Still time for one more Cheltenham Gold Cup contender to emerge

Not since 2000 has the winner of the Cotswold Chase gone on to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory that same season, but this Saturday Willie Mullins will be hoping Djakadam can take the first steps to end that duck.

The John Durkan Memorial Chase winner is a 2/5 chance to land Saturday’s feature and currently sits atop the Gold Cup betting as the 7/2 jolly.

Going one better than his one-and-a-half lengths second to Coneygree at the Festival is well within his reach, and in truth, he should oblige in this warm up for the big one fairly easily.

However his opponents at Prestbury Park this weekend will be no mugs, and it could be that one more challenger for the big one could yet emerge.

Rebecca Curtis’ O’Faolains Boy returned to the winner’s enclosure for the first time in 21 months in style at Newbury before Christmas, bounding clear of the useful Sausalito Sunrise.

He is reportedly well set for this return to Cheltenham ahead of a crack at the Gold Cup for which he is priced at 25/1.

There could be reason to take that price now if you believe the nine-year-old has an outside chance of glory in the big one.

Firstly, some of those ahead of him in the Gold Cup betting might not even line up.

Unlikely as it is that they all turn up elsewhere but should Vautour (4/1) and Road To Riches (14/1) who are shorter prices for the Ryanair and RSA Chase favourite No More Heroes (10/1) come out of the betting O’Faolains Boy would be fifth-favourite at the current odds.

He probably won’t even need to win on Saturday to see his price contract for the big one, just run well and give Djakadam a race of sorts.

His two runs at Cheltenham bode well for him as well, having finished fourth in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and claiming the RSA Chase from Smad Place who could re-oppose at the weekend.

A true test is likely to be his bread and butter as well with the two aforementioned successes and a triumph in the 2014 Reynoldstown Chase making up three of his four runs at three miles or further.

The final run of that quartet came when well beaten at Aintree following his Festival success. It might worth ignoring that run with the possibility that the outing came too soon after Cheltenham and was the cause of the injury that kept him off for 19 months subsequently.

A classy performer on his day, he will need to improve massively to win on Saturday, let alone at the Festival, but with doubts about the participation of others in both races and the fact that he looks to be returning to his peak, it could be that he is an integral part of the British resistance to the Irish raiders on March 18.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.