The 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.20pm, Cheltenham, Friday) is a wide open contest in which at least half a dozen runners have realistic chances, with pundits opting for a plethora of tips.
The list of established stars is headed by last year’s second and third, The Giant Bolster and Long Run, but they face a bevy of second season chasers, any one of whom could be good enough to win.
We start our preview by taking a look at The Giant Bolster (16/1), who has twice been beaten by Silviniaco Conti this season. That was by seven lengths on both occasions, in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November and in the Denman Chase at Newbury in February. The Giant Bolster was pulled up in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day between those runs and cannot be backed with any confidence, especially as he has never won beyond 2m5f.
Sam Waley-Cohen’s mount Long Run (6/1) beat Denman by seven lengths when winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2011 and finished third, beaten three lengths, behind the ill-fated Synchronised last year.
Long Run was becoming slightly disappointing before rallying on the run-in to beat Captain Chris by a neck in the King George VI Chase and runs in cheekpieces for the first. He was beaten 2½ lengths by Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase and, while it would be dangerous to write him off altogether, trainer Nicky Henderson’s star looks vulnerable once again.
The list of second season chasers, and the overall betting market, is headed by another Nicky Henderson inmate, namely Bobs Worth (3/1). The Bob Back gelding is already twice a winner at the Cheltenham Festival, having taken the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in 2011 and the RSA Chase last year.
Bobs Worth also won an above-average Hennessy Gold Cup, over 3m2½ furlongs, at Newbury in December on his return to action. He has an outstanding claim if fit and ready to do himself justice.
There is no doubt that Bobs Worth will be the unoriginal choice for many lame racing journalists in their previews and tips. However he did miss his intended preparatory race, the Argento Chase at Cheltenham in January, because of an unsatisfactory tracheal wash and has an absence of 104 days to overcome. Even his handler Henderson has admitted that the situation is “not ideal” and that is enough to suggest the fairly short-priced Bobs Worth is worth taking on in the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting.
Silviniaco Conti (9/2) is a slick jumper, who’s already won over stiff fences at Wetherby, Haydock and Newbury this season. He looks a live contender despite having no previous experience over the fences at Cheltenham. He has not won beyond 3m1f, but wasn’t stopping in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November or the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree last April, both over that distance, so an extra 1½ furlongs shouldn’t pose a problem.
Indeed, Silviniaco Conti may actually improve for stepping up in distance and, with his last two wins coming on soft going, he should be suited by underfoot conditions. He’s rated higher than Long Run and Bobs Worth, albeit by just 2lb and 1lb respectively, by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and Paul Nicholls’ improving seven-year-old looks the one to be on.
Of those at longer prices, Captain Chris (16/1) has major stamina doubts over 3m2½f and the likes of Grand National runner-up Sunnyhillboy (40/1), Monberg Dude (66/1) and Hilary Parrot’s nine-year-old Wayward Prince (66/1) all have too much to find with the principals to be seriously considered.
Gold Cup Tips Verdict
The best outsider could be Cape Tribulation (16/1), who earned himself a 14lb hike in the ratings when beating former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander in the Argento Chase and will be suited by a fierce, end-to-end gallop.
SILVINIACO CONTI jumps well, stays well, acts on the prevailing soft going and is officially the highest rated horse in the race. He also has the services of Ruby Walsh, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice on Kauto Star, so our preview’s betting tips advice is to back him to win at best odds of around 5/1: click here for the latest betting odds.