Cheltenham Gold Cup Contenders: Monalee profile

Monalee (right) is a lively outsider for the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Monalee (right) is a lively outsider for the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Lewis Tomlinson continues our Cheltenham Gold Cup countdown by profiling former RSA Chase runner-up Monalee, who is a lively outsider for this year's showpiece race at the Cheltenham Festival on March 13...


Trainer: Henry De Bromhead
Age: 9
Owner: Mr Barry Moloney
Races: 19
Wins: 5
Notable Race Wins: 2017 Mercedes-Benz Novices’ Hurdle, 2018 Flogas Novices’ Chase, 2019 Red Mills Chase

Career Record

Runner-up at the Cheltenham Festival as both a novice hurdler, when second to Penhill in the 2017 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, and as a novice chaser, only bested by Presenting Percy in the RSA Chase a year later, Monalee is an intriguing Cheltenham Gold Cup contender for Henry De Bromhead.

All three of his previous seasons over obstacles have seen him notch a victory in Graded company, most notably when defeating reigning Gold Cup champion Al Boum Photo in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase in February 2018.

He established himself as a classy operator in open company last season; finishing second behind Kemboy in the Savills Chase, before making light work of a drop in trip and grade for an unchallenged victory in the Red Mills Chase over 2m 4f at Gowran Park. This provided the De Bromhead team a dilemma as to whether to keep Monalee over an intermediate trip, or whether to revert back to staying distances for a Gold Cup tilt. The Ryanair Chase eventually proved the more tempting option at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, and Monalee travelled well, but was seemingly found wanting for the extra yard of pace required to land a blow in the race, finishing a steady fourth.

Monalee was obviously in need of this campaign’s return at Clonmel, and produced a much improved performance in this season’s highly competitive Savills Chase, only finishing a head behind Delta Work, despite Rachael Blackmore losing her irons after the last.


Last Time Out: Monalee’s narrow second to Delta Work in the Savills Chase was arguably the best performance of his career. Under a front-running ride from Rachael Blackmore, Monalee looked likely to be swamped by several rivals after the home turn, but creditably stuck to his task, putting further distance between himself and his closest pursuers, before the patiently ridden Delta Work overhauled him in the shadows of the post.  That form has been boosted by Delta Work following up in the Irish Gold Cup- and if we take it literally, Monalee could represent value in the Gold Cup betting, given he’s double the price of both Kemboy and Presenting Percy, both of whom he had in behind at Leopardstown.

De Bromhead & Blackmore: What a campaign this trainer/jockey partnership are having - Notebook, Honeysuckle and A Plus Tard all notched their first Grade One wins this season for the classy combination. The typically sound jumping of a De Bromhead horse hadn’t previously quite been a hallmark of Monalee’s game, but his two starts this season have produced less mistakes than was previously usual. It will be a huge plus if that holds together at Cheltenham.


Grade One Record: Monalee’s victory in the Flogas Novice Chase in 2018 remains his sole Grade 1 victory from a total of eleven attempts. He certainly merits his place in the line-up for a Championship event, but his overall body of form suggests he’s several pounds short of the usual standard needed to win a race of this calibre. A Gold Cup win would represent a clear career best.

The Trip: Stamina doubts surrounding Monalee surely played a part in the decision to run him in the Ryanair last year - would anything he’s done this season help to allay them? We already know he stays three miles, but that looks to be closer to the maximum than the minimum regarding his ideal trip - an extra two furlongs up the Cheltenham hill may not play to strengths.

How will Monalee fare in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup?

Monalee is fascinating in the respect that he’s seemingly the only credible Gold Cup contender whose connections will have had a decision to make regarding which Festival target was most suitable for their horse. Given his showing in last year’s Ryanair and his performance at Leopardstown over Christmas, tackling this year’s Gold Cup looks to be the right option this time around. However, Monalee doesn’t particularly stand out as a typical “Gold Cup type” and is yet to face as big of a test of stamina as he will do at Cheltenham this time around, so questions asked about how much he’ll have left in the tank when faced with the famous hill are valid, especially given his efforts over an easier three miles haven’t suggested that a further few furlongs would see him to best effect.

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