Cheltenham Gold Cup 2016 Tips

RECOMMENDED BETSMARKETODDSBOOKMAKERS
Road To Riches (ew)Cheltenham Gold Cup 201620/1Ladbrokes, Coral
Many Clouds (ew)Cheltenham Gold Cup 201650/1Stan James

With so many big staying chases having been run in the past few weeks, now is the perfect time to re-assess the ante post market for the most important long distance race of them all – the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The King George is undoubtedly the next most prestigious level weights contest run over the larger obstacles and Cue Card’s narrow win over Vautour saw the winner’s odds half for Cheltenham glory, whilst the runner-up’s almost doubled.

Amazingly, some judges are still questioning whether Cue Card will have enough stamina to win the big one, which seems extraordinary when he was doing all of his best work at the death at Kempton and only finally got his head in front in the dying strides. The fact that he can be ridden more patiently these days means that the extra couple of furlongs in the Gold Cup won’t be an issue and it is purely down to whether he will be good enough.

He is certainly the form horse this side of the Irish Sea following that Boxing Day win and a victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock – wins that have put him in line for a million pound bonus should he complete a famous treble. Unfortunately, the value has gone and he isn’t an ante post proposition as his current odds (7/1 Betfair) are unlikely to be much shorter on the day.

Runner-up, Vautour, does have stamina questions to answer, but on the plus side is the fact that he’ll be racing the other way round at Cheltenham. At Kempton, like at Ascot before, he lost lengths by constantly running down his fences and leaping out to his left.

His breath-taking demolition job in last season’s JLT Chase proved he handles the unique undulations of Prestbury Park and back on some decent ground odds of 12/1 with Paddy Power are very appealing. The big concern for ante-post punters, however, is whether or not he’ll turn up, as connections may opt for the softer target of the Ryanair instead and look again towards the Gold Cup next season.

That risk is heightened by the fact that his owner, Rich Ricci, has the new outright market leader, Djakadam – available at odds of 4/1 (generally).

In our view, the market has it right as Willie Mullins’s soon to be 7 year old looks the strongest candidate as things stand. He ran a remarkable race to finish second as a 6 year old last season and must have a massive chance of improving enough to take the crown this time around.

He certainly looked on very good terms with himself when hacking up on his re-appearance recently. Again, though, he is more one to back on the day when we know he has made the line-up in one piece.

So going back to the King George, Don Cossack and Smad Place are also worthy of discussion.

Opinions are divided on the likely finishing position of Don Cossack had he not come down two out in the Boxing Day showpiece, but in our opinion he would have gone close as he seemed to be staying on again having been under pressure turning for home. He may prefer better ground and he seems to be a spring horse, which are further pluses. His four wins before his Kempton fall rightly saw him rise to the head of the chase ratings, and he still looks likely to be big player come March, but a best price of 11/2 with Bet365 is unappealing at this point in the season.

Smad Place is interesting as some have written him off after his King George fourth and his odds reflect that. However, he was trapped out wide for much of the contest and, therefore, inconvenienced by Vautour’s wayward jumping. He seemed to be staying on again in the closing stages and may be more suited by the trip and track of the Gold Cup – he has run well at three Festivals in the past. More forcing tactics in the big one could see him outrun his current odds of 33/1 with Paddy Power.

One of Smad Place’s previous forays to the Festival saw him claim the runner’s up spot in the 2014 RSA Chase and there are a couple of other horses who contested that race that could be interesting outsiders for the big one this time around – O’Faolains Boy and Many Clouds (Don Cossack also ran in that race as did Paddy Power winner, Annacotty, so it was clearly a very strong renewal).

The winner that day was O’Faolains Boy and following that success we were impressed enough to tip him ante post for the 2015 Gold Cup. Unfortunately, he missed the 2014/5 season through injury and there was little encouragement on his comeback at Ascot when he was pulled up. Much better followed at Newbury recently, though, and a crack at the Welsh National could now follow. That was a path trodden by Synchronised on his way to Gold Cup glory in the past and Rebecca Curtis’ charge will not be a 33/1 shot should he run well at Chepstow.

Many Clouds had a stellar campaign last season, winning the Hennessy on route to Grand National glory. In fact, his only poor run came in the Gold Cup, where he was taken off his feet early by Coneygree.

