Two of the four Championship races at the Cheltenham Festival look uncompetitive affairs by virtue of one runner seemingly being head and shoulders above their rivals on all known form.
The two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase looks to be at the mercy of Un De Sceau. The French-bred Irish-trained runner is currently quoted at 4/6. With a career record of 14 wins and two falls from 16 race starts the only thing that can conceivably beat him is his jumping.
Thistlecrack has dispatched every rival put in front of him and the best odds of 5/4 about him winning the World Hurdle will soon disappear if and when Annie Power (7/2 second favourite) is re-routed to the Champion Hurdle as many people are predicting.
That diversion will surely come about due to the defection of Faugheen (who was a prohibitive 4/11 favourite) from the Champion Hurdle due to injury. The defending champion has never raced against Annie Power, who is in the same ownership and hails from the same stable, but as her 2/1 odds indicate she is more than a worthy replacement.
It must be pointed out Annie Power’s only two defeats in a 15-race career have both come at the Cheltenham Festival. You have been warned!
Don Cup King?
Mercifully the Cheltenham Gold Cup is shaping up as one of the most competitive renewals of Festival’s showpiece contest that we have seen in well over decade.
Topping the bookmakers lists is Don Cossack, the Irish-trained horse who was unlucky not win at least year’s Festival (losing all momentum when badly hampered in the Ryanair Chase) and the most probable winner of this season’s King George before falling two fences from home.
Those two blips apart, the nine-year-old is unbeaten in eleven starts. Cue Card, who has been a much improved racehorse since an off-season operation for a breathing problem (according to his trainer), won at King George. And, with an additional prior victory in the Betfair Chase, he will net his connections a £1m bonus if winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Another piece in the Gold Cup Jigsaw is Vautour, who is a lightly raced chaser that finished a narrow runner-up to Cue Card in the King George on Boxing Day. He didn’t look like he truly stayed the 3-mile trip that day and the Gold Cup, being a longer race, is even more demanding. With an alternative race potentially on his Cheltenham radar (Ryanair Chase) Vautour is reluctantly discarded from calculations.
The fourth and final horse priced under 7/1 is last year’s Gold Cup runner-up, Djakadam. Only seven and, like Vautour, from the Willie Mullins’ academy he potentially has a lot of improvement in him.
When it is all said and done there is one line of form which is all-telling: April 29th 2015 and the Punchestown Gold Cup. Here Don Cossack trounced Djakadam by seven lengths with an additional eight lengths back to Cue Card. Yes Cue Card may be a better horse than he was last season and Djakadam is young enough to find plenty of improvement. But the eyes believe themselves while ears believe other people.
Review that Punchestown race and like me you will probably head off to back Don Cossack in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup with confidence.