The Cheltenham Gold Cup 2021: your comprehensive guide

Our colleague Luke, a seasoned observer and racehorse owner, has produced an in-depth study of the runners facing the starter for the Blue Riband of Cheltenham Festival events – Friday’s Gold Cup.

I’m editing an abridged bite-sized version for your enjoyment right here – and for you diehard aficionados and students of form, Luke’s article in its entirety is included at the foot of this piece. So – without further ado …

The time has come for the big one.

The Gold Cup headlines Friday’s action at the Cheltenham Festival, and there’s plenty of stories that could be written at the conclusion of the 3:05pm.

We’ve already had some fantastic performances throughout the week, with Honeysuckle scoring in the Champion Hurdle under all-conquering Rachael Blackmore, Tiger Roll bouncing back spectacularly in the Cross Country, and Appreciate It romping home imperiously in the Supreme.

But – who will take home the biggest Cheltenham Festival prize of them all?

Every trainer, jockey and owner wants to win it, and every punter wants to make sure they’re ‘on’ the winner too, which is why Betfred are offering 4 places (1/5 odds) on this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

So, with 12 runners declared to go to post, let’s assess their chances with our runner-by-runner guide.

 

 

Al Boum Photo

Verdict: Trainer Willie Mullins was still searching for his first ever Gold Cup heading into the 2019 renewal, but now in 2021, he attempts to grab his third thanks to the hat-trick seeking Al Boum Photo (above). This talented 9yo would be the first horse since Best Mate to land three Gold Cups.

A Plus Tard

Verdict: One of the young guns in this race, A Plus Tard will aim to become the third 7yo in five years to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, joining Sizing John in 2017 and Al Boum Photo in 2019. Owned by Cheveley Park Stud, they have already enjoyed a good week with Sir Gerhard winning the Champion Bumper and Allaho winning the Ryanair.

 

 

Champ

Verdict: JP McManus hasn’t won the Gold Cup since Synchronised in 2012, but has a really live contender in Champ (above). He was bought to win this race and showed his appetite for this kind of distance when flying home to land the RSA in the shadows of the winning post last season.

Royalle Pagaille

Verdict: Improved out of sight to go unbeaten this season, including the Grade Two Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock by 16 lengths last time. Owned by the Ricci family, they have long had aspirations of winning the Gold Cup, so it’s no surprise that he took his chance here rather than in the National Hunt Chase.

Minella Indo

Verdict: Minella Indo was second favourite in the ante-post market for the Gold Cup for most of this season, but has run disappointingly the last twice and has now drifted to an each-way price.

Santini

Verdict: Came close to winning the Gold Cup when beaten by a neck last year, but has been less convincing in his preparation this season and it’s hard to see him getting as close this time.

Frodon

Verdict: Quite simply, you write off Frodon at your peril. His record around Cheltenham since the start of the 2018/19 season reads 211141, and that includes a victory in Ryanair Chase.

Kemboy

Verdict: If the ground is anything like good come the start of the Gold Cup then that would have to enhance the chances of Kemboy. He’s a horse that shows his best on better ground, and although he’s often run below par at Cheltenham he’d have to be considered after winning the Irish Gold Cup last time and coming 2nd in the Savills Chase before that.

 

 

Native River

Verdict: It’s not easy to win a Gold Cup, and then come back a few years later to try and win it again, but that’s the task that awaits Native River (above, nearside). The Colin Tizzard-trained gelding was an excellent winner of the Cotswold Chase at Sandown last time, but he got his favoured conditions that day, and the drying ground might not play to his strengths.

Lostintranslation

Verdict: Clearly talented on his day as he showed when finishing 3rd in the Gold Cup last year, Lostintranslation has just had a season to forget this term. Like many of the Tizzard horses, they haven’t run to form, and winning the Gold Cup seems unlikely.

Aso

Verdict: A solid horse on his day, Aso has some good results to his name at Cheltenham, but might not be suited to this testing 3m2f. He was well beaten by Cloth Cap over 2m7½f at Kelso last time, and prior to that was a narrow second by Two For Gold over 2m4f at Warwick. It would be hard to see him getting competitive in this.

Black Op

Verdict: Much like Aso, Black Op is a horse that hasn’t quite shown his best form over this distance, with runner-up efforts at Cheltenham to Santini over 2m4½f, and Samcro in the 2018 Ballymore. Those were both over hurdles and given his has only won one beginners’ chase over fences, it’s would be a huge shock for him to even land a place in the Gold Cup.

Full Gold Cup betting, four places each-way, with Betfred

 

And for you serious race buffs …. here’s the unabridged version for you to enjoy.

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2021: Runner-by-runner

Al Boum Photo

9-y-o, bay gelding

Form: /211-1

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Jockey: Paul Townend

Verdict: Trainer Willie Mullins was still searching for his first-ever Gold Cup heading into the 2019 renewal, but now in 2021, he attempts to grab his third thanks to the hat-trick seeking Al Boum Photo. This talented 9yo would be the first horse since Best Mate to land three Gold Cups, and has followed the same preparation this term as he did when landing the race last year. All seems to be well at home, and he remains the one to beat.

