The 2023 Cheltenham Festival concludes on Friday, with the biggest race of them all off at 3.30pm in the shape of the Gold Cup. We’ve asked the boss man Russell P to put together his pin sticker guide for all 13 Gold Cup runners to help you make your selection when placing a bet on the big race…
*all odds correct as of Thursday lunchtime
1. Ahoy Senor – 18/1
Number one on the Gold Cup runners card is Ahoy Senor trained by Lucinda Russell and ridden by Derek Fox. The pair have already teamed up with success this week, landing the Ultima Handicap Chase on Day 1 of the Festival with Corach Rambler, who, incidentally, is the favourite for the Grand National in a few weeks’ time.
If Corach Rambler gives the Scottish trainer a chance of landing a second Grand National, Ahoy Senor is surely Lucinda Russell’s best chance of landing a Gold Cup. The popular 8yo has some to find on ratings, but a course winner here on Trials Day in the Cotswold Chase, the 16/1 chance on Friday also landed a Grade 1 at Aintree last spring.
2. A Plus Tard – 13/2
The Henry De Bromhead-trained A Plus Tard is the joint second favourite for the race at odds of 6/1 with Betfred. The 9yo was the impressive race winner 12 months ago, thrashing his rivals by 15 lengths when sent off the 3/1 favourite.
This will be the horse’s third run in the race, finishing second behind Minello Indo in 2021, joining a select club coming back to win a Gold Cup on their second visit.
This season’s form would be a concern, hence his price. On his one start back in November in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, he didn’t run any race pulling up, but he is the highest-rated horse in the race and jockey Rachel Blackmore will be hoping for repeat success on Friday.
3. Bravemansgame – 13/2
The Paul Nicholls-trained Bravesmangame is the highest-rated of the British-trained horses. This will be the horse’s first visit to Cheltenham since the 2021 Ballymore Hurdle, finishing third, with connections deciding to swerve Cheltenham for Aintree last season, where he disappointed trailing in last in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase behind Ahoy Senor.
However, the 8yo has bounced back this season, winning on both starts. An easy winner of the Charlie Hall Chase back in October, he routed the field in the Grade 1 King George on Boxing Day and comes here the 6/1 joint second favourite with every chance of being in the mix. Harry Cobden takes the ride.
4. Conflated – 14/1
Number 4 on the racecard is the Gordon Elliott-trained Conflated. The 9yo has five wins from his 14 chase starts, the highlight being his surprise win in last season’s Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
That win saw him sent off at 7/1 for last year’s Gold Cup, where he was a faller two from home.
He narrowly missed out on Grade 1 success at Aintree on his next start in the Bowl and was last seen winning at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting in the Grade 1 Savills Chase. He’s a 14/1 chance for the Gold Cup with Betfred, and Davy Russell will take the ride, a winner of this race aboard Lord Windermere nine years ago.
5. Eldorado Allen – 100/1
The Joe Tizzard-trained Eldorado Allen is the outsider of the field. The 9yo has some course form, but the majority of his success has come over shorter trips, and he’s yet to show signs of taking to a step up in trip. Beaten twice this season by Bravemansgame by a total of 25 lengths, he was well beaten into second in poor looking Betfair Chase in the Autumn.
A poor effort in the Denman Chase last time out at Newbury, the layers at Betfred don’t give him much chance here at 125/1. Brendan Powell takes the ride.
6. Galopin Des Champs – 15/8
Race-favourite Galopin Des Champs head the 2023 Cheltenham runners for Willie Mullins. The 15/8 shot is potentially the most exciting horse at this year’s Festival, which is something given how well we’ve seen Constitution Hill and Energumene romp up in the Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase respectively on days one and two.
Why is the 7yo so exciting? Just watch back to last year’s Turners Novices’ Chase, where he was destroying the field by 12 lengths before coming down at the last. That blip doesn’t seem to have slowed down his progress however, winning a month later in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse by 18 lengths and imperious in his two starts this season, landing two Grade 1s in Ireland by a combined 21 lengths.
In fact, since winning at the Festival in the Martin Pipe as a five-year-old in 202, he’s been sent off an odds-on favourite in six of his next seven starts (he was 13/8F on the other occasion), amassing 82 lengths of victories in those six wins with last year’s Cheltenham fall the only blip.
What we’re saying here is that he’s the horse to beat here and providing he makes it around safely it’s hard to see him out of the frame.
