Santini can give trainer Nicky Henderson a third win in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, having won the race with Long Run in 2013 and Bobs Worth two years later, writes Tommy Lyons
As much as could have gone wrong for Santini went wrong prior to last year’s Cheltenham Festival and yet he ran a superb race to finish second in the RSA Chase given the circumstances.
As the race unfolded, it seemed a little surprising that, given stamina has long been considered his stronget suit, he was not asked to go on and make the best of his way home. Due to his inadequate preparation and the fact he only just made it to the meeting, perhaps his rider felt it most prudent not to send him on too early for fear he would blow up.
The start of this season was not ideal, with a narrow victory over Now Mcginty anything but inspiring, but, following a wind operation, he was much better when accounting for Bristol De Mai in the Cotswold Chase, and he will be much more forward this afternoon.
The ground drying out as it has in the past few weeks is not ideal but, so long as it’s not fast, he should be very hard to beat.
Delta Work, who finished a place behind him in the RSA Chase, could pose the greatest danger. He has winning form at this meeting, having won the Pertemps Final, lost little in defeat in the RSA, and won the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup on his last couple of outings. There should not be much between himself and Santini but he may have to find a little more to reverse last year’s form.
Last year’s winner, Al Boum Photo, is an obvious player, but history tells us that winning this race can leave its mark, and he’ll have to be a little bit special to follow up. Given where he is housed, it won’t be a huge surprise if he manages to do so.
Clan Des Obeaux has to have improved since last year and, even if he has, the two-time King George winner must also prove himself over this trip at a track as testing as this one.
Owner JP McManus has had a remarkable week and can wrap up proceedings on the week with Front View taking the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. Joseph O’Brien’s horse was smart in bumpers and found only Envoi Allen too good, and the form of his beating of Uhtred on his next start has since been franked by the runner-up, who won a listed bumper, and by the third, Jon Snow, who won a maiden hurdle recently.
He caught the eye finishing runner-up to Five O’Clock in a Grade 3 on his most recent start, but the ground was testing that day and should be more suitable this afternoon.
A mark of 139 looks very tasty for the grey, and he can give the O’Brien-McManus-Jonjo O’Neill Jnr combination back-to-back wins in the race.
Column Of Fire can give him most to think about. Gordon Elliott’s horse must give 4lbs to the selection but also looks well treated off his current mark. He ran very well on his handicap debut, over three miles, and his proven stamina will be an asset in today’s race. Another McManus-owned runner, Ilikedwayurthinkin, is also respected.
The JCB Triumph Hurdle is a fantastic race, with numerous potential stars. That in mind, it’s probably not a race for big investment, but Goshen has an exceptional engine and can extend his perfect record to seven.
Three runs as a two-year-old put him on a mark of 64 for his handicap debut on his first start as a three-year-old. He won by 12 lengths, followed up under a mandatory 6lb penalty next time, winning by nine lengths, and after a break won by seven lengths off a revised mark of 80.
After that he had his attention turned to hurdling and won by 23 lengths on debut, 34 lengths next time and 11 lengths last time.
His jumping has been a talking point, and it’s true he needs to step up in that department, but he clearly has a remarkable engine and can continue his winning sequence.
2.10 Saint Roi
2.50: Fury Road
3.30: Santini (nb)
4.10: Hazel Hill
4.50: Éclair De Beaufeu
5.30: Front View (Nap)
1.30: Solob]2:10 Elusive Belle
2.50: Thyme Hill
3.30: Delta Work
4.10: Minella Rocco
4.50: Chosen Mate