Even in the wake of the news that 2015 champion Coneygree will not run, the 2016 the Cheltenham Gold Cup has been feted as a vintage renewal.
Yet, looking down the betting, it’s easy to crab most of the fancied runners.
Fighting out the finish over 3m at Kempton in the King George hardly guarantees 7/2 ante-post favourite Vautor or Cue Card (6/1) will be able to stay an extra quarter mile round Cheltenham, a far more stamina-sapping test.
Many Clouds, 25-lengths sixth in last season’s Festival feature, is the best horse Don Poli (9/2) has ever beaten, by a fair distance.
There are question marks over Don Cossack (9/2) in big fields which chasing’s 2016 blue riband is likely to boast and at Cheltenham where he has bombed in two previous appearances.
No More Heroes (10/1) is more likely to run in the RSA Chase, the race’s novice equivalent, while there is a cloud hanging over the yard of Road To Riches, the only other runner quoted at shorter than 33/1.
Noel Meade, who trained last year’s Gold Cup third, has saddled just four winners from 34 runners across the last two months in Ireland.
Given there are reservations over so many in front of him in the betting, odds of 40/1 about Jonjo O’Neill’s Holywell are bordering on farcically generous.
For most horses, form figures of 5,4, PU this season, with the two completions 23l and 33l behind the eventual winners would be a distinct negative.
However, O’Neill’s two-time Festival scorer has long been known to come to life as spring approaches, with six of his seven career wins between the beginning of February and the end of April
At least one of three horses to finish in front of him in last year’s Gold Cup will not be reopposing, while granted better ground than the soft he encountered in that contest, he could have easily been closer to the podium trio.
His 10l hammering of Don Cossack at Aintree in April 2014 (the Irish horse destroyed a Grade 1 field at the Merseyside track a year later) further vouches for the fact that faster ground will show him in a far better light.
It is not unreasonable to expect going of good-to-soft or better on the final day of the March spectacular.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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