Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup
|Grade 1, Cheltenham 15:20
3m 2f 110y, Class 1
|Friday 13th March 2015|
A total of 24 horses remain in Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, including Lord Windermere & Silviniaco Conti
Paul Nicholls believes Silviniaco Conti is better than ever
The Noel Meade-trained Road To Riches is considered one of the main hopes for the raiding party after his impressive victory in the Lexus Chase over Christmas.
But Eddie O'Leary, racing manager for his owners Gigginstown House Stud, is wary of the threat posed by Carlingford Lough, who will be Tony McCoy's last ride in the Gold Cup.
Trained by John Kiely and owned by JP McManus, the nine-year-old excelled at Leopardstown last month when he claimed the Irish Hennessy by three-quarters of a length.
O'Leary told the Guardian: "Road To Riches is a nice horse who goes with a chance, but if you ask me who the right horse is for a Gold Cup, I'd be all over JP's horse."
Richie McLernon has been confirmed as the rider of Cheltenham specialist Holywell in the Gold Cup.
The eight-year-old, who is 10/1 with Coral for the Gold Cup on Friday, March 13th, bounced back to form last time out at Kelso when scoring by 25 lengths in the hands of AP McCoy.
But, with McCoy having committed himself to partner the JP McManus-owned Carlingford Lough, the way has been left clear for McLernon to renew what has been a very successful partnership with Holywell.
McCoy, who won the 1997 and 2012 Cups, sticks with the Irish Hennessy winner for next month's race despite another potential mount - Holywell - being a shorter price.
"I couldn't be happier that Carlingford Lough will be my ride," the 40-year-old said in his Cheltenham Racecourse blog.
The 19-times champion jump jockey announced earlier this month he will retire by the end of the season.
The Northern Irishman, who won his Gold Cups on Mr Mulligan and Synchronised, added: "Cheltenham this year will probably be a little emotional for me but hopefully I will enjoy it more than I ever have as it will be the last time I will be riding there."
Oliver Sherwood's Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Many Clouds schooled for the first time on Thursday morning (Feb 26) since his win at the track last month.
Sherwood is delighted with his stable star but would prefer the rain to keep falling.
"He schooled for the first time since Cheltenham this morning and it went great," Sherwood told Racing UK.
"He worked on Tuesday, he'll do another piece on Saturday and he's very fit and well.
"I'm very happy with him, he's where I want him to be.
"What I would like, though, is for this unsettled weather to carry on for the next two weeks so if somebody could sort that, I'd be very grateful."
The 10-year-old has finished second, fourth and third respectively in the last three renewals of the blue riband, last year beaten just three-quarters of a length in a pulsating finish.
It was a thrilling finish with Lord Windermere just holding by a short-head the strong challenge of another Irish-trained horse, On His Own, from the Willie Mullins stable.
On His Own's form this year has not set the chasing scene alight, but he will have another crack at the feature.
"To be honest, I've been a bit disappointed with him this season," said Owner Graham Wylie.
"I thought he was going to finish seventh when he came over the last in last year's Gold Cup, but by the end, I thought he'd maybe won it. He stormed up that hill, and to come second was brilliant. I had to supplement him for the race, and I was just thinking 'don't make an idiot of me'.
"He ran well in the Lexus, but the ground was heavy that day and it was a stamina test. That's what he wants. In the Hennessy, it was better ground, and Ruby got off and said three miles wasn't far enough for him.
"He's going back to the Gold Cup. It's three-mile-two, with a hill at the end, and hopefully the greater stamina test, run at more of a pace, might suit him."
He said: “Bobs Worth has only had the one run in the Lexus this season but that was always the plan. He has one more bit of work to do and the plan is to go to Newbury on Sunday if the ground is not too bad. He is fresh and well. Barry (Geraghty) was pleased with him in Ireland where the ground was desperate. He wants better ground.
Silviniaco Conti was still in the lead half-way up the run-in last year, eventually finishing fourth.
Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old is the current favourite following his two Grade One victories this season in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park and the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park.
"He looks way better than he did this time last year and he's in good order," he said. "I thought when he won the King George that was probably a career-best. He made the running and galloped on really strongly," said Nicholls.
Nicholls' Sam Winner will head straight for Cheltenham without the aid of another run.
