It has been the second-season chasers that have taken the biggest strides in the ante-post betting for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Flemenstar’s success in the John Durkan Memorial Chase has seen him shorten into joint favourite at 4/1.
The market move follows something similar after Bobs Worth’s victory a week previous in the Hennessy Gold Cup, after which he was also positioned at 4/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
However, doubts can be thrown at both and a case can certainly be made that neither will have shortened further by March, when punters can benefit from more clues in picking a winner.
Flemenstar looked imperious when beating previous Gold Cup favourite Sir Des Champs in Ireland, but it should be remembered that the contest represented the seasonal reappearance of the latter and was over a substantially shorter trip than Cheltenham.
Therefore, Flemenstar still has to prove that he can stay 3m2f, while Cheltenham will pose additional demands in terms of its undulations.
Furthermore, Flemenstar is yet to compete outside of Ireland and there have been murmurs that doubts exist in relation to how well the horse will cope with travelling.
Bobs Worth does look the safer of the pair at the prices, given that he has already won at two Cheltenham Festivals and has the fight to surge up the final hill.
His concerns more relate to whether he is actually good enough to win, given that he received 6lb from Tidal Bay in the Hennessy but only beat him by just under four lengths.
A repeat of this level of form is unlikely to be enough to win what looks one of the hottest and most competitive Gold Cups in years, so he will need to improve further in the coming months.
The Betfair Chase has been the other guide to the Gold Cup thus far, with Silviniaco Conti proving he is ready to mix it with the big boys by beating Long Run and last season’s Cheltenham runner up The Giant Bolster.
Paul Nicholls knows the horse is best fresh and has hinted that the horse may now not run again until March.
If this does indeed happen, backing him at 7/1 looks a better ante-post proposition than the joint favourites.
The same can be said of Long Run at 7/1, especially if he wins the King George on Boxing Day.
The Betfair Chase was run slowly and turned into a bit of a sprint, which certainly did not suit Long Run and he may also be sharper for the display when reappearing next.
It would be no surprise if he won the King George, for which he is the 3/1 market leader.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.