There are fewer runners than normal in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup but the blue riband race of the Cheltenham Festival has not lost any of its glamour with seven Grade 1 winners entered, though Bog Warrior is unlikely to take his chance after a brave run in yesterday’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
Silviniaco Conti (9/2 general) is one pretender to the crown while Sir Des Champs (4/1 general) is looking to enhance an already outstanding Festival record. He won Ireland’s Hennessy Gold Cup last time out but his form this season doesn’t match that of the UK-trained chasers of which Bobs Worth and Long Run look the pick.
It’s a surprise to see Long Run at 6/1 with Boylesports and Ladbrokes as he won the Gold Cup in 2011 and showed tremendous courage to thwart Captain Chris (16/1 with BetVictor) in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton over Christmas. He had possibly needed the run when beaten earlier by Silviniaco Conti at Haydock and the fact that nine of his 12 runs over fences in this country have been in Grade 1 company and he’s yet to finish outside of the first three speaks volumes about his quality. But Bobs Worth is a danger as he’s already won twice at The Festival and was very impressive when beating subsequent Lexus Chase winner Tidal Bay at Newbury on his only run this season. A general 11/4, he’s been saved for this.
Nicky Henderson could be looking forward to a good afternoon but Irish trainer Tony Martin may have even more to celebrate as he has several fancied entries after breaking his Festival duck yesterday with Benefficient.
The Jewson Novice Chase winner himself is still engaged in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase but most unlikely to take his place. Alderwood looks the one in the finale as he could be extremely well handicapped. Only a pound higher than when winning over the hurdles at The Festival last year, the nine-year-old is 6/1 with Coral to end a frustrating week for A P McCoy on a high.
Martin has the favourite in the JCB Triumph Hurdle in the unbeaten Our Conor (7/2 with Coral) but Swynmor (a general 25/1) might be a decent each-way bet in this should the rains arrive. He reportedly needed the run when a beaten favourite at Doncaster last time and would have won a Grade 1 at Chepstow in December had he not fallen at the last.
Ted Veale, another Tony Martin hopeful, looks a likely sort in the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle at the general 12/1 and the stable are expecting a big run from Edeymi under promising claimer Shane Shortall in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. He is a general 8/1, though the Pipes have laid out the unbeaten Gevrey Chambertin (5/1 with Boylesports) for this and are desperate to win it for obvious reasons.
At Fishers Cross can show he is the best staying novice around by landing the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the general 11/4 as the horse he beat at Cheltenham last time won easily at the meeting on Wednesday and last year’s first and second in the CGA Foxhunter Chase, Salsify (11/4 with bet365) and Chapoturgeon (5/1 with the same firm), may well fight out the finish again. Maybe the Barbers’ grey will come out on top this time if ridden closer to the pace.