The eight-year-old has come alive over fences this term, with big-race victories at Cheltenham and Aintree backed up by a pleasing third in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.
And with four Cheltenham victories already in safe-keeping, owner Angela Yeoman hopes Sam Winner's prowess at the track will again serve him well in the big one on March 13.
She said: "He will not run before Cheltenham but I've absolutely no idea who will ride him in the Gold Cup - that's for Paul to work out.
Nicholls is aiming to become the joint most successful trainer of all time in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup this year. Victory would bring his tally to five in the race, the same number as Arkle's trainer Tom Dreaper achieved.
On His Own is one of five entries trained by Willie Mullins - the others being Ballycasey, Boston Bob, Champagne Fever and Djakadam, who sauntered to victory in the Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran Park on January 22.
The Mark Bradstock trained gelding, who is now unbeaten in three runs over the larger obstacles, could not have been more impressive when romping to success against his elders in the Denman Chase at Newbury, a victory which saw him cut to 10/1 (from 20s) by Coral for the Gold Cup.
The eight-year-old beat Hennessey runner-up Houblon Des Obeaux by seven lengths, and had another useful yardstick in Unioniste a further 3 1/2 lengths back in third.
It was a performance which had Smith drooling in his latest handicappers’ blog, and he rated it the joint-best he had seen by a novice in the last 15 years.
He said: “Both Houblon des Obeaux and Unioniste have solid handicap form against established mature 3m chasers and they were blown away in a stunning time. For me it was the best performance at 3m by a novice since Gloria Victis and I now have Coneygree on 166, which was the mark allocated to Gloria Victis after he won the Racing Post Chase in February 2000.
“Yes, better than Denman as a novice, whose highest rating was 161 after he won the 2007 RSA Chase.”
Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1)
£550,000 added, 5yo plus, 3m 2f 110y, Class 1
24 remaining entries
Going: Good to Soft (Soft in places)
|BALLYCASEY (IRE)||8||Susannah Ricci||Willie Mullins IRE|
|BOBS WORTH (IRE)||10||The Not Afraid Partnership||Nicky Henderson|
|BOSTON BOB (IRE)||10||Andrea & Graham Wylie||Willie Mullins IRE|
|CARLINGFORD LOUGH (IRE)||9||J P McManus||John Kiely IRE|
|CHAMPAGNE FEVER (IRE)||8||Susannah Ricci||Willie Mullins IRE|
|CONEYGREE||8||The Max Partnership||Mark Bradstock|
|DJAKADAM (FR)||6||Susannah Ricci||Willie Mullins IRE|
|DON COSSACK (GER)||8||Gigginstown House Stud||Gordon Elliott IRE|
|FIRST LIEUTENANT (IRE)||10||Gigginstown House Stud||Mouse Morris IRE|
|HOLYWELL (IRE)||8||Gay Smith||Jonjo O'Neill|
|HOME FARM (IRE)||8||Chris Jones||Henry de Bromhead IRE|
|HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (FR)||8||Mrs Julian Blackwell||Venetia Williams|
|LORD WINDERMERE (IRE)||9||Dr Ronan Lambe||Jim Culloty IRE|
|MA FILLEULE (FR)||7||Simon Munir||Nicky Henderson|
|MANY CLOUDS (IRE)||8||Trevor Hemmings||Oliver Sherwood|
|ON HIS OWN (IRE)||11||Andrea & Graham Wylie||Willie Mullins IRE|
|RIVER CHOICE (FR)||12||Fergus Wilson||Richard Chotard FR|
|ROAD TO RICHES (IRE)||8||Gigginstown House Stud||Noel Meade IRE|
|SAM WINNER (FR)||8||Angela Yeoman||Paul Nicholls|
|SILVINIACO CONTI (FR)||9||Chris Giles & Potensis Bloodstock Ltd||Paul Nicholls|
|SMAD PLACE (FR)||8||Trish Andrews||Alan King|
|SPRING HEELED (IRE)||8||Dr Ronan Lambe||Jim Culloty IRE|
|THEATRE GUIDE (IRE)||8||Jean Bishop||Colin Tizzard|
|THE GIANT BOLSTER||10||Simon Hunt & Gary Lambton||David Bridgwater|