Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup
3m 2f 110y, Class 1
|Friday 14th March 2014|
26 Remain for Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup
The £550,000 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup is the highlight of The Festival and 26 horses go forward for the chase over extended three and a quarter miles on Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 14.
Heading the entries is last year's victor Bobs Worth, the favourite with sponsor Betfred. The nine-year-old disappointed on his seasonal return when a well-beaten sixth in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on November 23 but bounced right back to his best last time when getting the better of First Lieutenant in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28. Bobs Worth is unbeaten in three successive races at The Festival, having also won the 2011 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle and the 2012 RSA Chase.
His trainer Nicky Henderson has also left in the 2011 winner Long Run, whose owner Robert Waley-Cohen has not ruled his star out of the Gold Cup despite believing the Grand National is a far more likely target.
He has a clutch of entries at the Cheltenham Festival, but a promising workout on Sunday morning (March 2) convinced connections to go for the big one.
Henderson said: "He's very good. We were delighted with him. He worked really well. He's got to go somewhere, and it (the Gold Cup) looks a wide-open race this year."
Triolo D'Alene has not been seen since his accomplished defeat of Rocky Creek in the Hennessy at Newbury last November, having constantly been blighted by the wet weather.
He is also still in contention for the Crabbie's Grand National at Aintree in April.
Nicholls has won the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup four times, more than any other current trainer, and has five entries in 2014. These are headed by King George VI Chase victor Silviniaco Conti. The eight-year-old, who was travelling well when falling three out in the Gold Cup last year, could be joined by Gold Cup runner-up Rocky Creek and last season's Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup scorer Unioniste.
Ireland's 11 entries are headed by multiple Grade One winner First Lieutenant, who hails from the Gold Cup-winning stable of Mouse Morris. The nine-year-old boasts an excellent record at The Festival, annexing the 2011 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle and finishing second in both the 2012 RSA Chase and last year's Ryanair Chase.
Gigginstown House Stud, owner of First Lieutenant, is also responsible for Last Instalment who now looks like a live candidate after storming to victory at Leopardstown on February 9.
With just one previous run under his belt, Last Instalment ran away with the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup with a tremendous display of front running.
David O'Connell took the nine-year-old into the lead almost from the start and the gelding had no problem at all in seeing off Paul Nicholls' Tidal Bay and favourite First Lieutenant.
It was a deeply impressive performance from the Philip Fenton-trained horse, who simply ran the legs off the others.
And afterwards O'Connell said: "That was very special and whether I get the ride at Cheltenham should he go there, I don't know.
"At this moment it doesn't matter that much because I'm more than happy with what happened this afternoon.
"He looked as though he might have needed the run today, but he jumped perfectly and was into a wonderful rhythm early on. It really couldn't have gone any better."
Ireland's champion trainer Willie Mullins is responsible Boston Bob, who fell at the final fence when leading in the 2013 RSA Chase won by the Jim Culloty-trained Lord Windermere. Other Irish entries include the Gordon Elliott-trained pair of Mount Benbulben and Roi Du Mee, an impressive 13-length winner of the Champion Chase at Down Royal in November.
David Pipe's grey was one of last season's leading novice chasers and made an encouraging return when second to Cue Card in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November.
He was joint-favourite for the King George on the strength of his fine comeback, but trailed home last of the five runners that completed the race, but has since been treated by renowned veterinary physio Mary Bromiley and Pipe is hopeful his star chaser will be back on song in March.
The Pond House handler said: "Dynaste had his first canter back (on Thursday morning).
"He's had a lot of treatment from Mary Bromiley on his quarters.
"I'd say it's unlikely he'll run before Cheltenham and he's in both the Gold Cup and Ryanair.
"We'll make that decision nearer the time."
Harry Topper demonstrated his endless reserves of stamina with an emphatic victory in a slog for the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury on February 8.
Having looked guaranteed to get his preferred soft ground for months, Kim Bailey will now be doing a rain dance to aid Harry Topper's chance on Friday week.
After a record-breaking winter of rainfall, the weather forecast suggests a dry week in the lead up to the big meeting.
And while that is music to the ears of most, Bailey admits it greatly hampers his chances of giving his trainer a second Gold Cup success after Master Oats in 1995.
"He wants soft ground, if it was good ground he wouldn't run, good to soft would pose us a bit of a problem," Bailey told Betfred TV.
Katenko set the pace until just before the run for home where Jason Maguire, who had driven Harry Topper (7-2) to keep up to his work, set sail for the line.
