Cheltenham 2022 Ante Post: Gold Cup, Champion Bumper and Triumph Hurdle eyecatchers

Gordon Elliott back in the winner's enclosure with some lively Cheltenham Festival chances.
Gordon Elliott back in the winner's enclosure with some lively Cheltenham Festival chances.

It's Monday morning which must mean it's Dan Overall's (@OverandClear) look back at last week to report on his eyecatchers for the the rest of the season including some horses who are prominent in the markets at the Cheltenham Festival next March...

The National Hunt season really revved up into full-gear this week with a lot of top-class performers making their return to the track while the weekend saw some extraordinary performances and plenty of drama.

In truth, I could go on for hours about eye-catching runners from the previous seven days but alas I will try to restrain myself and I will avoid elaborating on the well-known quantities (i.e. Envoi Allen, Frodon etc).

Before we dive in, I would like to give an honourable mention to Grand Paradis (Friday, 3:30 Down Royal) who shaped with plenty of encouragement on chasing debut in a hot race before taking a soft fall late on. I have little doubt that the race will produce plenty of winners and I’m excited to see Grand Paradis again as he should develop into a very nice staying chaser.

Monday 25th October: 3:30 Wexford – Eklat De Rire (1st)

We began the week with Gold Cup hopeful Eklat De Rire making his seasonal reappearance in the same race that Minella Indo won twelve months ago on his way to winning the CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP.

While it was only a small field, this was not a formality for the Grade 3 Novice winner given he was carrying a penalty and this was his first run after unseating at Cheltenham. However, Henry often has his runners ready to go at the first time of asking and this was no exception, with Eklat De Rire making all and jumping superbly on route to a comfortable win. It must be noted that his main market rival, The Big Dog, was disappointing while his nearest pursuer, Conflated, was never travelling with any zest so the bare form would hardly scream Gold Cup contender; and yet it was the manner of the success combined with his lightly-raced, progressive profile that makes him of interest going forward. 

There are options aplenty for Henry De Bromhead and connections to ponder, with the Ladbrokes Trophy (27th November) being touted as a possibility immediately following his Wexford success. 10/1 is still available for that race and given how frequently the Irish have raided Britain’s biggest prizes in recent times you would have to give him a leading chance should he line up at Newbury. If he does make the trip over, it will be interesting to see how the British handicapper reacts given his Irish rating of 152.

40/1 is still available for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and you could certainly find worse ante-post bets at this stage. There are still a few bridges to cross before he can be considered a bonified contender for the Cheltenham showpiece but Henry De Bromhead certainly has a strong hand in that race.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Odds

Thursday 28th October: 3:05 Ffos Las – Gris Gris Top (3rd)

A notable drifter on the day (7/1 out to 20/1), perhaps in part due to the strength of others at the top of the market, Gris Gris Top shaped with a great deal of promise on his debut for Michael Scudamore and there are certainly races to be won with him this season and beyond. 

Attempting to make all under Richard Patrick, Gris Gris Top settled into a nice rhythm out in front despite being pressured by the 133-rated Milanford throughout. Still in the lead as the field turned for home, Milanford quickly faded away and the pursuers benefitted from more patient rides, with the stoutly bred Iron Bridge nosing to the front late on with Bill Baxter plugging on into second after Gris Gris Top had tired. Michael Scudamore’s grey was only beaten nine-lengths in the end with some useful types a distance behind the front three while both Bill Baxter and Iron Bridge were bumper winners. All in all, the form of this race has a solid look to it.

And it’s not just this race that makes Gris Gris Top a horse to keep on side; he finished second in a bumper over in Ireland with the winner, Pull Again Green, subsequently going to Fergal O’Brien and managing to land another bumper on Friday. He also finished second to the high-class My Mate Mozzie in a point-to-point.

Described as a staying chaser in the making by his trainer, he’s definitely a horse to keep in your trackers for the long term but he should be capable of winning over hurdles this season for a trainer/owner combination that have enjoyed plenty of success in recent times.

Friday 29th October – 3:50 Wetherby – Galahad Quest (3rd)

A Grade 2 juvenile winner back in January 2020, Nick Williams has taken things slowly with Galahad Quest; a horse he clearly holds in high regard as he once labelled him as “a Gold Cup prospect”.

Last season was very much a learning curve over fences as he found himself in some deep races before getting off the mark at the third attempt. The form of that win has been franked, with the second, third and fifth all winning subsequently while the fourth filled the same position in the Scottish Grand National.

Quite easy to back on his seasonal reappearance, he was ridden very patiently before making stealthy headway as they turned for home under minimum amounts of pressure, eventually finishing third behind an in-form, race-fit rival in second and a winner who was prominent throughout and goes very well fresh.

