Cheltenham Gold Cup: Are there any clues from the Many Clouds or John Durkan?

Bristol De Mai Jumping A Fence At Cheltenham Gold Cup

There were two notable Cheltenham Gold Cup trials over the weekend, with the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree and the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown throwing up a brace of classy winners, but can either make waves in the blue riband event at the Cheltenham Festival in March?....

Many Clouds Chase

Former Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River made his seasonal reappearance in the Many Clouds Chase at the weekend - a race he won back in 2019, but the Colin Tizzard-trained 11-year-old was no match to the runaway winner Protektorat, who has now well and truly propelled his name into the Gold Cup picture.

Fresh from running a mighty race to finish second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month, Dan Skelton's Protektorat was upped in trip for this contest, and he duly handed the aforementioned Native River a real pasting in a race that somewhat fell apart with the well-fancied duo of Imperial Aura and Simply The Betts failing to run to their best.

Jumping impressively for Bridget Andrews, the fast-improving Protektorat pulled further and further clear in the rain-swept conditions on Merseyside, and he went on to beat Native River by a whopping 25-lengths. In the immediate aftermath the bookmakers were forced to slash the Skelton charge in the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting, and the six-year-old is now a best-priced 16/1 chance for the blue riband event.

Reigning champion Minella Indo and the impressive Betfair Chase winner A Plus Tard dominate the Gold Cup betting at the moment - and are the only duo in single figures in the betting - so there's a place to be had in the chasing group of that Irish duo and Protektorat could be one of the shining lights of the British charge. However, he will need to improve immeasurably to land a blow on that proven top-class duo, who excelled over the Gold Cup trip in March, and there's sure to be stamina worries about Protektorat, who is now being aimed at the Gold Cup.

Skelton is unsure where the next target will be for his star six-year-old, with a race over the Christmas period ruled out, while the Cotswold Chase is another written off by the top-class trainer. So, it could be something like the Denman Chase at Newbury that we see Protektorat take his place on a racecourse next, but he's got a whole load of improvement to produce, if he wants to be a major challenger to last year's 1-2.

Runners

Galopin Des Champs
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Lhomme Presse
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A Plus Tard
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Protektorat
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Allaho
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Bravemansgame
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Stattler
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Hewick
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Envoi Allen
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Shishkin
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Ferny Hollow
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Minella Indo
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Vanillier
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Gaillard Du Mesnil
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Odds correct as of 2022-11-29 09:56 Odds subject to change.

John Durkan Memorial Chase

On paper it was destined to be a corker of a John Durkan on Sunday afternoon at Punchestown, as Envoi Allen tried to return to the big time, but the former top-class novice hurdler failed to fire on the big stage once again over fences, and Henry De Bromhead will need to go back to the drawing board with him (drifted to 20/1 from 8/1 in Gold Cup betting.)

However, the same can't be said about the Willie Mullins-trained Allaho, who produced a sensational display to claim Grade 1 glory and he was trimmed from 25/1 to 20/1 for the Gold Cup. Last year's Ryanair Chase winner saw out the extra distance in the John Durkan, and showed he can produce the goods over three miles, but the petrol gauge appeared to be running a little too close to empty for him to be regarded as a potential Gold Cup contender at the moment, and it could be that he remains over the 2m 5f trio of the Ryanair in March. Cut from 7/2 to 5/2 for the Ryanair, Allaho looks tailor-made for that contest, and dreams of Gold Cup glory for his supporters are likely to be silenced in the coming months.

While Allaho produced a fine display, the talking horse after the race was Asterion Forlonge, who appeared to be getting the upper hand of his stablemate Allaho, as they headed into the final furlongs, but his jumping frailties came to the fore once again, as he crashed out with the race at his mercy. Immediately cut to a 10/1 chance for the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, the Willie Mullins-trained raider could be a lively Cheltenham Gold Cup contender in the spring, and he was trimmed from 33/1 to 25/1 for that test.

There's no doubting his jumping will need to improve if he is to even contemplate challenging the likes of Minella Indo and A Plus Tard, but should he run and run well in the King George, then he could turn into a major player in the Gold Cup market, alongside stablemate and dual Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo, who dons the same yellow and black colours of owner Mrs J Donnelly.

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