Trainer Willie Mullins had to wait years for his first Gold Cup winner with Al Boum Photo in 2019, who, much like buses, followed up again in 2022. Galopin Des Champs represents his best chance of winning a third Gold Cup, with Paul Townend in the saddle.
7. Hewick – 33/1
If Galopin Des Champs is the most exciting horse in the race, Hewick comes here with the best story.
The eight-year-old trained by ‘Shark’ Hanlon jumped to prominence when winning the valuable Gold Cup handicap at Sandown in April last year, following up that success by winning the Galway Plate in the summer and the American Grand National in Maryland.
His trainer is one of the sport’s great characters and whilst the Betfred layers make him an outsider here at 28/1, connections would bring the house down if they can finish in the places.
Whilst the rain at the course this week may have lengthened the horse’s chances of success, it won’t dampen his connection’s enthusiasm and excitement on Friday.
8. Minella Indo – 20/1
Henry De Bromhead has two runners in the race (the other being A Plus Tard), both of which are former winners, with Minella Indo landing success here in 2021.
Now 10 years old, that Gold Cup victory was his last up until this season, when he won a Grade 3 at Tramore on New Year’s Day. Beaten 15 lengths behind stablemate A Plus Tard in last year’s renewal, he pulled up in the King George and Punchestown Gold Cup last season.
It seems a stretch that he can reclaim his crown on Friday, and the odds reflect this at 20/1. Mark Walsh takes the ride.
9. Noble Yeats – 8/1
Towards the top of the betting is last year’s winner of the Grand National, Noble Yeats, at 8/1.
Sean Bowen takes the ride for Emmet Mullins 167 rated 8yo who has been seen out four times since that victory last year at Aintree.
Pulling up on their seasonal debut in France, he bounced back with two wins at the end of last year, a Listed contest at Wexford and then the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase at Aintree. He was pushed up half a stone in the ratings after that win and could only finish third here at Cheltenham on trials day (behind Ahoy Senor and Sounds Russian).
He was giving weight that day but was outpaced before four out, and you feel he’d need this to be a hard-ridden pace for him to have a chance of winning. He may well stay on for a place if once again gets outpaced here.
10. Protektorat – 14/1
The Irish raiders dominate the betting, with five of the top six trained in Ireland. 14/1 chance Protektorat represents the UK’s second-best chance however of scoring here, according to the odds (14/1).
Harry and Dan Skelton have already had a winner this week with Langer Dan in the Coral Cup on Wednesday, and on his best form the 8yo has a chance of making the frame on Friday.
Third in the race last year, he landed the Grade 1 Betfair Chase in November. That form hasn’t necessarily stacked up, though; with A Plus Tard, who pulled up when uncharacteristically lacklustre, the race didn’t have much depth beyond those two.
Fourth on his only appearance this year, behind rivals Ahoy Senor, Sounds Russian and Noble Yeats, albeit top-weight is a concern sent off a 5/4 favourite. The top of the Irish contingency could prove too strong.
11. Royale Pagaille – 40/1
The 40/1 Royale Pagaille is one of the outsiders, but at a price might be worth a small each-way play.
Trainer Venetia Williams is a shrewd operator whose horses love cut in the ground. He was second in the Grade 1 King George when given little chance, picking off horses who couldn’t go the pace and could potentially do likewise here.
The 9yo was fifth in the race last year and campaigned lightly this season with just the one run he’ll be fresh. Charlie Deutsch takes the mount.
12. Sounds Russian – 28/1
Ruth Jefferson trains outsider Sounds Russian, who lines up at 25/1 with Betfred.
The eight-year-old has finished in the top four on all of his starts this season, winning a Limited Handicap at Kelso and second on his last two starts, finishing behind Ahoy Senor on the last day; he’s been raised four pounds at the ratings but still has 10-20lbs to find on the market leaders and could find the going too tough here.
Sean Quinlan will be in the saddle.
13. Stattler – 9/1
The last of the Cheltenham Gold Cup runners is a 9/1 chance Stattler for Willie Mullins.
A winner of three of his five starts over fences, he was successful at the Festival last year, landing the National Hunt Challenge Cup impressively. The 8yo has been playing second fiddle to Galopin Des Champs on the course and most probably at home, beaten eight lengths the last time he ran in the Irish Gold Cup.
Probably more of an each-way play here, but we know he’ll get the trip and relish Friday’s conditions. Patrick Mullins takes the ride for his father.
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