January 16, 2013 Leave a comment
Nicky Henderson’s artillery for the Cheltenham Festival is staggering, as the Seven Barrows Maestro has arguably his finest battalion of stars for the four-day jamboree in his training career, and come the final day of the fixture, he could well be celebrating his second Cheltenham Gold Cup crown with Bobs Worth, who currently heads the ante-post markets for the Blue Riband event on March 15.
Winner of the Albert Bartlett in 2011 and last year’s RSA Chase, Bobs Worth was sublime in landing the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury earlier in the season, the dual Festival winner was instantly slashed into the 3/1 market leader with Paddy Power and if he can reproduce the heroics shown at the Berkshire track then he will set a very high standard, but this year’s renewal has a plethora of up-and-coming talent within the three mile chase division looking to cement their place alongside some of racing’s jumping elite.
Sir Des Champs is another who has a brace of Festival wins on his CV (Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap in 2011 and the Jewson Novices Chase in 2012), but Willie Mullins’ star lost his unblemished record when losing to Flemenstar in the John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown in December, before suffering back-to-back defeats when going down in a memorable Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. However, many still believe he will excel over the Gold Cup distance and given his love for the Prestbury Park course, it’s not surprising that he is 5/1 second favourite for the Grade One crown.
Flemenstar (11/1) had been all the rage heading into the aforementioned Lexus, but the way he wilted in the closing stages of the 3m contest left question marks surrounding his concerning potential stamina doubts and his enigmatic trainer Peter Casey will make a decision whether to hand him the Gold Cup task following his run in the Irish Hennessy.
Henderson won’t be firing a solitary shot at the Gold Cup crown as 2011 victor Long Run will also be attempting to emulate Kauto Star by regaining the coveted silverware and he was cut to a 7/1 shot in the latest betting with after his battling success in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
After clattering the final fence, defeat was almost a certainty, but Sam Waley-Cohen managed to cajole his pride and joy back into contention and nail Captain Chris (20/1) in the dying strides, to highlight his superb stamina and with a fierce gallop likely to be set from the outset in the Gold Cup, he could well come into calculations coming up the energy-sapping Cheltenham hill, which he has shown to relish in the past.
Paul Nicholls will be aiming to etch his name back into the trophy for the first time since Kauto Star won in 2009 and he will saddle Silviniaco Conti (7/1), who has progressed immeasurably this season and his demolition of Long Run in the Betfair Chase means he has to come into the reckoning, whilst the Mouse Morris trained First Lieutenant (10/1) is another of the new brigade and adds more depth to a wide open ante-post betting list.
The Giant Bolster (20/1) ran a cracker in defeat to Synchronished in last year’s renewal and David Bridgwater has always been ebullient about his Gold Cup chances, whilst the evergreen Tidal Bay (12/1) could be a potential challenger if Nicholls opts for this assignment rather than the World Hurdle.