Every dog has his day and there look to be several in the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting. Looking through the list of betting odds on this Blue Riband of jumps racing, it is hard to see which horse can win. It is easy to identify those that will not.
Imperial Commander was a minor surprise last year, when Denman and Kauto Star both failed. It was refreshing after all the tedious two-horse war nonsense and hype to see those two horses surpassed. One of racing’s many roles is to benefit the bookies and remind us nothing can ever be taken for granted, and when you do, well . . . you will be reminded. The pantomime that surrounded last year’s event was as infantile as it was ignorant. Maybe it reflects the quality of what can only be euphemistically described as the toy department of reporting, namely sports journalism. Journalism is too big a word.
Anyway, ME digress, the point of this post is to find the winner of the Gold Cup 2011. It can’t be the favourite Imperial Commander. He does not possess the quality to win one Gold Cup, let alone two. The fact he did was merely good fortune.
Kauto Star and Denman are on the downgrade. The latter has had a secret wind operation, which rules him out for ME. The former can not be backed with any confidence after his dismal third to Long Run when a 4/7 shot in the King George. He is bound to be a false price because of his historic achievements and his blind legion of supporters. They followed him off a cliff at Kempton and are bound to do so again. No wonder William Hill Bookmaker boasted profits of £277million in 2010. Yet prizemoney is at an all-time low, but that is another story, so back to the point. Trainers Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson stand tall as the best in the business. Nicholls two charges, Kauto Star and Denman, warrant respect for that fact alone.
Diamond Harry has now been ruled out by his excellent trainer, Nick Williams. Tidal Bay has a back problem so can’t jump steeplechase fences properly. That’s one for the RSPCA. Will his trainer ever learn, and anyway what is Howard Johnson still doing with his licence after other alleged misdemeanours? It is a credit to this poor horse that he can really get into his stride late on in a race, perhaps once the adrenalin has dulled the pain.
Time to be a bit more positive. One that has entered the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting picture quite late is a very interesting Irish challenger. He has pedigree connections in trainer Willie Mullins and owner JP McManus. Can the billionaire, former bookie and current money trader McManus win the Gold Cup just a season after landing the Grand National? Well, he must have a big chance. Nobody could scoff at an each-way tickle on Kempes at a current best price of 12/1 in the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting. In a race packed full of horses whose best days are behind them, this horse is seriously on the upgrade and that is very important to the profile of a Gold Cup winner. Kempes’ latest victory in the Grade 1 Irish Hennessy was his best. Detractors may state that he wont get that testing ground at Cheltenham but the trainer is adamant he is better on a sound surface. If so, then he could be lifting the laurels at Cheltenham but there is still one horse I prefer ahead of him.
So who wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2011?
The answer is so blindingly obvious. Of course I am talking about the only horse on the upgrade, the horse who won the King George and then saw the form franked massively when the distant runner-up and stablemate Riverside Theatre subsequently won the Grade 1 Ascot Chase. It is the horse with a rider who is amateur in name only and the ignorant detractors are slowly being silenced. Some sad muckers were even shouting “get Barry on board” as he went out to win at Kempton. Long Run’s jockey is educated and intelligent with a great tactical brain. How is that a disadvantage against Irish kids who never went to school? Only in racing. I am talking of the horse from the Nicky Henderson yard, a stable that can do no wrong. In the short run it has to be LONG RUN. So damn obvious, but so damn tempting each-way at 5/1. You have to wonder if it’s a misprint.