Cheltenham Gold Cup Ante-Post Tips: Play three against the field

Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips: Lake View Lad (far side) could offer some each-way value at a three-figure price.
Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips: Lake View Lad (far side) could offer some each-way value at a three-figure price.

Following the release of the entries for this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, Nick Seddon takes a long range look at the Festival showpiece, and picks out his best bets at this stage...

It's still rather up in the air as to whether we'll be able to have any crowds at this year's Cheltenham Festival, but thankfully it does seem as though the event will be able to go ahead with or without people in attendance, and things started to feel a little more real on Wednesday afternoon, with the release of the possibles for this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

A total of 41 have been entered for the race, with the standout name being the defending champion Al Boum Photo, who is bidding to become just the fourth horse in history to win this race three times. He's the current 7/2 favourite for this at the time of writing, and it's very difficult to knock the claims of Willie Mullins' charge, considering that he has won each of the last two renewals.

The nine-year-old's tried and tested method of having one outing before the Festival hasn't won him too many admirers, but it's a system that works, and having impressed on his reappearance run at Tramore on New Year's Day, it's easy to make a strong case for his hat-trick bid. However, it's worth noting that he only just got the better of Santini 12 months ago, and in a more open renewal this time around, he's opposed at the prices. 

Sticking with last year's renewal, each of Santini (second), Lostintranslation (third) and Bristol De Mai (ninth) hold entries once again, and a plausible case can be made for each this time around. The last-named is a top-class performer on his day, finishing third in this in 2019, and he returned to his best when winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November.

However, Bristol De Mai struggled in this last year, and although he has the ability to run well, the Grand National looks his main target this season, and others are preferred. Meanwhile, fellow Betfair winner Lostintranslation was an excellent third here 12 months ago, but has looked amiss in two starts so far this season, and is best watched. 

Instead, it could be worth taking the 11/1 that's currently on offer about Santini, who's looking to reverse the form with Al Boum Photo. He's something of a marmite figure amongst punters, and needs a stern test of stamina to be seen to best effect, but he relished the test of this last year, and only just failed to get the better of his rival in the dying strides - getting within a neck.

There's still plenty of miles on his clock as a nine-year-old, and he's lost little in defeat in his two starts so far this season, considering that both were rather unsuitable speed tests. He's versatile as far as the going is concerned, and there's every chance that conditions could be heavier than the good to soft going last year. Bearing in mind that he relishes a real stamina test, he looks an excellent option at a double figure price - particularly if the ground comes up soft. 

Cheltenham Festival Races

Away from Al Boum Photo, the Irish form is likely to have a serious say in this division, with a whole host of those who took their chance in last month's Savills Chase likely to have this in their sights.

The logical starting place is with the winner A Plus Tard, who took the step up to three miles in his stride, staying on really well to get up in the dying strides. A dual Grade 1 winner, he's a serious contender on the back of that, though with several underperforming at Leopardstown, there's a feeling that he needs to back that run up at next month's Irish Gold Cup before his current quote of around the 9/1 mark looks a fair one. 

Finishing in the places that day were the Mullins-trained pair of Kemboy and Melon. The latter carries the same colours as Al Boum Photo, and like A Plus Tard he excelled up in trip. He's a four-time runner-up at the Festival, and is certainly a solid each-way option at 33/1, though he very much had the run of things that day tactically and would need to build on that here. Meanwhile, Kemboy looked as though he could dominate this division in 2018/19, with the only blot on his copybook being a fall in this race, and although that Leopardstown run was an outstanding one, he's been rather hit and miss of late and doesn't always convince with his jumping. 

Two who failed to give their running in the Savills were Delta Work and Minella Indo, both of whom departed the race at the midway stage. The first-named is a top-class staying chaser, winning twice at the top level last season, and ought to bounce back in next month's Irish Gold Cup, though it's worth noting he was held when fifth in this 12 months ago, and will need more this time around. Minella Indo was the favourite at Leopardstown having made a strong start to the season, and he certainly deserves another chance - having paid the penalty for one bad mistake. A high-class novice last year, there should be plenty more to come from him in this sphere, and his next start should tell use more about his capabilities at this level.

Samcro ran no sort of race on his first try over this trip, and it's too early to write off one with so much talent, but for betting purposes, it could be worth giving another chance to Presenting Percy each-way. The writing was on the wall for him from an early stage at Leopardstown, but that was his third start in around eight weeks, and he'd impressed on his two outings prior to that.

Indeed, he certainly seems to have taken steps back in the right direction since joining Gordon Elliott, and he looked as though he was capable of realising his untapped potential when accounting for Kemboy at Thurles in November. It feels too soon to write the ten-year-old off yet considering he's still very much in his prime years, and provided he's given time to freshen up between now and March, his price of 33/1 looks a rather generous one from an each-way perspective - particularly when you note that he shaped well for a long way when falling late on in this last year.

Cheltenham Festival Tips

As alluded to above, there's plenty of depth amongst this year's entries, and Champ is another graduating novice who deserves consideration. Named after the great A.P. McCoy, he produced a box office performance to win last season's RSA Chase in dramatic circumstances, and he certainly appeals as one who can make his presence felt at this level now in open company. We're yet to see him so far this season, meaning it's difficult to make a case for him at his ante-post price of 10/1, but his proposed outing in the Cotswold Chase should tell us more about his chances.  

Three more who deserve a mention are Frodon, Cyrname and Native River. The last-named won this back in 2018, and has shown some high-class form since, winning twice at Grade 2 level and finishing fourth in the 2019 renewal. Injury prevented him from trying his hand last year, but he certainly can't be written off just yet as an 11-year-old, and shaped well when third in an unsuitable test of speed on return at Aintree in December.

A more popular selection will be the King George VI Chase winner Frodon, who was excellent when triumphant in the Boxing Day blockbuster. He proved himself once and for all as a top level performer over three miles by winning that, though that feels his limit, and the extra two furlongs could stretch him. Similar comments apply to Cyrname, who is a top-class performer on his day, but ran no sort of race at Kempton, and has plenty to prove in this sphere.

At a much bigger price, it could be worth having a very small each-way bet on Lake View Lad, who looks too big as a 100/1 chance. As a Trevor Hemmings-owned runner, it's logical to think that the Grand National would be his main target, though his surprise victory in last month's Many Clouds Chase has taken his mark to dizzying heights, and as a result he's rather running low on options. He's certainly not an also-ran here, and along with plenty of stamina reserves he also has some smart form on his record, running a screamer to finish third under top weight in last year's Ultima Handicap. He'd clearly need a career best to win this, but there's no reason why he can't be competitive, and at a course which suits him, it isn't hard to see him outrunning his three-figure odds. 

Selections

Cheltenham Gold Cup, Cheltenham Festival, Friday 19th March - back Santini at 11/1 (Betfair)

Cheltenham Gold Cup, Cheltenham Festival, Friday 19th March - back Presenting Percy each-way at 33/1 (Various)

Cheltenham Gold Cup, Cheltenham Festival, Friday 19th March - back Lake View Lad each-way at 100/1 (888Sport)

Cheltenham Gold Cup
Santini silk

Santini

Cheltenham Gold Cup
Presenting Percy silk

Presenting Percy (EW)

Cheltenham Gold Cup
Lake View Lad silk

Lake View Lad (EW)

Grand National Tips
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