The big race of the day, the one we have all been waiting for and the race where we had the winner, A Plus Tard, last year. Can we repeat it again?
The short priced favourite is Galopin Des Champs who at the time of writing is 13/8. he deserves to be favourite and is going to be a very tough horse to beat. He has it all and you can’t really say a bad word about him on what we have seen to date. Although he looks rock solid I will be taking him on as although I have no doubt he is going to be bang there, this will obviously be his biggest test to date over 3m 2f, a trip he has never tackled.
If we go back to last season he was quite an exuberant horse but this year he has learned to settle and looks much more the horse you need to win a Gold Cup. Although he now races off the bridle, there is still a possibility he could go back to his old ways, especially as they will go a bit slower over 3m 2f and just maybe he will want things to go a bit faster.
I also feel his form is not the strongest and although you can’t pick holes in his 2 wins this season, the quality of the opposition hardly sets the world alight. Ok he beat Fakir D’Oudairies on his first start of the season but that horse has not really done anything this season and was absolutely slaughtered last time out.
Again last time out Galopin Des Champs was a good winner of the Irish Gold Cup but you could pick holes in the form. He jumped the last with Fury Road which is hardly breathtaking, although I openly admit what he did after the last fence, powering away from the field, was very impressive.
The big question is how do you get him beat?
For me if I was talking on a horse like Galopin Des Champs I guess you have to try and take him out of his comfort zone, if they go slow up front, he will probably have enough left to power up the hill but if you can get him out of his comfort zone and start racing and get him off the bridle just as they approach the 3rd last fence, just maybe that will stop his power at the end of the race.
I guess the place to start is to find out where the pace will come from. Last year there was no real pace but this year looks a bit different with the likes of Hewick, Ahoy Senor, Bravemansgame, Conflated and a few more, all of whom are prominent or front running horses. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Minella Indo switch back to his prominent running style. It all suggests that this Gold Cup should be a true run race and come the 3rd last fence, if you are not good enough, you will start to drop away.
From the angle I have taken it probably suggests it will suit a horse coming from off the pace, those that may stay a bit further, but for me those horse who are the likes of Noble Yeats, who will surely be too far back and although he will finish his race strongly, the ship may have sailed. I am taking the same approach with Stattler who I have no doubt will be staying all the way to the line, when the screws are turned and they go for home, he will get left behind but will stay on at the end of the race.
I have narrowed the race down to 5 horses with those being Galopin Des Champs, A Plus Tard, Bravemansgame, Minella Indo and in these conditions Royal Pagaille.
I am not going to lie, Galopin Des Champs scares the life out of me, he has to be involved, no doubt about it but I just can’t back him at the prices unfortunately, especially with this about to be his biggest test in his career and the 3 horses I have mentioned, have either won a Gold Cup or a King George Chase. Galopin Des Champs may well win the race, I wouldn’t be at all surprised but the stake I would want to put on him, at a skinny price, I could have 2 or 3 selections running for me and still make the same amount of profit. For some they may choose to lump the 13/8 favourite and in a different race, I may have done the same but we are talking about the Gold Cup here, the best of the best and until otherwise proven at the highest level, I am taking him on.
My first selection goes with last year’s winner, A PLUS TARD. Going into last year’s race, I thought he just about got the Gold Cup trip and the slow pace would suit him. My theory was right but he proved me wrong with regards to the trip as he got it on his head and absolutely flew up the Cheltenham Hill to win by 15 lengths.
Obviously going into the Gold Cup this year, the preparation may not be ideal for some as he has only had one run this season, when pulled up at Haydock. The reports were he had problems with his bloods and came back sore after the race.
He has not run since which again for some is a concern but if we go back to last year, he only ran at Leopardstown in the Savills Chase over the Christmas period, a race in which he lost and then came straight to Cheltenham and produced a career best performance.
In fact his 2 career best performances came in the Betfair Chase in 2021, coming back from 246 days off the track and then last year’s Gold Cup, coming back from 80 days off the track. He was a non runner for the Savills Chase this season but I think that could be a blessing in disguise.
