With a purse of £625,000, the wealthiest non-handicap race in the world of National Hunt racing is almost upon us.
There’s been buzz about the likely winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup since practically Christmas, but with such a short time to go, we thought we’d weigh in on the discussion.
Run over a distance of three miles and two furlongs, with horses encountering 22 fences along the route; this race provides a test of endurance, jumping ability, and turn of foot.
In terms of jumping challenges, it’s amongst the most difficult in the world, so watching the runners on Friday promises to be awe-inspiring. Here’s who we expect to see passing the finish line quickest.
Galopin Des Champs 7/4
It only makes sense to start with the shortest-priced horse: Galopin Des Champs.
The seven-year-old gelding has proven himself many times over his career, most recently with a decisive victory in the Irish Gold Cup.
He won by an impressive seven lengths and looked like he could go around again.
Anyone concerned about the horse’s stamina should have had it firmly put to rest by that performance.
If there were any reason to oppose him, it could be that he did fall at the last on his only run over Cheltenham’s fences.
However, Leopardstown has a similarly stiff set of obstacles, and he’s never put a foot wrong there.
It’s clear why he’s the favourite, and if Willie Mullins has him fit, he’ll be difficult to oppose.
For those wanting to place a bet,RacingTV has extensive information on free bets that can be used during the festival, as well as a constantly-updated selection of odds.
It’s unlikely that Galopin Des Champs will get a great deal longer in the odds, but worth keeping an eye on all the same.
Next in the betting is King George winner, Bravemansgame.
Plenty of horses have gone on from a King George win to also take the Gold Cup, and it would be an exciting day for racing if Bravemansgame were to achieve that feat on Friday.
He beat an incredibly strong field at the King George by 14 lengths, which made the race look easy.
Before this, he won the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, giving Eldorado Allen three and a half lengths in second place.
The only thing counting against Bravemansgame is his lack of exposure to Cheltenham fences. He has run over hurdles there before, but not fences yet.
A Plus Tard 8/1
Next in the betting is last year’s winner, A Plus Tard. Going on last year’s result alone, he ought to win.
The gelding cruised home, winning the race over a decisive fifteen lengths from Minella Indo.
However, A Plus Tard has had just one outing since this appearance, which didn’t go well.
He was pulled up as his jockey Rachael Blackmore didn’t feel like he’d been travelling well, and on his next scheduled outing, he suffered a knock in the horsebox and was withdrawn from running.
If these events were truly just blips and he’s back to form, he could take the prize, but it’s a big ask after not having raced for a whole year.
Noble Yeats 9/1
Noble Yeats is next in the betting, although he’s best left for a cautious each-way bet.
The gelding undoubtedly has the stamina, but his last outing was a little uninspiring as he came in third place in the Cotswold Chase.
Admittedly it was a tightly run race, with just two and a half lengths between the winner, Ahoy Senor and Noble Yeats.
However, with a step up in class like this, you’d expect to see him only losing by a nose.