Cheltenham - At The Races

15:30 Cheltenham 17 Mar 2017

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5YO plus)

Winner £327,462 - 13 ran

4

3m 2f 70y

Good

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Weighed In

Runner Profiles

    Andy Gibson's horse-by-horse guide.
  • Tuesday 07 March 2017
  • Runner Profiles

I suspect that there is more than a chance that a Colin Tizzard horse will play a part in the finish of the 2017 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. After all, in Native River and Cue Card he currently houses two of the first three favourites for the race. Moreover, one would have to say that they both could be described as holding strong profiles for the Blue Riband event of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.

Horse profiles

Cue Card

  • 11-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: King's Theatre - Wicked Crack (King's Ride)
  • Trained by: C L Tizzard
  • Last Race: Aintree, 6 Apr 2017 14:50
  • Result: 2/7, tracked leaders, led 13th, ridden before 2 out, headed before last, kept on and held towards finish
  • View full form

On his latest outing in the Betfair Ascot Chase he did no more than the official handicap marks would have suggested when comprehensively beating the 156-rated Shantou Flyer and Royal Regatta who held a mark of 157 on that day. That said, he jumped and travelled well and won with plenty to spare from a group of rivals well below top-class. The sectional times of this race compared unfavourably with those of Tenor Nivernais (who ran over a longer trip). In fact the Venetia Williams horse would have finished only just behind him when comparing times from Cue Card's first fence to the winning line. It has to be said that the Colin Tizzard horse did win with plenty in hand; then again so did Tenor Nivernais. Cue Card put in five positive performances in a row before crying enough for the season at Punchestown last year. Therefore, one would have reason to hope that his Gold Cup chances will not be harmed by his Ascot success on soft ground which came less than four weeks before the big day.

In his penultimate start Cue Card was firmly put in his place by his stable companion Thistlecrack in the King George VI Chase. In my view he was going too fast for his own good on ground that was quicker than ideal at Kempton. This well beaten second place finish may have been of the same sort of level as his apparently disappointing run in the Charlie Hall Chase. He is simply not quick enough for good fast ground and the post-race talk of him being redirected to the Ryanair Chase was interesting. He may have won that race as a seven-year-old on good to soft going; I do not think I would have been too keen on his chances as an 11-year-old, however, especially if the ground rode faster than good to soft on the Thursday of the festival.

The possibility of him being redirected to the Ryanair Chase has thankfully been put to bed in the intervening weeks; the question of his suitability for competing on a fast surface, however, remains firmly in place. Personally, I believe he would be seen in his best light if competing on ground with some cut in it on the final day of the festival. At the same time I would still suggest that he has as good a chance as most in the race on good going; whether or not this is reflected appropriately in his current price of around 3/1 is a different matter altogether.

Video Form
27 Apr 2016:
29 Apr 2015:

Djakadam (FR)

  • 8-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Saint Des Saints - Rainbow Crest (Baryshnikov)
  • Trained by: W P Mullins
  • Last Race: Punchestown, 26 Apr 2017 17:30
  • Result: 2/6, tracked leaders in 3rd, went 2nd 4 out, ridden entering straight, led narrowly after 2 out, joined and mistake at last, kept on under pressure inside final furlong, headed and no extra close home
  • View full form

This Saint Des Saints gelding finished off his Cheltenham Festival preparations with a third-place finish in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in late December. He stayed on well off a slow pace on that day and should be better suited to the likely faster gallop at Cheltenham. In a perfect world he would appreciate softer ground than the yielding going which prevailed at Leopardstown. Conversely, the final time of the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup would suggest that a faster surface will hold few fears for him in a race run at a good gallop.

Djakadam has not set the world alight in either of his two chases this season; on the other hand Willie Mullins has managed to get him to the Gold Cup in the best of form for each of the last two seasons. The fact that he has completed in second place in the latest two renewals of this contest is a major point in his favour here; on the other hand, we also need to bear in mind that Djakadam has fallen in two of his four chases at Cheltenham.

I believe it is quite a close call as to which horse has the best chance of winning the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup; however, I do feel that Djakadam probably has the strongest claims of running his race and finishing thereabouts in the finish despite those two course falls to his name. I know that he recorded a time faster than standard in the 2016 renewal of this Grade 1 contest; nonetheless, I would still tend to mark Djakadam’s claims up further still if the Gold Cup was run on a soft surface.

