There have been delights around each corner this festive period, and none more informative than the two races which have affected the Cheltenham Gold Cup market recently – Kempton’s King George and the Lexus at Leopardstown. Add in the Charlie Hall, the Betfair Chase and the Hennessy and there have been ample clues as to who may prosper on the third Friday in March.
The way I see it, there are two likely winners – Bobs Worth and Sir Des Champs. Bobs Worth is 5/2 in a place, whereas Sir Des Champs is 7/1. I simply must recommend a decent bet on the latter.
Bobs Worth was impressive in the Hennessy and loves Cheltenham, and is perhaps a worthy favourite on what we have seen. But if you factor in the fact that he was getting 6lbs from Tidal Bay at Newbury for 3¼ lengths, then on level weights you’d think Tidal Bay would come out on top. It doesn’t always work like that of course. However it seems as if all the main protagonists have run to form and so the bare value of it can be trusted.
The key piece of form for me is undoubtedly the Lexus, and I was incredibly tempted to recommend backing Sir Des Champs for the Cheltenham showpiece before the race was run, as Ladbrokes went a standout 7/1. In light of that cracking renewal, which saw Tidal Bay affirm the notion that Paul Nicholls and his team are blessed with nothing short of genius, Sir Des Champs has only enhanced his claims for the Gold Cup. He was pushed out to 8/1 in a place, but that has swiftly disappeared and 7/1 is still a great price.
To be such a fast-finishing close fourth when jumping as stickily as he did only goes to show how big an engine this horse possesses. His tale of the 2011/12 season was one of steady progression culminating in a sudden jolt of improvement in winning the Jewson at the festival, following on from his win in the Martin Pipe Conditionals race in 2011. Two appearances at Cheltenham in March, two wins. He simply loves the place. Willie Mullins is a master of getting his horses to their peak in March, and that Friday will have been the plan ever since his win there last year.
Tidal Bay has to be a big danger, but you have to believe that there will be more improvement forthcoming from Sir Des Champs between now and March. Enough to turn around the length that he was beaten.
Long Run is a danger, but it is becoming evident that his golden period in early 2011 was more down to being flattered by beating a below par Kauto Star twice, than being top class. While Silviniaco Conti gives the impression Cheltenham isn’t his track.
Two floating at bigger odds that could leap into the picture soon are Bold Sir Brian who is 40/1 and looked very good at Sandown. This year’s renewal may come a year too soon however. The other is Last Instalment, who slammed First Lieutenant a year ago at Leopardstown. That form is looking strong now, and he will reappear in the Kinloch Brae at Thurles in mid-January. 33/1 with SportingBet is well worth an each-way interest now.
Sir Des Champs – 7/1 (generally)
Last Instalment (EW) – 33/1 (SportingBet)