Like so many others left in Coneygree’s wake, he couldn’t quite settle into his rhythm and if you can forgive him that one below par effort his current price of 50/1 with Stan James looks way too big, especially if the wet winter continues. Many National winners have run well in Gold Cups past, like West Tip and Hedgehunter, and this horse looked at least as good as ever when narrowly beaten by Don Poli at Aintree last time out, when giving the winner 5lbs. He is very tough and brave, and could easily sneak into the prize money before heading off to defend his title at Aintree.

Don Poli is a tenth of Many Clouds’ odds, but didn’t convince when winning the Lexus on Monday. He is the type of horse to only ever do enough, but his lazy style of running may get him into trouble in a race as competitive as the Gold Cup. It would certainly have been easy to have envisaged Coneygree getting him out of his comfort zone very early on, so whilst that horse’s absence is a blessing for Don Poli supporters, other front runners like Smad Place and Vautour could do the same. All in all, his ante post price of 6/1 makes little appeal. He would be a more attractive prospect were connections to try some form of headgear on the big day, but we may not know that until the week of the Festival.

In the same ownership, Road To Riches was an excellent third last year and is something of a forgotten horse at the moment. Only he and Djakadam were really able to live with Coneygree last spring and although he was well beaten by Don Cossack at Punchestown in April he may have had enough by then following his tough race at Cheltenham. His current price of 20/1 (Bet365, Ladbrokes, Coral) seems too big based on what he achieved last year and the fact that connections believe him to be stronger and more mature this season. He also ran well on his comeback, winning easily on a track and ground that wouldn’t have suited him.

If there is a fly in the ointment then it may be More Of That. Jonjo O’Neill’s stable star won the World Hurdle as a novice in 2014 beating the great mare Annie Power in the process. That was an extraordinary effort for one so inexperienced and he could try to repeat the dose here by winning the Gold Cup in his first season over fences. Coneygree proved it to be possible and More Of That clearly has the engine to be competitive. Paddy Power’s 33/1 appeals as history shows some of the leading fancies at this stage of the campaign often end up missing the race due to injury. If that happens again this year it could open the door for this really likable 7 year old.

Conclusion

So where does all that leave us? There are a handful of horses on our shortlist of those worth backing ante post at this stage of the season.

O’Faolains Boy is interesting as a big run next time out could see his current odds of 33/1 (generally) tumble and his 2014 RSA Chase win marked him out as a potential top staying chaser of the future.

The same odds of 33/1 about More Of That with Paddy Power could look huge if connections take the brave decision to aim their novice at the big one, whilst Stan James have gone out on a limb with their standout offer of 12/1 about Vautour.

However, the two we would recommend backing now are ROAD TO RICHES and MANY CLOUDS. We can’t understand the price of the former – he ran a blinder in the race last year and there is every reason to expect some further improvement this campaign especially if the ground is better this time around. He also bolted up on his comeback to prove his well-being. Also back him at 16/1 for the Ryanair to cover your Gold Cup stake, just in case connections go that route instead.

Many Clouds is a much more risky proposition, but 50/1 looks too big. It was some performance to win a Grand National with 11-9 on his back and soft ground at the Festival would make him a real threat. It would only take a couple of the principles to miss the race (as so often happens) to really put him in the mix.

RECOMMENDED BETSMARKETODDSBOOKMAKERS
Road To Riches (ew)Cheltenham Gold Cup 201620/1Ladbrokes, Coral
Many Clouds (ew)Cheltenham Gold Cup 201650/1Stan James

Last Season

Don’t forget, we tipped the winner of all four Championship races last season:

CHAMPION HURDLE (11/10 WINNER)

“We have been massive FAUGHEEN fans for a while now and this is no time to desert the favourite…we think he has the potential to be one of the best winners of this race that we have seen for many years.”

CHAMPION CHASE (9/2 WINNER)

“With the desperately disappointing news that Champagne Fever is a non-runner, we think the best each-way option could now be DODGING BULLETS – who has been the most consistent performer at this trip through the campaign so far.”

WORLD HURDLE (20/1 WINNER)

“This season’s World Hurdle looks one of the most open for years and there could easily be a shock winner…One horse who will definitely love the ground is COLE HARDEN and he is the other one to back, in the hope that a recent wind operation will bring about some further improvement. He stays well and handles the track. He is also very tough and this is a race that brutally exposes any lack of stamina.”

GOLD CUP (9/1 WINNER)

“Holywell has been our idea of the Gold Cup winner all week, but each drop of rain will reduce his chances and with conditions turning in his favour we cannot ignore the claims of our old favourite – CONEYGREE. He has been doing us massive favours all season and hopefully has one more big run in him today.”