Everything suggests A PLUS TARD is a horse who comes alive when fresh and the fact Henry De Bromhead has been able to slowly bring him along, in his time, all season, will prove to be crucial.
A PLUS TARD is now a 9 year old but he is a 9 year who is very lightly raced. 7 runs in the last 3 years, tells us that and even throughout his career he has only had 20 runs. He has plenty of miles left on the clock and I know they sometimes say Gold Cup’s ruin horses, well not in the case of A PLUS TARD, as this is his 3rd Gold Cup and in his previous 2 Gold Cups, he has finished 1st and 2nd.
Even away from the Gold Cups, we know A PLUS TARD loves it around Cheltenham and his form at the course reads 1321.
With the pace in the race that we have already mentioned, it sure to suit a strong travelling horse like A PLUS TARD. Rachael Blackmore will be able to get plenty of cover, slowly creeping him into the race, holding on to him as long as possible before being unleashed coming to the last fence.
If the rain stays away tomorrow and with the temperature rising, it will give A PLUS TARD an even better chance.
Our 2nd selection in the race is BRAVEMANSGAME who has improved no end this season. There are not many King George Chase winners that you could bet in the Gold Cup at 7/1, let me tell you.
I have heard from many ‘shrewdies’ that BRAVEMANSGAME don’t like Cheltenham. That is a big statement to make given the only time he has run at the course was when 3rd to Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novice Hurdle. I thought it was a decent run given he made the running and in any case, he is a much better horse these days and fences have really brought the best out of him.
This is a horse who has been brought along lovely by Paul Nicholls and he is a completely different horse to the one we saw a few seasons ago. He is bigger, wider, stronger and probably the best jumper of a fence around. He is a horse who gets his fair share of stick which is quite hard to believe given he is 6 from 7 over fences.
This year though has been the making of BRAVEMANSGAME and it is quite obvious, just like A Plus Tard, he is a horse who is so much better when fresh.
His season got underway in the Charlie Hall Chase which he virtually won on the bridle.
He then went for the King George Chase and I was so impressed with how he won the race by 14 lengths. Everything that could have gone wrong for him did, yet he still won the race very easily, even before L’Homme Presse fell at the last.
BRAVEMANSGAME had to go wide throughout and L’Homme Presse was jumping left throughout into BRAVEMANSGAME. I can’t tell you how big a problem this would be for most horses, yet Bravemansgame still easily brushed aside a decent field. Many horses would not have coped with all those problems which tells me how much, physically and mentally, the Paul Nicholls horse has come on this season.
He now looks the complete horse and although we are yet to see him at Cheltenham over fences, I can’t see it being a problem.
He takes lengths out of his rivals at his fences and is a strong travelling horse.
Coming into the race fit and fresh, who has an outstanding chance and as Paul Nicholls said, this is his best chance of winning a Gold Cup since Kauto Star.
Of the others I think ROYAL PAGAILLE could turn out to be a cracking little bet for small stakes. We pulled it off today with Sire Du Berlais and the way this race is going to be run is really going to suit the Venetia Williams trained horse. He was 6th in this race in 2021 and 5th in this race in 2022 but on both occasions the ground was proper good to soft ground. With the rain which has fallen over the last few days there should be plenty of juice in the ground and this right up ROYAL PAGAILLE street. He stays longer than the mother in law and if they go too fast up front, he will be picking up the pieces and who knows, he may be close enough come the last and give everyone a shock.
He has only run once this season when 2nd to Bravemansgame in the King George. Kempton is a track which he would not like and the trip of 3m is his bare minimum.
I am not standing here and saying he is going to win the race but he should not be the price he is with this being his first gold cup where conditions will actually suit. He comes into the race a fresh horse and that is the same for all our selections.
I think you can see the theme here and it is fresh, fresh, fresh.
In this day and age with the facilities trainers have at their disposal, you don’t need to over race horses and you can get them fit as can be in your own backyard, with a few ‘away days’.
I just wonder how much the Leopardstown Gold Cup has taken out of Galopin Des Champs and Stattler given that race was only 5 1/2 weeks prior to the Gold Cup.
For me, fresh is best and I guess we will find out on St Patrick’s Day.