The 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup looks to be the most open renewal for years (3.20pm Friday), but we have found a tip who is sure to run well. The field of 11 includes some outstanding second season chasers as well as the 2011 winner, Long Run, and last year’s runner up, The Giant Bolster.
Nicky Henderson is double handed with Bobs Worth (5/2) leading the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting market. His impressive Hennessy victory has confirmed his stamina beyond three miles. His love for Cheltenham is unquestioned. He has won on all four occasions that he has lined up at Prestbury Park. His most recent victory there was a year ago, in the RSA Chase. He beat Mouse Morris’ First Lieutenant by 2½ lengths.
An unsatisfactory tracheal wash ruled Bobs Worth out of his intended prep run in the Argento Chase in January but there have been no reported setbacks to the eight-year-old’s training regime. Henderson stressed that the tracheal wash figures did not indicate illness. They were just not good enough for him to race. If he is in good health, the only area of doubt is in his ability to encounter soft going. Henderson said he would not run in the Hennessy if the ground was too wet. He has yet to race on a surface more testing than good to soft. Henderson and jockey, Barry Geraghty, will be hoping for a decent surface on the day.
The second favourite in the Gold Cup betting, Sir Des Champs (7/2), would not be inconvenienced by a testing surface. He has rarely encountered anything but soft or heavy ground. He has been trained by Willie Mullins since he left France in 2010 and the Mullins team are in flying form. Sir Des Champs has only ever encountered good ground on his two excursions to Cheltenham. He also has a 100% victory rate at the course. He won the 2 mile 4 furlong Jewson Novices’ Chase at the festival last year, beating Martin Keighley’s Champion Court.
This seven-year-old is untried beyond 3 miles but the manner of his most recent victory in the 3 mile Irish Hennessy at Leopardstown in February suggests that stamina should not be a problem. He will be ridden by Davy Russell and is sure be the subject of many race writers’ tips.
Silviniaco Conti (9/2) is Paul Nicholls’ only Gold Cup contender this year but a very useful one. He is unbeaten in his three starts this season. In the 3 mile Betfair Chase at Haydock in November he beat Long Run by 2½ lengths and The Giant Bolster by 7. Most recently, he beat The Giant Bolster by 7 lengths in the Denman Chase at Newbury in February. He was giving him four pounds. He has yet to encounter fences at Cheltenham but his trainer does not foresee any problems with them. He came third on his only visit to the course over hurdles in December 2010 when he was outpaced in the International Hurdle over 2 miles.
In February Nicholls described his seven-year-old as ‘not the quickest but a true stayer, and sound jumper’. He also believes that he is still improving and admitted leaving something to work on before the Gold Cup. This race has been his target all season. It will be his first attempt beyond 3 miles 1 furlong but, like Sir Des Champs, he seems to have no shortage of stamina. He has triumphed on soft ground in his two most recent runs and on the only other occasion he has encountered it. He will have the valuable assistance of Ruby Walsh.
Another serious contender is the Waley-Cohen family’s 2011 Gold Cup winner and Nicky Henderson’s less fancied runner, Long Run (5/1). He beat Philip Hobbs’ Captain Chris by a neck in the last few strides of the King George on Boxing Day at Kempton. He did not look to enjoy the heavy going and has not raced since.
Headgear in the form of cheekpieces is going to be deployed for the first time in this race. Now an eight-year-old, Long Run has progressed from being rather exuberant and in need of ear plugs to tending to idle in the latter stages of his races. He has dropped 10 pounds in the view of the handicapper since his Gold Cup win.
His amateur jockey, Sam Waley-Cohen’s determination has never depleted on the approach to the line, nor has his energy. He may not be the most stylish but he does not lack fitness or resolve. After a winner on the first day of the festival his confidence will be running high. Long Run has seen a lot of action for a horse of his age. Henderson thought that he was rather lazy in a recent racecourse gallop. His lack of enthusiasm may be the result of a physical problem. Henderson and connections seem to have done well to wait for a big prize before testing his enthusiasm again.
David Bridgwater’s eight-year-old stable star, The Giant Bolster (12/1), has not been the most reliable for his followers but he seems to save his best for Cheltenham. His jumping has been a cause for concern in the past (he has unseated twice at the course) but was much improved last season. In the 2012 Gold Cup he finished 2¼ lengths behind Jonjo O’Neill’s Synchronised with Long Run behind him in third. His only two wins since 2011 have been at the course. Most recently, in the Denman Chase at Newbury in February he finished seven lengths second behind Silviniaco Conti. He was receiving four pounds from him. Jockey Tom Scudamore will be hoping the ground is no heavier than good to soft. On that type of going he could be a decent each-way prospect.
The nine-year-old Cape Tribulation (14/1) is another runner who enjoys Cheltenham. Trained by Malcolm Jefferson, he won the Argento Chase in January, beating Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Imperial Commander by half a length whilst giving him six pounds. He also won the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle at the festival last year. He has been successful on both good and heavy ground. Jockey, Denis O’Regan, may well ride him into a place.
Gold Cup Tip
It would be no surprise to see either of Nicky Henderson’s runners lift the Gold Cup this year but Paul Nicholls’ SILVINIACO CONTI is our tip to win at around 9/2.