A Plus Tard

7-y-o, bay gelding

Form: 213-21

Trainer: Henry De Bromhead

Jockey: Rachael Blackmore

Verdict: One of the young guns in this race, A Plus Tard will aim to become the third 7yo in five years to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, joining Sizing John in 2017 and Al Boum Photo in 2019. Owned by Cheveley Park Stud, they have already enjoyed a good week with Sir Gerhard winning the Champion Bumper and Allaho winning the Ryanair, but this talented gelding could top the lot. His form over shorter distances has proved to be very classy, but a step up to three miles in the Savills Chase at Christmas was perhaps his best performance yet. He’s clearly unexposed at this trip, and with a Cheltenham Festival win already in the bag via the Close Brothers in 2019, he is a serious danger to Al Boum Photo’s crown.

Champ

9-y-o, bay gelding

Form: 11F1-2

Trainer: Nicky Henderson

Jockey: Nico de Boinville

Verdict: JP McManus hasn’t won the Gold Cup since Synchronised in 2012, but has a really live contender in Champ. He was bought to win this race and showed his appetite for this kind of distance when flying home to land the RSA in the shadows of the winning post last season. This term hasn’t been quite so straightforward, with his only outing coming over 2½ miles at Newbury. He gave a great account of himself to finish 2nd over that inadequate trip, but given the Nicky Henderson team have been fairly quiet by their standards this week, you’d be a little cautious about his chances. A market check will be key.

Royalle Pagaille

7-y-o, bay gelding

Form: 23-111

Trainer: Venetia Williams

Jockey: Charlie Deutsch

Verdict: Improved out of sight to go unbeaten this season, including the Grade Two Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock by 16 lengths last time. Owned by the Ricci family, they have long had aspirations of winning the Gold Cup, so it’s no surprise that he took his chance here rather than in the National Hunt Chase. However, every one of his 15 starts in the UK or France have come on soft or heavier, so the drying ground would be a huge concern on his first trip to Cheltenham. Others appeal more.

Minella Indo

7-y-o, bay gelding

Form: 2-11F4

Trainer: Henry De Bromhead

Jockey: Jack Kennedy

Verdict: Minella Indo was second favourite in the ante-post market for the Gold Cup for most of this season, but has run disappointingly the last twice and has now drifted to an each-way price. You get the feeling you should write him off at your peril though, because despite running flat last time, he has run two stormers at the Festival and was unlucky not to be the RSA winner last year. Course form counts for a lot around Cheltenham and it would be no surprise to see him bounce back.

Santini

9-y-o, bay gelding

Form: 12-253

Trainer: Nicky Henderson

Jockey: Aidan Coleman

Verdict: Came close to winning the Gold Cup when beaten by a neck last year, but has been less convincing in his preparation this season and it’s hard to see him getting as close this time. Like some others in this field, his best form has come on softer ground, so the drier conditions would also be a concern for him, despite him getting some good shouts from tipsters across the Cheltenham preview nights.

Frodon

9-y-o, bay gelding

Form: 14-141

Trainer: Paul Nicholls

Jockey: Bryony Frost

Verdict: Quite simply, you write off Frodon at your peril. His record around Cheltenham since the start of the 2018/19 season reads 211141, and that includes a victory in Ryanair Chase. However, he’s had arguably his best preparation for the Festival, because other than a 4th place finish which saw fences removed at Aintree, he’s unbeaten this season – with his latest victory coming in the King George VI Chase at Kempton. He got an easy lead that day, but if Bryony can get him in his usual jumping rhythm around a track he loves, he’s a definite each-way player for a yard that has won this race four times since 1999.

Kemboy

9-y-o, bay gelding

Form: 27-221

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Jockey: Danny Mullins

Verdict: If the ground is anything like good come the start of the Gold Cup then that would have to enhance the chances of Kemboy. He’s a horse that shows his best on better ground, and although he’s often run below par at Cheltenham he’d have to be considered after winning the Irish Gold Cup last time and coming 2nd in the Savills Chase before that.

Native River

11-y-o, chestnut gelding

Form: /11-31

Trainer: Colin Tizzard

Jockey: Richard Johnson

Verdict: It’s not easy to win a Gold Cup, and then come back a few years later to try and win it again, but that’s the task that awaits Native River. The Colin Tizzard-trained gelding was an excellent winner of the Cotswold Chase at Sandown last time, but he got his favoured conditions that day, and the drying ground might not play to his strengths.

Lostintranslation

9-y-o, bay gelding

Form: P3-3P5

Trainer: Colin Tizzard

Jockey: Robbie Power

Verdict: Clearly talented on his day as he showed when finishing 3rd in the Gold Cup last year, Lostintranslation has just had a season to forget this term. Like many of the Tizzard horses they haven’t run to form, and winning the Gold Cup seems unlikely.

Aso

11-y-o, bay gelding

Form: 7-7F22

Trainer: Daryl Jacob

Jockey: Venetia Williams

Verdict: A solid horse on his day, Aso has some good results to his name at Cheltenham but might not be suited to this testing 3m2f. He was well beaten by Cloth Cap over 2m7½f at Kelso last time, and prior to that was a narrow second to Two For Gold over 2m4f at Warwick. It would be hard to see him getting competitive in this.

Black Op

10-y-o, brown gelding

Form: 22-496

Trainer: Tom Scudamore

Jockey: Tom George

Verdict: Much like Aso, Black Op is a horse that hasn’t quite shown his best form over this distance, with runner-up efforts at Cheltenham to Santini over 2m4½f and Samcro in the 2018 Ballymore. Those were both over hurdles and given his has only won one beginners’ chase over fences, it’s would be a huge shock for him to even land a place in the Gold Cup.

Full Gold Cup betting, four places each-way, with Betfred

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