Al Ferof, the 5-4 favourite, tracked him but was soon under pressure and backpedalling as Harry Topper revelled in the ground to pull clear in the home straight and slam him by 25 lengths.
Trainer Kim Bailey said: "It's great for the horse. We've believed in him from day one. He loves this ground and that makes a huge difference," said Bailey.
"He tries. I know he dropped the bit and was given a couple of cracks down the far side, but once he gets going he's as tough as they come. I've always believed in him and thankfully he's come right.
"We schooled him this morning over five fences and the last time I did that was when Master Oats won the Gold Cup all those years ago. They are similar horses with similar attitudes.
"He proved when he ran at Sandown he doesn't go on quicker ground and he won't go to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup unless it's soft. He doesn't have to go anywhere."
The 11-year-old claimed the scalps of champion staying hurdler Big Buck's as well as other top-class performers At Fishers Cross and Reve De Sivola when providing a 66-1 turn-up at Cheltenham on Saturday and all roads lead back there for the blue riband on March 14.
"The plan is to go to Kelso for the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase on February 13. We'll see what we get out of that and then we'll probably go for an outsider's chance in the Gold Cup," said the Northumberland trainer.
Leading on the turn for home with two to jump, the 8-11 favourite bounded clear in the hands of Richard Johnson.
The Philip Hobbs-trained 10-year-old negotiated the last two obstacles in exemplary fashion as he galloped way ahead of Cloudy Too. Hunt Ball was third.
Johnson said: "The further he's gone, the better he's gone. It was a very good performance."
Hobbs said: "I'm delighted with him. He's won very easily.
"He's only in the Gold Cup, but he would prefer better ground than he got here.
"Plenty of things went wrong for him earlier in his career, but he jumped great and travelled well.
"We're still open-minded about the Gold Cup, but this was exactly his right trip and that was the ideal race."
Cloudy Too is likely to have a crack at the Gold Cup after his fine effort at Ascot on February 15.
He then tackled last week's Betfair Ascot Chase, where he gave Captain Chris more of a race than anything else before being left in the home straight.
Smith's husband and assistant Harvey told At The Races: "My gut feeling is that he'll go for the Gold Cup. We may as well sink or swim.
"If he runs well then the handicapper will have him right, but if he doesn't then he will be forced to reassess him. I'm looking for a big run from him."
The nine-year-old has finished second and fourth in the last two renewals of chasing's blue riband, but endured a disappointing start to the new season.
However, he bounced back with an impressive victory in last month's Argento Chase to earn himself another crack at the big one.
Bridgwater said: "He's absolutely fantastic and as for any trainer with a fancied horse going to Cheltenham, the next three weeks are the longest three weeks of the year."
The Giant Bolster was fitted with a hood and a visor in the Argento Chase and will again be sporting the headgear next month.
"We'll keep the headgear on. We don't want to be changing things at this stage, so fingers crossed," said the Gloucestershire trainer.
Trainer Dessie Hughes is likely to run Lyreen Legend in this rather than in the Ryanair Chase.
Second to Lord Windermere in the RSA Chase 12 months ago, he was expected to make up in to a viable Gold Cup contender this season.
However, a minor problem delayed his comeback until the Lexus in December, when a respectable fifth, after which he was slightly disappointing in the Irish Hennessy at Leopardstown.
It had been mooted that Lyreen Legend could drop in trip for the Ryanair, but Hughes is leaning in the opposite direction.
"I think we're going to go for the Gold Cup," said the County Kildare handler.
"It looked like he got every yard of the trip in the RSA last year.
"Hopefully better ground will help him."
Nigel Roddis, part-owner of Teaforthree, expects his jumping to come to the fore as he tackles the Gold Cup.
However, trainer Rebecca Curtis is keen to get another run into her charge and Roddis believes the Gold Cup represents the best option for Teaforthree, who is nicknamed Tom at home.
He told his www.lovetheraces.com blog: "As Rebecca has said on a few occasions, he is a big, stuffy type who needs racing to get into peak shape. The more we thought about it, the more we felt uncomfortable about Aintree being his third run of the season, on the back of a seven-week break.
"So, we decided he needed to have another run. He went up to a mark of 153 after Ascot, so all that he could run in were the Festival Handicap, the Gold Cup, a race at Kelso a week after Cheltenham or a spin over hurdles.
"I don't like the latter as an option. Tom is too good a jumper to have his head screwed around with by hurdles. Kelso is too close to Aintree.
"The Festival Handicap will have 24 runners, Tom would be giving weight away to the majority and the prospects of shenanigans will be intensified in that environment. Then there's the Gold Cup.