Considering how weak he was in the market and the fact that it was just his fourth start over fences, this was a very encouraging effort and it left the impression that there could be a big race in Galahad Quest. He holds an entry in the Paddy Power Gold Cup which would seem a viable target for a trainer that has proven adept at targeting big handicaps at Cheltenham. Five-year-olds don’t have the best record in the race but there is still a lot of upside to this horse who has plenty of eye-catching back form; he was a narrow second to Buzz on just his second start over hurdles before beating Night Edition, Monte Cristo and Rowland Ward in the Grade 2 Finesse at Cheltenham. 25/1 is a very fair price.

Saturday 30th October – 1:05 Down Royal - Fil D’or (1st)

Another race that boosts an illustrious roll of honour, including subsequent Grade 1 juvenile winners Quilixios and A Wave Of The Sea in the past two seasons. 

This year’s renewal saw Gordon Elliott win the race for the fifth time in the past seven seasons with French recruit, Fil Dor. 

While it was a slowly run affair relative to other races over the same course & distance on the card, you couldn’t help but be impressed by the way he went through the race. He has a very professional demeanour and his jumping was superb for a horse with such little experience. Once Davy Russell gave him a squeeze after the third from home, Fil Dor effortlessly extended his advantage and the race was in safe keeping before they even turned for home. 

Such was the style of the victory, Gordon Elliott’s grey now finds himself as the ante-post favourite for the TRIUMPH HURDLE, with 12/1 being the best available price at the time of writing. Given how juveniles can improve significantly throughout the year and how we often don’t see some of the best until later in the season, I would be cautious about betting on this race at this time but I was thoroughly impressed with Fil Dor’s temperament. Gordon noted that he will go on any ground and that the Grade 3 at Fairyhouse in November is likely to be his next race; that particular event was won by Zanahiyr last season.

His opposition was modest and it wasn’t blisteringly fast on the clock but the manner of his victory certainly entitles him to a mention on this list and I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing him again.

Triumph Hurdle Odds

Saturday 30th October – 4:35 Down Royal – American Mike (1st)

American Mike completed the four-timer for Gordon Elliott in impressive fashion in the concluding bumper, soaring to the head of the CHAMPION BUMPER market in the process.

Jamie Codd always looked confident on the £195,000 point-to-point winner, coasting to the front as the field turned for home before looking briefly over his shoulder to realise there was no threat to his mount’s chances of victory. In what was effectively a canter, he had been well found in the market thanks to his connections and some high praise in stable tours and horse to follow publications.

This particular bumper was won by Sir Gerhard last season while Elliott has won the last seven renewals; the likes of Easywork, Malone Road and Death Duty feature on the roll of honour so it would be fair to say that the trainer sends some of his best here. 

Gordon did note that “He might not have the speed of Sir Gerhard” but his Champion Bumper backers will be glad to know that he will be sticking to bumpers this season, with the listed bumper at Navan in December mooted as a likely target; a race which was also won by Sir Gerhard last season and it has also been won by the likes of Envoi Allen, Samcro and Don Cossack.

He is certainly the standard setter in the bumper division at present but there is plenty of water yet to flow under that proverbial bridge. His current price of 8/1 for the Champion Bumper is reasonable given connections, the manner of his debut success and the fact that this is almost certainly his primary target for the season.

Champion Bumper Odds

Races To Follow

Friday 29th October: 2:13 Uttoxeter – Race To Follow

A Mares’ Maiden Hurdle that has been won by the like of La Bague Au Roi and Dame De Compagnie in recent years saw Lady Adare add herself to that impressive roll of honour in quite impressive style. 

Bought for £82,000 after winning a bumper for Micky Hammond, she justified strong market support on route to a seven-length success. She certainly looks to have a bright future ahead of her but, in truth, I think similar comments apply to all of the front five from this contest. 

The front five in the market were the front five at the finish (Get A Tonic, Credo, Tweed Skirt and Holly) and all showed enough to suggest that they are up to winning races; they all brought solid form and interesting profiles into the race and the time compared favourably with the preceding handicap.

Keep an eye out for all of the above next time out and even those that finished further down the field could make appeal once in handicap company.

Sunday 31st October – 12:50 Carlisle – Race To Follow

A competitive Novices’ Handicap which saw Papa Tango Charly run out a convincing winner; the £440,000 purchase had been frustrating over hurdles but he might be able to help justify that price now he’s chasing while there were plenty of encouraging efforts in behind. 

Karl Philippe ensured there was no hiding place from the front, with the field strung out almost straight from flag fall. Fergal’s runners are often ready to roll first time out and despite making a couple of notable errors, this was a very promising debut over fences. 

Killer Kane is still very lightly raced and there and shaped encouragingly in third while Le Cheval Noir will appreciate stepping up in trip. 

Dreams of Home probably paid for forcing the pace and with all of his victories under rules coming over two miles, he will be of strong next time when dropped in trip.

Again, I am of the opinion that plenty of winners will come out of this race and many will find far more suitable opportunities to get off the mark over fences, particularly in the North.

Cheltenham Festival odds
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