Cheltenham Gold Cup, winners have taken a variety of routes to success in National Hunt’s Blue Riband event.
Three winners ran in the previous season’s Arkle Chase, with Kicking King and Sizing John finishing second and War Of Attrition finishing seventh. All three of those winners had also finished second or third in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle two years earlier. Only 2020 Arkle runner-up Fakir D’Oudairies gets close to matching those exploits after also finishing fourth in the 2019 Supreme Novices’, but he would be only the second 6-year-old Gold Cup winner since 1963.
Kauto Star was the only winner to have run in the previous season’s Champion Chase and this year’s two-milers don’t appear to have Gold Cup potential. Two Gold Cup winners, Imperial Commander and Don Cossack, had also taken in the previous season’s Ryanair Chase, finishing first or third. But the 2020 Ryanair winner Min would have to become the first 10-year-old to win since 1998 and connections haven’t been tempted to run him over three-miles+ so far.
Frodon has now run in the last two Ryanair Chases, suggesting that connections don’t think his quite Gold Cup standard. Third-placed A Plus Tard will still only be seven next year, but he didn’t appear to stay three miles on his one previous try, while runner-up Saint Calvados has also yet to prove his stamina.
Coneygree is the only winning Novice in the last 17 years and his connections deserve great credit for striking whilst their injury-plagued 8-year-old was in top form. But it’s hard to find a horse like him in this year’s betting
Two Welsh National winners, Synchronized and Native River, have also gone on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup 15 months after those successes. That means this could be the year that 2018 Welsh National winner Elegant Escape could make his mark, but he was well-beaten in the last two Cheltenham Gold Cups.
Native River is also one of only three horses in the last 17 years that have placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup prior to winning it. Native River finished third, while Kauto Star finished second before regaining his title, and Al Boum Photo obviously won before retaining his title.
That means the second and third in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Santini and Lostintranslation, are worthy of consideration. Santini would have certainly benefitted from a stronger run race this year, while Lostintranslation ran a cracker considering the Colin Tizzard stable was largely out of form at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and he suffered an interrupted preparation after being pulled up in the King George and would have preferred quicker ground.
The route taken by five of the last 17 Cheltenham Gold Cup winners is via the previous season’s RSA Chase, with Denman, Bobs Worth, and Lord Windermere all winning, Long Run finishing third, and Al Boum Photo falling.
Only time will tell if the 2020 RSA Chase was a top-class renewal but the first three in the race make some appeal at this stage. Minella Indo and Allaho could easily find more improvement for top connections but winner Champ must be the most interesting after powering up the hill to win when his chance looked to have gone after a couple of indifferent jumps. His jumping remains a concern, but he will surely relish the extra distance of the Gold Cup.
One horse that fell in the 2020 RSA Chase was Copperhead and the 6-year-old is young enough to make massive improvement with another year on his back and 50/1 makes some appeal. 2019 RSA winner Topofthegame is also worth a mention considering he beat Santini and Delta Work. He’s sure to be a danger to all if returning at his best, as he was also second in the 2018 Coral Cup.