This year’s renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup is as competitive as they come with the first five from last year’s race and a raft of credible contenders among the 18 runners (3.20pm, Friday, live on CH4).
Silviniaco Conti (4/1), who finished fourth, beaten 1¾ lengths, last year after wandering under pressure on the run-in, heads the betting on the strength of a convincing win in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. Paul Nicholls’ nine-year-old is officially rated 6lb or more superior to his rivals and is a worthy favourite on that basis. Nevertheless, he has yet to win at Cheltenham and may be worth taking on at a shortish price.
A line through Dynaste, who finished second beaten 4½ lengths in the King George VI Chase, suggests that Silviniaco Conti has the measure of Hennessy Gold Cup winner Many Clouds (9/1). The latter, trained by Oliver Sherwood (pictured), has officially improved 20lb since brought down in the RSA Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, but has done most of his winning on soft or heavy going.
Of the horses that finished ahead of Silviniaco Conti is last year’s race, Lord Windermere (12/1) and On His Own (33/1) have both finished behind Road To Riches (11/1) this season. The Giant Bolster (33/1) has been soundly beaten by both Silviniaco Conti and Many Clouds. None of them make much appeal this time around and a similar comment applies to Carlingford Lough (10/1), who finished 8¾ lengths behind Road To Riches in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and reopposes on the same terms.
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Road To Riches won the valuable Galway Plate at Punchestown in July and has since added two Grade 1 contests, the JNWine.com Champion Chase at Downpatrick and the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, to his winning tally. He is arguably the pick of the Irish challengers this year, but it is worth noting that he finished miles behind Djakadam (9/1) when they met in a novices’ chase at Leopardstown in January last year.
Djakadam fell at the fourth last, when still travelling well in the JLT Novices’ Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival and was subsequently made favourite for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November. He flopped badly on that occasion, eventually weakening to finish eighth, 28 lengths behind the winner, Many Clouds. However, he went some way to retrieving his reputation when winning the Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran Park in January. On official ratings, he has 12lb to find with Silviniaco Conti, but he remains unexposed as a staying chaser.
Coneygree (10/1) is an exceptional novice chaser but despite a 13lb rise for a seven-length beating of Houblon Des Obeaux (50/1) at Newbury last month, still has 6lb to find with Silviniaco Conti on official ratings. It will be astonishing if a horse that beat Dell’ Arca by 1½ lengths, at level weights in a Grade 2 novices’ chase at Newbury in November can improve enough to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup on just his fourth start over fences.
- A cracking is contest in prospect, but our 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup betting tips advice is to back ROAD TO RICHES each-way at 11/1 with Bet365, Paddy Power or Coral. His one narrow defeat this season came over an inadequate 2m4f on his seasonal reappearance and, while he has his stamina to prove, it seems the further he goes the better he gets.