THE INTELLIGENT PUNTER’S GUIDE TO THE 2023 CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP Neil Clark
Horse-by horse Guide
Key trends: *Age: Just one winner older than 8 has won in the last 10 years, and no horse older than 9 since 1998.
Nine of the last ten runnings have been won by horses aged 7 or 8.
* Every winner this century had won at least one Grade 1 race.
*Last four winners trained in Ireland ; six of the last seven winners Irish-trained.
*18 of last 22 runners had won or been placed before at the Cheltenham Festival.
1. AHOY SENOR Odds 25-1
His form figures under Rules Oct-Dec: UR, 1, 2, 5, 3,5. Jan-April 2,1,1,1,2,1,1 Won the Cotswold Chase over the course in January and although he’d still need to step up on that, he was a good second on testing ground in the RSA at the Festival last year and has definite each-way claims for in-form yard if his jumping holds up.
2. A PLUS TARD Odds 4-1
Last year’s 15l winner, and the runner-up in 2021, he has only had the one run this year when very disappointing in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, but de Bromhead’s stable stars are running well this week and if he’s back to anywhere near his best then he has an obvious chance.
3. BRAVEMANSGAME Odds 13-2
Impressive winner of the King George in December, and he certainly wasn’t stopping at the end there. Can’t be ruled out given he’s only lost once over fences, but would have been more confident that he’d definitely get the trip without the recent rain.
4. CONFLATED Odds: 18-1
Developed into a top-class performer having started out in handicaps, did win the Savills Chase at Leopardstown impressively at Christmas; probably needs to step up again, but not entirely ruled out if stamina holds out.
5. ELDORADO ALLEN Odds: 125-1
Solid enough performer but has had a number of gos at the highest level but up to now has generally come up short and it would be a surprise if he can change that today.
6. GALOPIN DES CHAMPS Odds: 5-4.
Only defeat over fences came at the Festival last year when crashing out at the last when he had the Turners at his mercy. Three more good wins since then including on his first try over 3m in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown. If his stamina holds on the soft ground then he has a worthy favourite’s chance and rates the likeliest winner though he may be too short now for many punters.
7. HEWICK Odds: 50-1
Has been a revelation these past 12 months landing the old Whitbread Gold Cup, the Galway Plate and the Grand National Hurdle in America! On good ground you could make an each-way case for him even though its his first run in UK Graded company but the going looks to have gone against him.
8. MINELLA INDO Odds: 16-1.
Winner in 2021, runner-up last year, he looks a big price considering his record in the race and at the Festival in general (two wins and two seconds), but from a win point of view his age is a negative as we’ve had no ten-year-old winner since Cool Dawn in 1998.
9. NOBLE YEATS Best odds: 14-1.
Bids to become the first Grand National winner to subsequently win a Gold Cup and only the third horse to win both races. Has to enter each-way calculations based on his staying on 3rd in the Cotswold Chase when he was technically the best horse at the weights; the cheek-pieces which were on at Aintree last April are now back on.
10. PROTEKTORAT Odds: 18-1.
Ran a very good race to be third in this last year; would have got closer without blundering at the last, disappointed in the Cotswold Chase having been a very impressive winner of the Betfair, but does tend now to alternate between very good runs and disappointing ones, another with definite each-way possibilities if all goes well.
11. ROYAL PIGALLE Odds: 40-1
6th and 5th in last two runnings, softer ground may help him get closer this time but while he might run into a place (was 2nd in the King George), he is 0-5 at the highest level so a win is probably unlikely.
12. SOUNDS RUSSIAN Odds 40-1.
Improving all the time over fences and ran his best race to date when 2nd in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January- he probably would have won without a mistake 3 out. Has to improve again but Northern challenger not without a chance given a clear round.
13. STATTLER Odds: 14-1.
Won the National Hunt chase at the Festival so definitely will have the stamina for this; recent rain will help his cause but price probably just about right. Yet another with place possibilities.
VERDICT: It’s hard to remember a better Gold Cup, with so many in with each-way chances. Red hot favourite Galopin Des Champs is the likeliest winner but if he doesn’t quite get home on the testing ground there are plenty of others who might land the spoils. Last year’s 15l winner A Plus Tard has attracted market support, while at longer odds Cotswold Chase trio Noble Yeats, Ahoy Senor and Sounds Russian could figure, while last year’s third Protektorate is another danger if back to his ‘A’ Game. Bravemansgame has to go on the short-list too if conditions start to dry up while Conflated and Stattler are two ‘dark horses‘ from Ireland.2021 winner Minella Indo ticks nearly all the right boxes but has the age stat against him.
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