It's the main event that everyone's talking about: the Gold Cup.
Last year's winner, Al Boum Photo, will head to Cheltenham Festival on 19 March with just one start under his belt this season, having won the Savills New Year's Day Chase on his January return – the same route trainer Willie Mullins plotted for his previous two victories in the Gold Cup.
The nine-year-old chaser could emulate Golden Miller, Arkle, Best Mate and Cottage Rake as the fifth horse to record a hat-trick in the festivals feature contest.
In order to win a third title, it might be reasonable to expect Al Boum Photo to have to run a bit better than he has to date – but perhaps not judged on more recent events.
He won by just a neck from Santini in last year's Gold Cup, with less than two lengths covering the first four – and that leaves precious little margin for error.
When is it?
The WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase is on Friday March 19.
What time is the race?
They go to post for the slightly earlier start time of 3:05pm this year. Races are 25 minutes earlier than usual as part of a reworked television schedule.
*All times listed are GMT
What TV channel is it on?
ITV will have live coverage fronted by Ed Chamberlin. For the first time ever, they will broadcast six of the seven daily races live due to the festival being staged behind closed doors.
Alternatively, you can visit Mirror Racing and return on the day to follow the race on our dedicated live blog.
What happened last year?
Willie Mullins' Al Boum Photo became the first horse since Best Mate to win back-to-back Gold Cups, jumping the last contesting the lead with Lostintranslation and surviving a late rally from tough stayer Santini.
Which horses are running?
Al Boum Photo: The defending champion. Has had just one run this season – at Tramore on New Year's Day – not running at Leopardstown last month, but Mullins said he has been through some "really hard work at home".
Champ: Won the RSA Chase in dramatic style at last season's festival, coming with a late charge to make up an eight-length deficit from the last. Has been an unreliable jumper in the past, but this department was promisingly strong when finishing second in the Betfair Game Spirit Chase at Newbury. That race is a mile and a quarter shorter than the Gold Cup – well short of his optimum trip.
A Plus Tard: Won the Christmas feature at Leopardstown, in which he proved his stamina for three miles with a relentless finish to overhaul rivals Kemboy and Melon. Will head straight to Cheltenham without another race.
Royale Pagaille: Three consecutive wins this season, including routing the field by 16 lengths in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock. "A lot of people probably have unfinished business with a race like the Gold Cup," said trainer Venetia Williams. "Anyway, it's a bit premature to be talking about that race at the moment."
Santini: A doughty stayer, but was beaten by both Bristol de Mai and Native River in the most recent outing at Sandown.
Native River : Winner of this race in 2018 and is not wanting for stamina. Will need the race to be run at a stronger pace than it was last year and will be doing a rain dance. Softer ground will almost certainly suit.
Frodon: Inseparable from jockey Bryony Frost. Won the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day in emphatic style at odds of 20-1, beating stablemates Clan Des Obeaux and Cyrname. Already has a Cheltenham Festival win on his CV after winning the Ryanair Chase in 2019.
Kemboy: Recorded a win in Ireland this season, but has disappointed on two previous outings in this race. Unseated his rider at the first fence in the 2019 Gold Cup and was never fluent when finishing in the middle of the pack last year.
Minella Indo: Irish rival to Al Boum Photo who has not shown much in the last two outings at Leopardstown, but has festival form. Second to Champ in last year's RSA chase and won the Albert Bartlett over three miles at 50-1 two years ago.
What are the odds?
Al Boum Photo heads the list of entries, as well as being the 11-4 favourite.
Jockeys are still yet to be confirmed.
6-1 A Plus Tard
14-1 Frodon, Santini, Kemboy, Royale Pagaille, Minella Indo
16-1 Native River
33-1 Lostintranslation, Melon, Imperial Aura
50-1 Samcro, Saint Calvados, Vinndication
66-1 Real Steel, Battleoverdoyen
100-1 Aso, Shattered Love, Magic Of Light, Burrows Saint, Black Op
* All odds are correct at the time of publishing. Please remember to gamble responsibly.
Source: Read Full Article