Charlie's Cheltenham Countdown: Chasers to Follow from the Festive Period

Can we forgive Minella Indo his poor Kempton run in the Gold Cup? 

We all praise our racing heroes to the rafters and rightly so, given the enjoyment they provide day in and day out, but we are all fallible and make mistakes and the decision to run Minella Indo at Kempton in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day was a crass error of judgement by the excellent Henry De Bromhead. 

This fact has been largely overshadowed because of the dreadful ride the Gold Cup winner was given by the incomparable Rachel Blackmore when she and Bryony Frost aboard Frodon went off at a daft and unsustainable pace from the off and gave their respective mounts no chance whatsoever of being involved in the finish. Even the great and good get things wrong.   

Minella Indo was ‘shook when he came off the lorry’ after the King George says Henry de Bromhead.

? Speaking to Gary Carson: “When he came back from Cheltenham, he was as burly as he always would be, but I’ve never seen him as tucked and tightened up as he was the other day.”

— Joshua Stacey?? (@TheRacingJosh) December 29, 2021

Yes, I appreciate the Gold Cup winner ought to have run a better race, but he should never have been at Kempton – a track that was never going to play to his strengths – in the first place and you can put a line through the form. I will also be surprised if the cheekpieces worn at Kempton are reapplied to the 9-y-old going forward.

With his stablemate and Gold Cup runner up A Plus Tard having to race left-handed De Bromhead wanted to avoid his star chasers taking each other on until March. As a result, A Plus Tard stayed in Ireland – where he finished runner up in the Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown – while Minella Indo travelled to Kempton. I doubt he will make the same mistake again. 

The King George was something of a farce. History tells us Irish raider Tornado Flyer picked up the pieces after Saint Calvados made his bid for glory too soon and ultimately failed to stay while Chantry House was never going a yard. 

My selection Clan Des Obeaux ran as if the lack of a previous run had caught him out and I wonder if trainer Paul Nicholls is bemoaning the fact that he changed his modus operandi and decided not to get a prep run into his dual previous winner of the race. He was certainly not the same horse at Kempton as he was when beating Al Boum Photo at Punchestown back in the spring. He will be one to look forward to back at Aintree.  

Minella Indo has only been beaten by one horse in three starts at Cheltenham and that was by the enigmatic but brilliant Champ in the RSA Chase of 2020. He comes alive at Cheltenham and his Gold Cup success of 2021 was against a good field with dual previous winner of the race Al Boum Photo five lengths behind A Plus Tard in third.

De Bromhead has shown us on more than one occasion that he is a genius. What he achieved in 2021 at Cheltenham and Aintree was the stuff of dreams and may never be repeated. It is possible that last year’s Cheltenham exertions have also left an indelible mark on Minella Indo – but I don’t think so. 

Minella Indo leads them home in the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup!

? @HenrydeBromhead has won the 'Holy Trinity' at the Cheltenham Festival with a one-two finish!#ITVRacing#CheltenhamFestival

— ITV Racing (@itvracing) March 19, 2021

I have never thought A Plus Tard a future Gold Cup winner despite finishing less than a couple of lengths behind Minella Indo last March. In my opinion the Blue Riband of jumps racing is just a three-horse race between Savills Chase winner Galvin (6s with William Hill), Al Boum Photo (10s with Betfred) and Minella Indo and it is the latter who gets the each way vote to maintain his excellent course record and retain his Gold Cup crown.

Recommendation: 1pt each way Minella Indo 8/1 for the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup with 888sport or 7/1 NRNB and BOG with Bet365

Is Galopin Des Champs the 2023 Gold Cup winner?    

No horse has impressed me more this term – or any other season for that matter – than Galopin Des Champs who did us such a favour when landing the odds on his chase debut at Leopardstown. He cannot be considered an antepost recommendation for March because his price for the Festival Novices’ Chase is so short at a best price of 7/4 with Bet365. But is there any mileage in backing him now for the 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup?

Trained by Willie Mullins I knew he was held in some regard by those close to the stable after his fluent wins at last years Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals over timber, but I swopped texts simultaneously with the excellent Paul Ferguson – author of the excellent Jumpers To Follow – immediately after the race and both just read: wow.

It is not everyone’s cup of tea betting so far in advance and it cannot be given as a recommendation given it is fourteen months away, but I just wanted to highlight the market.

One. Horse. Race. ?

Galopin Des Champs blows the field apart to win the Ballymaloe Relish Beginners Chase ?

Watch LIVE
? @ITV4

— ITV Racing (@itvracing) December 28, 2021

William Hill bet 7/1 that Galopin Des Champs wins the 2023 Gold Cup and I think there will be a changing of the guard next year with his stablemate Monkfish – who has missed this season through injury – 16s with William Hill and considered the main danger – albeit at this early stage.

Can Blue Lord put it up to stablemate Ferny Hollow in the Arkle? 

Willie Mullins has saddled the winner of the Arkle Novice Chase four times in the last seven years, and he will have a very strong hand again this year. The market is headed by his Ferny Hollow who has won both starts over the larger obstacles and beat Appreciate It in the Champion Bumper of 2020 – when trained by Gordon Elliot – before getting the better of Bob Olinger on his hurdles debut last term.

He missed the rest of last season but has lost none of his verve or class over the larger obstacles and looks the one to beat. He is a best price of 7/4 with Betfred.

The each way vote, however, goes to stablemate Blue Lord (7/1 with 888sport) who is another who is unbeaten over fences having landed the odds in both starts so far this term. He used to be a bit of a tearaway over hurdles but has settled very well in his two outings over the larger obstacles. 

? "You'd have to be impressed with him."@PTownend reflects on Blue Lord remaining unbeaten over fences following success at @NaasRacecourse - the rider thinks he is 'up there' with Ferny Hollow & Haut En Couleurs@simon_munir | @WillieMullinsNH

— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 2, 2022

Only six fences were jumped because of the low sun at Leopardstown over Christmas, and he lacks experience over obstacles, but his handler suggested he is likely to go straight to Cheltenham without another run. 

The Irish Arkle is the obvious target next month, but Mullins has said he wants to keep Ferny Hollow – who is earmarked for Leopardstown – and Blue Lord apart until March. Another example were having the best horses in the same select stables might not be in the best interests of spectators and punters although we must appreciate that owners pay the bills, and they are more than entitled to do what they want with their elite horses.

Recommendation: 1pt ew Blue Lord at 7/1 for the Arkle with 888sport

Craig Jones

Craig Jones

US Sports lover and watcher of the EFL, Craig will guide you through the NFL, NHL and English football