"We asked AP McCoy what his view was. He thought it would put him spot on. We agree. So he's likely to line up on the Friday.
"I think he is an old-fashioned chaser and I think he will enjoy the Gold Cup and come on for it. I have no visions of him winning, but I do think his jumping will help him through and may unsettle one or two others."
The Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup
Class 1, Grade 1, £550,000 Total Prize Fund. Cheltenham, Friday, March 14, 2014. Three miles, two and a half furlongs. For 5yo+ which are allotted a rating of 130 or more by the BHA Head of Handicapping following a review of the horses entered and after taking account of races run up to and including March 7 - horses which are not qualified for a rating in GB, IRE or FR may also be entered & such horses may be eligible providing the Handicapper is satisfied that the horse's racecourse performances up to and including March 7 would merit a minimum rating of 130 (the decision of the BHA Head of Handicapping shall be final). Weights: 5yo 11st 8lb, 6yo+ 11st 10lb. Allowances: mares 7lb. Entries closed January 7, entries revealed January 8 (36 entries), scratchings deadline February 11 (26 remain), £27,500 supplementary entry stage & six-day confirmation stage March 8. Final 48-hour declaration stage, 10.00am, March 12. Form figures supplied by Weatherbys and are correct up to and including the racing of Monday, February 10.
Form Horse Age Owner Trainer
21/11-61 BOBS WORTH (IRE) 9 The Not Afraid Partnership Nicky Henderson
3/F1115- BOG WARRIOR (IRE) 10 Gigginstown House Stud Tony Martin IRE
2/11FF-16 BOSTON BOB (IRE) 9 Andrea & Graham Wylie Willie Mullins IRE
12264-31 CAPTAIN CHRIS (IRE) 10 Diana Whateley Philip Hobbs
103-101 CLOUDY TOO (IRE) 8 Formulated Polymer Products Ltd Sue Smith
112-312 CUE CARD 8 Jean Bishop Colin Tizzard
1121-25 DYNASTE (FR) 8 John White David Pipe
213-3423 FIRST LIEUTENANT (IRE) 9 Gigginstown House Stud Mouse Morris IRE
11UB-1331 HARRY TOPPER 7 D J Keyte Kim Bailey
204-1614 HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (FR) 7 Mrs Julian Blackwell Venetia Williams
0211-F443 KATENKO (FR) 8 Andrew Brooks Venetia Williams
UP-51251 KNOCKARA BEAU (IRE) 11 Alistair Charlton George Charlton
3P1111/-31 LAST INSTALMENT (IRE) 9 Gigginstown House Stud Philip Fenton IRE
132-54U LONG RUN (FR) 9 Robert Waley-Cohen Nicky Henderson
1231-006 LORD WINDERMERE (IRE) 8 Dr Ronan Lambe Jim Culloty IRE
2F423-55 LYREEN LEGEND (IRE) 7 Lyreen Syndicate Dessie Hughes IRE
132234/- MEDERMIT (FR) 10 The Dunkley & Reilly Partnership Alan King
4141-U4 MOUNT BENBULBEN (IRE) 9 Barry Connell Gordon Elliott IRE
21113-22 ROCKY CREEK (IRE) 8 The Johnson & Stewart Families Paul Nicholls
1-F21P20 ROI DU MEE (FR) 9 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
11F3-31 SILVINIACO CONTI (FR) 8 Potensis Limited & Chris Giles Paul Nicholls
06203-0 TEAFORTHREE (IRE) 10 Conyers, O'Reilly, Roddis, Zeffman Rebecca Curtis
240-0U51 THE GIANT BOLSTER 9 Simon Hunt David Bridgwater
301-131 TRIOLO D'ALENE (FR) 7 Mr & Mrs Sandy Orr Nicky Henderson
114-3103 UNIONISTE (FR) 6 John Hales Paul Nicholls
125-UF1PP VINO GRIEGO (FR) 9 Chris Stedman Gary Moore
26 entries remain after February 11 scratchings deadline
THE FOLLOWING 10 ENTRIES HAVE BEEN SCRATCHED: AL FEROF (FR), ARVIKA LIGEONNIERE (FR), CHAMPION COURT (IRE), DEDIGOUT (IRE), MONBEG DUDE (IRE), RUBI BALL (FR), THEATRE GUIDE (IRE), TIDAL BAY (IRE), TIME FOR RUPERT (IRE), WAYWARD PRINCE
Timeform Ratings (Weight-Adjusted)
191 Cue Card
190 Bobs Worth
187 Silviniaco Conti
180+ Captain Chris
180 Last Instalment
176 The Giant Bolster
175x Harry Topper