With the Flat season currently stalled with no definite return date to prepare for, Mark Boylan looks ahead to the 2021 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup to uncover where the value lies in the antepost markets…
Al Boum Photo
All being well, Willie Mullins’ brilliant dual-Gold Cup winner will be bidding to emulate Best Mate next March and he is clearly a worthy favourite at this stage of proceedings, for all that his current odds of between 4-1 and 6-1 may not represent a huge amount of value.
Those in the novice chasing class of 2019-20 look solid but need to step up to match his level, while there’s no reason he can’t confirm his authority over Santini.
However, Lostintranslation gave the apple of Paul Townend’s eye a scare off the back of an imperfect preparation at a time when Colin Tizzard’s horses weren’t performing at their best.
Some will make the case that Nicky Henderson’s second-season chaser would have claimed the spoils if the race had presented a greater test of stamina but I can’t have Santini as the biggest danger to Al Boum Photo again next spring.
There may have only been a neck between them at the line but the reigning champion took up the running plenty early and arguably would have won more convincingly in the style of race that Santini fans would have craved.
He hasn’t won at the highest level over fences, beaten in his three Grade 1 attempts in this sphere, and Lostintranslation was a length and a quarter behind him off the back of an unhelpful preparation last month – somehow he is double Santini’s price.
Topofthegame had his measure in the 2019 RSA Chase and also represents far greater value.
Henry de Bromhead’s star stayer had his pocket picked by an inspired Barry Geraghty on Champ in the RSA Chase but he makes sense as a genuine Gold Cup contender next season.
Missing out on his Christmas engagement due to unsuitably fast ground and going to the festival on the back of just two runs over fences was hardly ideal for him and he remains open to improvement, appearing a horse who would thrive on more racing.
He does need to find improvement with the leading players but he appears to have all the tools to progress next season, not bad value at 14-1 for Gold Cup glory.
The horse named after Sir Anthony McCoy served up a spectacular finish to this year’s RSA Chase and proved himself to be a dour stayer but he’ll need to use his energy more efficiently in a Gold Cup scenario against more experienced rivals.
He showed excellent survival instincts but whether he has that touch of class that’s generally required to shine in the blue riband event remains to be seen.
Expect Champ to still be throwing out haymakers in the final furlong of the Gold Cup, but whether he’ll have already lost the bout on points before then is a concern, liable to throw in the odd wayward leap.
Considering Colin Tizzard’s runners didn’t appear to be firing at their brilliant best throughout the week, Lostintranslation’s outstanding effort to claim third in this year’s race deserves to be marked up.
Factor in a messy preparation that saw him require wind surgery after his Christmas flop at Kempton and it leaves you wondering if he might just have won with a smoother lead-up to the big day.
He’s still only an eight-year-old and has only got a length and a half to find with Al Boum Photo on this year’s form. At 16-1, he looks excellent value to go two places better.
The current X-factor of the race is undoubtedly Paul Nicholls’ 2019 RSA Chase hero, who missed last season due to a leg injury.
Provided he retains all of his old ability, he looks the pick of the antepost plays at this very early stage of proceedings, physically appearing as if he will only get better with age and experience.
Plenty of those towards the head of the market have had their crack at Al Boum Photo and come up short – Topofthegame hasn’t. His festival form couldn’t be working out better and the Gold Cup distance will be right up his street.
Here’s hoping his time on the sidelines hasn’t taken away any of his huge potential.
Plenty of recent Cheltenham Gold Cup winners have struggled to even return for a title defence the following season, so if you’re brave enough to take the antepost plunge at this time of year then make sure to get a decent chunk of value. With that in mind, the 16-1 about Topofthegame could prove to be quite generous. Trust in Paul Nicholls to have him spot on for a tilt at the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and should he win, you’ll probably be holding a handy ticket in 11 months time. Lostintranslation nearly hit the target last month and is probably just about to reach his prime, so don’t underestimate his claims at a juicy 16-1.