Video Form
26 Apr 2017:
28 Dec 2016:
11 Dec 2016:
27 Apr 2016:
6 Dec 2015:

Native River (IRE)

  • 7-y-o; chestnut gelding
  • Breeding: Indian River - Native Mo (Be My Native)
  • Trained by: C L Tizzard
  • Last Race: Cheltenham, 17 Mar 2017 15:30
  • Result: 3/13, prominent, led 3rd, headed 7th, led 15th, not fluent 4 out, ridden and headed 2 out, stayed on under pressure flat but no impression on winner, went 2nd towards finish, lost 2nd post
  • View full form

The second Colin Tizzard-trained horse in the first three in the betting for the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup is, of course, Native River. He has developed into a most consistent and reliable top-class chaser during the course of this season in particular. He won the Grade 2 Denman Chase at Newbury in taking style on his most recent start. The level of this form closely matches that of the ill-fated Many Clouds via Le Mercurey who has now finished runner-up behind both horses. I am not sure how reliable this sort of comparison can be; nonetheless, at least it is a starting point for our thinking.

At Newbury this Indian River seven-year-old jumped well all the way as he led from start to finish. He appeared to be going less well than the runner up half way up the home straight but had plenty more to offer as he pulled clear to win with something to spare. Native River won this contest easily in the end on the back of a very different tactical ride. He has generally won races via his stamina whereas, in the Denman Chase, he waited in front before out speeding his rivals in the latter stages.

He won the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Welsh National in his previous chases this season which suggests that he will have no trouble coping with the hurly burly of a big field competitively run chase at the festival.

Whether or not he would quite have the pace to cope with the likes of Cue Card might be open to debate given the style of his Welsh National victory plus the fact that he was not thought quick enough to contest the 2016 RSA Chase.

He does appear to have improved significantly throughout the course of this season, however, and he is coming into the 2017 Cheltenham Festival as a progressive chaser in the best of form. Native River appears to have developed into an uncomplicated ride and it seems very likely that he will be on the premises in the latter stages of the Gold Cup; particularly as the race does appear to have very few viable contenders.

Video Form
27 Dec 2016:
10 Oct 2015:
29 Nov 2014:
30 Oct 2014:
10 Oct 2014:

Outlander

  • 9-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Stowaway - Western Whisper (Supreme Leader)
  • Trained by: G Elliott
  • Last Race: Punchestown, 26 Apr 2017 17:30
  • Result: PU/6, held up in 5th, dropped to last at 3rd, soon pushed along, ridden and weakened from 7th, behind when pulled up before 10th
  • View full form

This Gordon Elliot-trained gelding is currently trading at a single figure price for the Gold Cup. His place in the market is almost solely due to the quality of his latest victory in the Lexus Chase in late December. His success over both Don Poli and Djakadam at Leopardstown has understandably put him in the mix for the Gold Cup in many punters eyes.

On that last day Outlander was ridden to pick up the pieces and ended up picking up the biggest piece of all. We have plenty of evidence which states very clearly that Outlander is below the standard set by the best chasers around. His last time out performance was undoubtedly a career best effort and one to give him plenty of credit for. At the same time, I prefer to remember the vast majority of his runs which all strongly suggest that Outlander is unlikely to reproduce the apparent quality of this effort on another day.

It is possible that his Lexus victory was a case of him improving over a longer trip; personally I prefer the likelihood that it is just a case of him happening to be most suited to the way the race was run on that day. This notion is supported by his previous defeat to Zabana over a similar trip at Punchestown in April 2016. It is always possible that he will improve again and remain competitive until the latter stages of this contest; however, I would prefer to consider his overall profile rather than judge him purely on that last run. Consequently, there are at least four horses I would favour over Outlander in the current ante-post market for the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

When a horse puts up a performance that appears to be streets ahead of his previous best I think it can often be wise to remain a little sceptical. Outlander has done nothing in his previous nine chases to suggest that he could be anything other than a big outsider with a small chance of winning such a high profile race.

Video Form
26 Apr 2017:
28 Dec 2016:
11 Dec 2016:
17 Nov 2016:
5 Nov 2016:

Sizing John (GB)

  • 7-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Midnight Legend - La Perrotine (Northern Crystal)
  • Trained by: Mrs J Harrington
  • Last Race: Punchestown, 26 Apr 2017 17:30
  • Result: Won/6, held up in last, closer in 4th halfway, ridden in 3rd after 3 out, close 3rd when mistake 2 out, soon 2nd, improved to dispute lead at last, stayed on well run-in and edged ahead close home
  • View full form

I think that it is fair to say that, but for the presence of Douvan the Alan Potts-owned Sizing John form figures might well read: 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 3 2 1 1 1 – which would be the profile of a champion. He has outstanding form at the previous two Cheltenham Festivals; he is versatile regarding ground and has posted an excellent time in a high class two-and-a-half-mile contest at Thurles beating a short-priced favourite in Sub Lieutenant with very solid form.

