The featured Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup brings down the curtain on a remarkable week of racing and such is the momentum behind the Willie Mullins team, it’ll be no surprise if the meeting’s leading trainer lands his maiden success in this race with any of his three charges.
It’ll be surprising if the weight of money does not force a contraction of Djakadam’s odds, but it’s a very big ask for a six-year-old, even if his handler can do little wrong at present.
He took a significant step forward when winning the Thyestes off top weight on his most recent outing, and won’t be inconvenienced by any rain which arrives. He has claims, but fast forward 12 months and they might be more obvious.
Stable companion On His Own was runner-up in this race last year, but beaten favourite in the Hennessy last time. He must curb his tendency to jump out to the right, and also improve on this season’s form if he’s to figure.
The third of the Mullins runners is Boston Bob who has something to find on recent form but would be a lively outsider on quick ground.
However, a potential easing of the ground would be a concern.
Noel Meade’s Road To Riches has made giant strides in the past 12 months, following up his Galway Plate romp with victories in the JNWine.com Chase at Down Royal and the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. He must step up again but there’s no reason to suspect he has reached the limit of his potential.
Lord Windermere defends his crown, having caused an upset under a strong ride from Davy Russell in last year’s race.
Trained by Jim Culloty, who rode Best Mate to win this race three times, the nine-year-old hasn’t managed to find a winning turn this term, but there has been promise in each of his three outings, particularly the most recent one, in which he finished third behind Carlingford Lough and Foxrock in the Irish Hennessy.
He turned for home in front then, but was comfortably outpointed by the front two in the closing stages. It’s safe to assume he’ll be better for that outing and is unbeaten in two runs here, but whether he’ll improve enough to reverse that form with Carlingford Lough must be in question.
The latter, a former Galway Plate winner, won despite the John Kiely stable being somewhat out of sorts, and there’s every reason to believe he, too, will be better for that run.
If his jumping holds up, he could give AP McCoy a fairy-tale Festival send-off.
Although it’s unlikely to be soft today, any drop of rain which falls will aid Many Clouds’ cause. He has been tremendously progressive, winning the Newbury Hennessy and following up in the BetBright Chase. This is much tougher, but he’s going the right way, and can’t be ruled out.
Novice Coneygree has been impressive in all three starts since his return from a long absence, and a tilt at this race is surely connections’ attempt to make up for lost time. It’s not a race which is very forgiving to novices, and he will need to be special to buck the trend.
The favourite for today’s race is Silviniaco Conti, who comes here on the back of a great performance in the King George. Given a no-nonsense ride, he led all the way, jumped boldly, and stayed on well to record a comfortable success.
On that form, he’s the one to beat, but there are doubts. In this race last year, he jumped the final fence in front but ran around on the run-in, and faded to finish out of the frame. Perhaps his treatment for gastric ulcers will work the oracle, but it could simply be that he doesn’t have the stamina for this test.
If he stays, he’ll probably win but, in a really tough race for punters, I prefer to take a chance on Holywell to give Jonjo O’Neill a second victory in the race as a trainer.
The enigmatic eight-year-old doesn’t always deliver but when the blinkers, which he sports today, are applied he can be very good, as he showed when winning handicaps at this Festival in 2013 and 2014 and also at Aintree last term.
On the latter occasion, on his first try in Grade One company over fences, he was tremendously impressive, beating Don Cossack, who was arguably unlucky in yesterday’s Ryanair Chase.
The selection is only an eight-year-old, but he comes to life at this stage of the season and if in the same shape as he was in the spring of 2014, he’ll put up a very bold show.
Holywell peaks at this stage of the season and the eight-year-old has solid claims in an open Gold Cup. If the rain stays away, Boston Bob could outrun his generous odds.
No current trainer knows more about what it takes to land the biggest prize in National Hunt racing than Paul Nicholls. Silviniaco Conti to make it number five is the prediction.
When Djakadam bolted from the Gowran fog to win the Thyestes under top weight it looked like he had only joined in unseen at the second last.
The Giant Bolster
With more than a bit of rain forecast the improving Many Clouds could get his conditions in the Gold Cup.
Road To Riches, not seen since winning the Lexus at Christmas, might just be the forgotten horse in a wide open renewal.
