Quel Esprit looks best of weak Irish Cheltenham Gold Cup continent

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There seems to be a major shortage in suitable Irish challengers in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but if any runners from across the sea are to run into the each-way positions, the most likely looks to be Quel Esprit.

The victory of Synchronised, the early favourite in the Grand National 2012 betting, in the Lexus Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting looks the best indication that there is a weakness in Irish stayers at present.

Synchronised finished ahead of the previously highly touted Rubi Light and Quito De La Roque, who were considered to be potential Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders.

The pair are still both largely expected to take part in the highlight of the Cheltenham Festival and are 25/1 and 20/1 respectively to become the first Irish-trained Cheltenham Gold Cup winner since War Of Attrition in 2006.

However, with Ladbrokes offering a refunded stake on all non runners in four Cheltenham races, including the Gold Cup, it may pay to take a chance on Quel Esprit being a slightly surprise entrant.

After a terribly unlucky 2011 when falling or being brought down in three Grade One races, he has since won his last two starts.

Trainer Willie Mullins has been careful with his race selections by focusing on fields of small runners and a standard below where Quel Esprit would be competing at his best.

Mullins is tempted to run Quel Esprit in the Irish Hennessy next month and another solid jumping display here would certainly give him an each-way chance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup odds.

Quel Esprit is also 20/1 to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and has shown previously that he has the stamina to see out the 3m2f.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.