We’ve published our guide to the Cheltenham Gold Cup
The Gold Cup is the feature race at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival
Al Boum Photo will attempt to become the fifth horse to win the Gold Cup three times
We take the favourite on with A Plus Tard and Minella Indo
A Plus Tard could be the Gold Cup winner in 2021. (Getty)
The fourth and final day at the Cheltenham Festival is headlined by the Gold Cup, which Children’s Charity WellChild will sponsor for the first time in 2021. The roll of honour for this most prestigious race reads like a who’s who of National Hunt racing, and victory in the Gold Cup guarantees the winner a place in the annals of sporting history.
Al Boum Photo will bid to join the exclusive club of three-time winners when he returns to the Festival in March, and it’s Willie Mullins’ star who dominates the current Gold Cup betting.
Gold Cup Offers
Cheltenham Gold Cup 2021 Runners & Best Odds 15:05
For the third year on the bounce, Al Boum Photo has been seen just once during the regular season. Paul Townend’s mount needed to expend little energy when winning his third New Years’ Day Chase at Thurles, and he’ll be the one they all have to beat when he lines up in the Gold Cup.
Yet, despite everything Al Boum Photo has achieved, I’m happy to take him on. Last year’s edition of the Gold Cup clearly wasn’t strong, as the five horses who followed Townend home have failed to win a race between them in ten starts since. His inactivity, although planned, is still off-putting, and I don’t think he offers much value at a best price of 3/1.
Winning three Gold Cups is a monumental achievement. Many better horses than Al Boum Photo failed in their bid to win National Hunt racing’s most coveted prize three times, and I’d be disappointed if Al Boum Photo managed to emulate true greats like Cottage Rake, Best Mate and Arkle.
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The fact that Royal Pagaille – a fourth-season novice who’s only ever run in one Graded race during his time in Britain – is the highest-place British horse in the Gold Cup odds paints a bleak picture for the UK.
I’ve never been a fan of Santini, and last year’s runner-up has looked flat all season. Lostintranslation has endured a dismal campaign, and I doubt whether Native River will get the underfoot conditions he craves. Frodon won the King George VI Chase, but Bryony Frost was allowed to dictate a real start-stop-start pace, and I can’t see the fan's favourite standing up to the scrutiny of an end-to-end gallop over three-and-a quarter-miles.
The Game Spirit Chase is a far from ideal prep-race for Champ, and I think he’ll be needing the run when he arrives at Cheltenham. Imperial Aura and Saint Calvados will run in the Ryanair Chase, and the likes of Aso, Vinndication and The Conditional will look more at home in handicap company.
Kemboy and The Storyteller have won two of the Grade One Chases staged in Ireland this season, and it seems both will head for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Delta Work still held a small amount of interest, but he’s been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign.
Melon and Samcro look much more likely to enter the Ryanair, having failed to prove they are true three-milers. Allaho is another who will be kept over a shorter trip, while Burrows Saint and Magic Of Light will only run in the Gold Cup as prep for a tilt at the Grand National.
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Just when it seemed like Al Boum Photo was going to have another easy assignment in the Gold Cup, A PLUS TARD thrust his hat into the ring. Henry De Bromhead’s star looked down and out as Melon and Kemboy opened up a lengthy lead in the Savills Chase. Yet, Darragh O’Keeffe’s mount kept finding and finding down the straight at Leopardstown, and got there just in time to pip Kemboy to the post.
A Plus Tard has plenty of previous in at the Cheltenham Festival. De Bromhead’s seven-year-old won the Close Brothers Handicap as a five-year-old, and loomed large on Min’s shoulder in the closing stages of last year’s Ryanair Chase, before getting tapped for toe in the closing stages.
That win at Leopardstown goes a long way to proving A Plus Tard has the stamina needed to win a Gold Cup, and I don’t think there are any questions surrounding his ability. At 7/1, he’s the best Gold Cup bet.
Rachael Blackmore opted to ride MINELLA INDO over the eventual winner in the Savills Chase. The former Albert Bartlett winner carried two solid victories into Leopardstown, and seemed to be travelling well in the middle of the pack before suffering what looked a fairly soft fall.
Despite that tumble, Minella Indo went off as the favourite for the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival. Blackmore was the one who tried to hang onto Kemboy’s coattails throughout that race, and started to get to work on her mount three from home. Just as he was pulling upsides the leader, Minella Indo dived at the second-last, and lost all his momentum on landing. Try as he might, he was never going to get back into the race after such a shuddering error.
Given what happened over Christmas, Minella Indo was entitled to be a little hesitant at his fences, and I think bookmakers overreacted to that fourth-place finish. The extended trip in the Gold Cup is really going to suit this strong stayer, and I remain confident this hardy eight-year-old has the quality to contend in a race of this stature. Minella Indo looks a fantastic each-way bet at 20/1.
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