The Cheltenham Gold Cup picture is starting to take shape and some of the established staying chasers have somewhat fallen by the wayside over the key festive period, but others have made ground in recent weeks as we approach the Festival.
As the blue riband steeplechase in the British Isles and centrepiece of the Cheltenham Festival, the Gold Cup is the most prestigious event over obstacles in National Hunt horse racing. Presenting Percy remains ante post favorite at 7/2 (various) to win the three-and-a-quarter miles Grade 1 race on Friday, March 15, but is waiting for some cut in the turf before returning to action.
In his absence, some other improving young chasers have pressed their own claims for Cheltenham Gold Cup glory but have arguably gone under the radar:
Clan Des Obeaux
Paul Nicholls could be UK champion jumps trainer again if Clan Des Obeaux can follow-up on his surprise King George VI Chase triumph at Kempton on Boxing Day. This seven-year-old son of Kapgrade improved past seasoned campaigners and found enough to stave off a rejuvenated Thistlecrack.
While he is zero from four runs at Cheltenham, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Clan Des Obeaux was a fine second to Guitar Pete in the 2017 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup – a handicap where he tried to give the winner a huge amount of weight and was beaten less than three lengths.
Bookmakers clearly believe he has more to offer as a staying chaser. Clan Des Obeaux has seen his Gold Cup odds slashed into a best-price 5/1 with Coral after a big win at Ascot last week. It feels like he is finally getting some recognition that the King George win wasn’t a fluke.
Colin Tizzard has the reigning champion Native River in his yard, but also a horse that emulated the stable star by winning the Welsh Grand National as a six-year-old in Elegant Escape. In order to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a horse needs to stay no matter what the underfoot conditions are like, so victory in that valuable Grade 3 Chepstow handicap over an extended three-and-a-half miles is an obvious plus.
It took Native River an extra year to come good in the Gold Cup, but Tizzard has confirmed Elegant Escape will have an entry. While his pedigree isn’t stamina laden, he’s already defied that and the only worry is there’s something to find on novice form with the likes of Presenting Percy from the RSA Chase.
As Elegant Escape was beaten 14 lengths by Ireland’s leading Cheltenham Gold Cup contender at the Festival off level weights 12 months ago, it’s a tall order to turn that round. As each-way bets go, however, there’s still considerable value available at best odds of 25/1 with Betfair. It’s a big price that might put some off, but perhaps worth a shot with the free bets available when you bet on Cheltenham Festival with Freebets.co.uk
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is one of the few races Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins hasn’t won. It’s not for a lack of trying either, but Kemboy has emerged as his best chance of ending that hoodoo this year, according to the betting, with a victory in the Savills Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival.
Kemboy is a Voix Du Nord gelding and now aged seven, like Elegant Escape and Clan Des Obeaux. He’s got the least experience of the trio over fences with just eight starts under his belt, but has really progressed in 2018.
At 10/1 best with William Hill for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Kemboy must go significantly better than his last two Festival outings at the track when fourth in the JLT Novices’ Chase and fifth in the old Neptune Novices’ Hurdle. Mullins is also likely to have others engaged, most notably Al Boum Photo.
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