Sizing John followed up that Thurles success with a narrow victory over Empire Of Dirt and Don Poli. At the time of writing Sizing John’s owners are undecided between the Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup for their charge. I suspect his Irish Gold Cup form still leaves him with plenty to find to be dangerous in the longer race. Consequently, I would rather see him take on Un De Sceaux and Uxizandre rather than Cue Card, Djakadam and Native River.

In the last two seasons Sizing John has run over the Christmas period and enjoyed a long break before performing to a high level at each of the latest two Cheltenham Festivals. Hopefully he will be okay in March on the back of a fairly recent run; nevertheless, he is yet to prove it. Therefore, it does add one minor question mark against his festival claims which needs to be borne in mind when assessing his appropriate place in the market whichever race he lines up in.

The other question he has to answer is of course whether or not he has the required stamina for the Gold Cup trip. The fact that he was able to narrowly win a slowly run Irish Gold Cup run on testing ground has little bearing on what will be required to succeed in a fast run Gold Cup, more than likely, run on a much quicker surface. Sizing John may be okay and indeed could improve for the longer trip; nonetheless, unlike two of his main rivals, he is yet to prove it on the racecourse.

Video Form
26 Apr 2017:
12 Feb 2017:
19 Jan 2017:
27 Dec 2016:
28 Apr 2016:

REST OF THE FIELD

At the time of writing Empire Of Dirt appears far more likely to take up his engagement in the Ryanair Chase on the third day of the festival. Both Don Poli and Minella Rocco seem far too slow to trouble the principals in a Gold Cup run on good ground. Conversely, their respective claims would increase significantly in the event of the heavens opening on Friday morning. I suspect it is a case of the softer the better for those two outsiders.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained Champagne West has won both his starts this year including an impressive looking victory in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park last time out. He made a very bad mistake at the fifth last fence on that day and I doubt he would get away with a similar error at Cheltenham. If everything fell into place for him on the day he might well have the ability to be competitive in the closing stages; nonetheless, he has jumped very poorly round Cheltenham on more than one occasion and I would much prefer to take a watching brief with him.

The two outsiders that are of slightly more interest are Bristol De Mai and More Of That. They are both currently trading at about 25/1 and if a big priced horse does outrun his price on the day I would suggest that it might well be one of this duo.

CONCLUSIONS

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup

At the time of writing the final decision as to the festival target of Sizing John has still yet to be confirmed. My personal preference would be to see him go for the shorter race as I believe he would have a much stronger chance of winning the Ryanair Chase compared to his Gold Cup claims. That said if he does line-up on the final day of the festival, in my opinion, Sizing John will have, at least, the fourth best chance of winning the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

I think there is a very strong possibility that the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup will be won by one of the front three in the market Cue Card, Native River and Djakadam – no surprise there. Whichever one of the three is the horse of your choice; I would suggest considering supporting your main wager with two straight forecasts to beat the other two. I do not think there is a lot of strength in depth in this contest; subsequently the potential Straight Forecast odds could be a more attractive proposition compared with a win only bet on your personal fancy.

NATIVE RIVER and DJAKADAM are currently available NRNB at 4/1 and 9/2 and I have played them as a strong looking duo in several each-way multiple lines.

Previous Winners

Year Winner Trainer Jockey Age/Wt SP
2016Don CossackG ElliottB J Cooper9 11-109/4f
2015ConeygreeM BradstockNico de Boinville8 11-107/1
2014Lord WindermereJ H CullotyD N Russell8 11-1020/1
2013Bobs WorthN J HendersonB J Geraghty8 11-1011/4f
2012SynchronisedJonjo O'NeillA P McCoy9 11-108/1
2011Long RunN J HendersonMr S Waley-Cohen6 11-107/2f
2010 Imperial Commander N A Twiston-Davies P J Brennan 9 11-10 7/1
2009 Kauto Star P Nicholls R Walsh 9 11-10 7/4f
2008 Denman P Nicholls S Thomas 8 11-10 9/4
2007 Kauto Star P Nicholls R Walsh 7 11-10 5/4f
2006 War Of Attrition M F Morris C O'Dwyer 7 11-10 15-2
2005 Kicking King T J Taaffe B Geraghty 7 11-10 4-1f
2004 Best Mate Miss H C Knight J Culloty 9 11-10 8-11f
2003 Best Mate Miss H C Knight J Culloty 8 12-0 13-8f
2002 Best Mate Miss H C Knight J Culloty 7 12-0 7-1
2001 No Race
2000 Looks Like Trouble N T Chance R Johnson 8 12-0 9-2
1999 See More Business P F Nicholls M Fitzgerald 9 12-0 16-1
1998 Cool Dawn R H Alner A Thornton 10 12-0 25-1
1997 Mr Mulligan N T Chance A P McCoy 9 12-0 20-1
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