Road To Riches
The most open Gold Cups in years, though it’s not necessarily a reflection of quality when you can make a case for 10 horses. Silviniaco Conti has the best form by some degree.
1.30 1 Douvan (R Walsh) 2-1 Fav; 2 Shaneshill (P Townend) 9-1; 3 Sizing John (J J Burke) 25-1.
2.05 1 Un De Sceaux (R Walsh) 4-6 Fav; 2 God’s Own (P J Brennan) 33-1; 3 Josses Hill (B J Geraghty) 12-1
2.40 1 The Druids Nephew (B J Geraghty) 8-1; 2 Grand Jesture (J J Burke) 25-1; 3 Gallant Oscar (B J Cooper) 9-1
3.20 1 Faugheen (R Walsh) 4-5 Fav; 2 Arctic Fire (D E Mullins) 20-1; 3 Hurricane Fly (P Townend) 8-1.
4.00 1 Glens Melody (P Townend) 6-1; 2 Polly Peachum (B J Geraghty) 9-1; 3 Bitofapuzzle (N D Fehily) 16-1.
4.40 1 Cause Of Causes (Mr J J Codd) 8-1; 2 Broadway Buffalo (Ms K Walsh) 12-1; 3 The Job Is Right (Mr Derek O’Connor) 10-1.
5.15 1 Irish Cavalier (P Townend) 11-1; 2 Thomas Crapper (C Poste) 6-1 Fav; 3 Generous Ransom 8/1, 4 Horizontal Speed 12/1
1.30 1 Windsor Park (D N Russell) 9-2; 2 Parlour Games (A P McCoy) 13-2; 3 Nichols Canyon (R Walsh) 7-2 Fav.
2.05 1 Don Poli (B J Cooper) 13-8 Fav; 2 Southfield Theatre (Sam Twiston-Davies) 13-2; 3 Wounded Warrior (P Carberry) 12-1.
2.401 Aux Ptits Soins (Sam Twiston-Davies) 9-1; 2 Zabana (R C Colgan) 25-1; 3 Activial (N D Fehily) 17-2 Fav; 4 Taglietelle (P Carberry) 14-1.
3.20 1 Dodging Bullets (Sam Twiston-Davies) 9-2; 2 Somersby (B Hughes) 33-1; 3 Special Tiara (N D Fehily) 18-1.
4.00 1 Rivage D’Or (D N Russell) 16-1; 2 Any Currency (Aidan Coleman) 7-1; 3 Uncle Junior (Mr P W Mullins) 20-1.
4.40 1 Qualando (Nick Scholfield) 25-1; 2 Bouvreuil (N D Fehily) 14-1; 3 The Saint James (P Carberry) 33-1.
5.15 1 Moon Racer (T Scudamore) 9-2 Fav; 2 Modus (T J O’Brien) 33-1; 3 Wait For Me (R Johnson) 9-1.
1.30 1 Vautour (R Walsh) 6-4 Fav; 2 Apache Stronghold (P Carberry) 7-1; 3 Valseur Lido (B Cooper) 9-2.
2.05 1 Call The Cops (A Tinkler) 9-1; 2 Unique De Cotte (T Scudamore) 14-1; 3 The Tourard Man (W Hutchinson) 20-1
2.40 1 Uxizandre (A P McCoy) 16-1; 2 Ma Filleule (B J Geraghty) 5-1 3; Don Cossack (B J Cooper) 5-2 Fav.
3.201 Cole Harden (G Sheehan) 14-1; 2 Saphir Du Rheu (Sam Twiston-Davies) 5-1 Fav; 3 Zarkandar (N D Fehily) 6-1.
4.00 1 Darna (D Bass) 33-1; 2 Monetaire (T Scudamore) 11-2 Fav; 3 Rawnaq (A E Lynch) 25-1.
4.40 1 The Package (Jamie Codd) 9/1; 2 Bless The Wings 28/1 (Nina Carberry); 3 Buddy Bolero (Kevin Power) 20/1.
1.30 Triumph Hurdle; 2.05 County Hurdle; 2.40 AB Novices Hurdle; 3.20 Gold Cup; 4.00 Foxhunter Chase; 4.40 Conditional Jockeys Hurdle; 5.15 Grand Annual Chase