The Cheltenham Gold Cup is always a hotly anticipated contest. But this year’s renewal of the Festival’s blue-riband event looks hotter than ever with a magnificent seven main contenders all vying for supremacy.
Willie Mullins took home the famous old pot for the very first time in 2019 with Al Boum Photo. He’ll face competition from the likes of Santini, Delta Work and Lostintranslation in this year’s star-studded renewal.
Here we run through the seven frontrunners ahead of the 2020 Gold Cup…
Al Boum Photo
Not many people fancied Al Boum Photo for the Gold Cup 12 months ago, including us. The then-seven-year-old went off as a 12/1 shot and was third favourite of the Mullins string behind Kemboy and Bellshill.
But while the first and second string failed to finish, and favourite Presenting Percy looked well off the pace in 8th, Al Boum Photo showed the quality and stamina required of a true Gold Cup champion.
He’s followed the same route to the Festival this time around with a win on reappearance at Tramore. And having proved his credentials last year, he could now become the first back-to-back winner since Best Mate.
Santini started the season at around 12/1 for the Gold Cup. But after undergoing wind surgery in November he put in a much-improved jumping display to win the Cotswold Chase from Bristol De Mai in January.
Nicky Henderson’s charge has plenty of experience at the Festival, too, finishing third in the 2018 Albert Bartlett and then runner-up in the 2019 RSA Chase. But can he now take that forward into the big one?
There’s a feeling that we’re still yet the full scope of what Santini has to offer, and if the eight-year-old really does have all the gears, he could be a serious danger. Good ground, however, would damage his chances.
If you’re a form backer then this is the one you’re on. Delta Work has gone from strength-to-strength this season, following up victory in the Savills Chase by staying on expertly to win the Irish Gold Cup in February.
Those are two huge performances against a clutch of Cheltenham Gold Cup rivals. He has Prestbury Park form in the book as well after winning the Pertemps in 2018 and finishing third in last year’s RSA behind Santini.
This will be tougher than anything that’s come before. And while he has a live chance, the loss of regular jockey Jack Kennedy through injury could weaken his credentials, even if Mark Walsh is an ample deputy.
After a hugely impressive Novice campaign over fences last time around, including a runner-up spot in the JLT at Cheltenham, Lostintranslation has been the talk of the town for large swathes of the current season.
That was until the eight-year-old put in an absolute stinker at 13/8 in the King George on Boxing Day. Colin Tizzard’s hopeful was pulled up at Kempton in what admittedly looks like an outlier against his other form.
Connections reported a breathing problem after that run. And while he’s had a wind-op since, the Sherborne inmate comes to Cheltenham without a prep-run, which ultimately was not in the original plan.
Clan Des Obeaux
Clan Des Obeaux is in danger of suffering from Silviniaco Conti syndrome. The latter, now retired, won a pair of Ladbrokes King George titles at Kempton but came up short in the Gold Cup on three separate occasions.
Paul Nicholls’ new hopeful took his own King George tally to two on Boxing Day last year. Now he’ll need to prove he can do it going left-handed after finishing 11l back in the 2019 Gold Cup, although not disgraced.
The Ditcheat trainer has opted to give Clan a clear run to this year’s Festival. Given the eight-year-old’s ability to run well after a break, could that be the key to unlocking further improvement later this month?
Forget ITV Racing. You could make an ITV drama out of Kemboy’s last 18 months. The Mullins-trained star was pulled up in last year’s Gold Cup and was then banned from competing at all at the start of the season.
That was due to an issue with his ownership syndicate which has since been resolved. But it has arguably left the Voix Du Nord gelding one run short of where connections hoped he would be ahead of the Gold Cup.
Nevertheless, his prep has been decent enough with a pair of runner-up berths behind Delta Work. He’ll need to reverse that form on the big day, though, while he still faces questions over his often suspect jumping.
Sent off as the 100/3 favourite for last year’s Gold Cup, an unorthodox preparation ultimately told its own story 12 months ago as Presenting Percy looked well below his best when recording an eight place finish.
This year’s prep has been much more straightforward, even if it hasn’t produced a victory. That won’t matter to anyone who fancies him, however, with the proof in the pudding at past Cheltenham Festivals.
Presenting Percy relishes the challenge that Prestbury Park presents. He won the Pertemps in 2017 and romped home in the 2018 RSA. If Pat Kelly has him right this time around, he has more than a live chance.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication