The Cotswold Chase Favourites Curse – Can Santini Break It?

Santini wins at Sandown under Nico de Boinville

Cheltenham plays host to their Festival Trials Day this Saturday – selections and runner-by-runner previews for which will be available on our free horse racing tips page.

The most valuable race on the card is the Cotswold Chase, which is seen as a trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Cotswold Chase has been something of a bookmaker’s paradise in recent years, with the last twenty-three joint or outright favourites all being defeated – there has been no winning favourite since Cyfor Malta (10/11) back in 1999.

Here, we assess whether the Nicky Henderson-trained Santini – who looks the likely favourite for this weekend’s race – will break the Cotswold curse, read our views below.

High Profile Failures

Nicky Henderson has previous for sending out a short-priced favourite in the Cotswold Chase, with his Punchestowns finishing a distant third when sent off at odds of 11/10 for the 2011 renewal.

Djakadam was the first horse to be sent off at odds-on since Cyfor Malta (1999) when contesting the race in 2016, but Willie Mullins’ charge got no further than the tenth fence before falling.

The highest-profile recent failure in the race, however, was undoubtedly that of Thistlecrack – who seriously burnt the fingers of his backers when beaten – at odds of 4/9 – back in 2017, in a renewal won by the ill-fated Many Clouds.

Can Santini Break The Curse?

Although the market looks sure to fluctuate before the start of the race, as things stand, Santini is set to go off as the favourite.

Last season’s RSA runner-up has been limited to just the one start so far this campaign, scrambling home in a Listed chase at Sandown back in November.

The form of that race has been knocked since, but with his form figures under rules currently reading a healthy 11311321, he is unlikely to be far away.

Who are the main dangers?

According to the market, Delta Work, who finished a place behind Santini in the RSA – represents the biggest danger to the market leader.

He looks far from a confirmed runner at this stage, however, so Bristol De Mai may give Santini the most to think about.

A beaten favourite himself in 2018, the nine-year-old is the highest rated of these with an official rating of 170 – and his third in last season’s Gold Cup is arguably the strongest piece of form on offer.

Some of these do have the potential to improve past him, however, with the Philip Kirby-trained Top Ville Ben a particularly interesting runner.

This son of Beneficial has gained the four wins from his nine starts over fences to date, justifying favouritism to land the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby latest – where he recorded a career-best RPR.

Off a mark of 164, he is officially rated a pound superior to Santini, albeit that looks a generous enough rating at this stage.

Verdict

Santini certainly arrives with an attractive profile and is unlikely to be far away, but that last run does leave him with a little to prove – and he is expected to face at least a couple of higher-rated rivals.

With that in mind, the Cotswold curse may be set to continue for another year at least.

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