Celebrating the Gold Cup: past, present & future
Friday 16th March 3:30
Cheltenham Gold Cup 2021
The ante-post market for the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup is, unsurprisingly, dominated by Al Boum Photo (6/1) and Santini (7/1), who finished first and second, separated by just a neck, in the 2020 renewal. A winner of six of his ten races over the larger obstacles, Al Boum Photo is seeking to become the first horse since Best Mate, in 2004, to complete a hat-trick in the 'Blue Riband' event and looks a worthy, if not invincible, favourite. Santini was disadvantaged by the moderate early pace in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup, but rallied gamely after being outpaced on the run to the second last and was gaining on Al Boum Photo, albeit steadily, at the finish; he has had just six starts over fences and, provided he turns up at Cheltenham fit and ready to do himself justice, he must have every chance once again.
Of the other horses that ran in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Lostintranslation (14/1) demonstrated the benefit of wind surgery following a dire effort in the King George VI at Kempton – in which he was pulled up three fences from home after suffering a breathing problem – by finishing a creditable third, beaten 1½ lengths. He travelled and jumped well throughout but, although he stayed on in the closing stages, he has yet to win beyond 3 miles 1½ furlongs – and, even then, in a single-figure field – which raises question marks about his stamina as a bona fide Cheltenham Gold Cup contender.
Others to consider towards the head of the ante post market include Champ (12/1) and Minella Indo (14/1), who fought out the finish of an above-average renewal of the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. Champ jumped less than fluently on that occasion, but demonstrated his tenacity by making up 8½ lengths on the leader from the final flight and producing a strong run in the final half a furlong or so to lead close home; his jumping needs to improve but, if it does, he has the potential to become a top-class steeplechaser. So, too, does Minella Indo, who looked all over the winner of the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase for much of the race, but lost momentum with an awkward jump at the final fence and could not match the speed of Champ in the closing stages. Already a Cheltenham Festival winner, having won the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, as a 50/1 outsider, in 2019, he should continue to prosper in his new discipline.
Of those at longer odds, Topofthegame (16/1) has been absent since April, 2019, after sustaining an injury when beaten favourite, behind Lostintranslation, in the Betway Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree. However, Paul Nicholls 8-year-old had previously beaten Santini by half-a-length in the
RSA Insurance Novices' Chase at the 2019, so probably shouldn't be written off just yet. Envoi Allen (50/1), billed as the Irish banker of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, duly collected in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle to extend his unbeaten record and will, almost certainly, contest the Cheltenham Gold Cup at some point in his career. However, for the time being, his connections are more likely to opt for the Marsh Novices' Chase or the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase as his next Cheltenham Festival assignment; even so, his ante post price for the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup is almost irresistible.