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This year’s Cheltenham Festival has proven to be something of a bloodbath for most punters (myself very much included) so far, but right from the start of the week I felt the best was being saved for last in terms of betting opportunities.
The race I have been looking forward to most is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Betfred Gold Cup. It features a horse that I believe will not only win this time round, but go on to rule the roost in the staying chasers’ division for seasons to come. The horse in question is SILVINIACO CONTI.
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Paul Nicholls had to wait fully eight years after his first victory in jump racing’s blue riband event with See More Business in 1999 before winning the race again.
However, between them Denman and Kauto Star have won three of the last six renewals for the champion trainer and Nicholls has no peers when it comes to cultivating young chasers for future stardom.Silviniaco Conti was twice a Grade 2 winner over hurdles, but jumping fences was always going to be his game and the seven-year-old now looks the real deal.
He has won all three starts this season, most notably the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November when he decisively dispatched with one of today’s key rivals, Long Run.Some may argue that the gelding has not previously run over fences at Cheltenham and point to that as a potential negative. However, that doesn’t concern me one iota, since his three victories this term have been gained on left-hand galloping tracks with pretty stiff fences, plus he’s a well-balanced horse that should cope perfectly well with the undulations.
Silviniaco Conti possesses all the essential ingredients to be a Gold Cup winner. He is tactically versatile, handles most ground types, travels supremely well in his races, jumps like a stag and has one heck of an engine. Though unproven over the Gold Cup trip, he stays 3m 1f very well and the extra yardage definitely won’t be a problem. I think he will win, and win well.
Long Run bounced back from his defeat in the Betfair by landing the King George at Kempton. However, he has quite simply not looked the same horse since winning the 2011 renewal of this race and I’ll be very surprised if he emulates Kauto Star who became the first horse in history to regain the Gold Cup in 2009.
Stablemate Bobs Worth has headed the market for the race ever since winning the Hennessy at Newbury on his reappearance. He’s clearly a class act and will be bidding to score at the Festival for the third year in succession. But horses that have had fewer than two prep runs ahead of the Gold Cup have a dismal record and, in any case, I feel that Silviniaco Conti is stronger.
Jumping is a worry where Irish raider Sire des Champs is concerned, a remark which also applies to Captain Chris, but Cape Tribulation has no problems in that respect and for those seeking a value each-way alternative you could do a lot worse than Malcolm Jefferson’s charge.
Dessie Hughes’ horses have been performing well this week and he can bag a much-deserved winner in the opener, the JCB Triumph Hurdle, with OUR CONOR who is one of my strongest fancies of the meeting.
He has gone from strength to strength in his three outings over timber, landing the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on his latest start, and can see off the likes of Rolling Star and Far West here. Northern raider Hidden Justice makes each-way appeal.
In the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle Cotton Mill is the one to beat, but he’s not much of a price and I’d suggest going with TED VEALE. He is a solid performer and is marginally preferred to Ifandbutwhynot and Tanerko Emery, both of whom are upwardly mobile types that deserve a good deal of respect.
It hasn’t been a particularly memorable Festival for David Pipe, but he can land the penultimate race, which is named in honour of his father, with GEVREY CHAMBERTIN. He isn’t exactly a mouth-watering price, but this progressive brother to Grands Crus looks tailor-made for this conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle and is probably a good deal better than his current mark implies. Village Vic is feared most.
1.30 Our Conor
2.05 Ted Veale
2.40 Cloudy Copper
3.20 Silviniaco Conti
4.00 Cottage Oak
4.40 Gevrey Chambertin