Having threatened to appear like an easy rematch between final yr’s entrance two, the Cheltenham Gold Cup market has been blown large open over the Christmas interval.
The early season betting was dominated by defending champion Minella Indo and stablemate from the Henry de Bromhead yard A Plus Tard, with an absence of apparent risks stepping up from novice firm following the harm to Willie Mullins’ Monkfish.
But, within the area of three days in late December, the picture has modified considerably with Minella Indo failing to complete within the King George VI Chase at Kempton and Galvin stripping A Plus Tard of his Savills Chase crown at Leopardstown.
- Al Boum Photo kicks off Gold Cup prep at Tramore
- Minella Indo ‘shook’ after disappointing King George journey
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Here is a have a look at the primary Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders and how they stand going into 2022…
A Plus Tard (7/2 Sky Bet)
Last yr’s runner-up shot to the highest of the market after a vastly spectacular reappearance in November, profitable the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock by an attention grabbing 22 lengths.
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On paper that represented the strongest type of the season, however a deeper look finds that Royale Pagaille, in second, completed with an harm, whereas Bristol De Mai was unsuited by the unseasonably dry floor.
Nevertheless, hopes would have been excessive among the many Henry de Bromhead camp as they returned to Leopardstown to defend the Savills Chase title, solely to be collared late on by Gordon Elliott’s Galvin.
There is not any nice disgrace in that defeat and A Plus Tard’s Festival kind reads: 1st, third, 2nd so he’s nonetheless a secure guess to win the primary prize in March.
Galvin (left) and A Plus Tard tussle it out all the best way to the road within the Savills Chase
The most dramatic market mover within the Gold Cup discipline, Galvin has shot into competition after that late surge beneath Davy Russell was sufficient to catch A Plus Tard on the line.
Many had anticipated Galvin to go down the Grand National route this season – he stays the 14/1 ante-post favorite for the Aintree showpiece – after profitable the three-mile-and-six-furlong slog that’s the National Hunt Chase on the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.
After a victorious return in mid-October at Grade Three degree, Galvin first proved he might combine it with the perfect when chasing residence Frodon within the Grade One Down Royal Champion Chase.
Elliott now has a serious Gold Cup hopeful and has responded by confirming that Galvin shall be wrapped in cotton wool and head straight to the primary occasion in March.
Galvin is ante-post favorite for the Grand National in April
Minella Indo (8/1)
The defending champion was broadly forgiven for his first begin of the brand new season when ending third behind Frodon and Galvin at Down Royal, however his newest effort has many now scratching their head.
De Bromhead mentioned his eight-year-old, who additionally received on the Festival in 2019 earlier than end second in 2020, returned from Kempton “shook”, having rapidly weakened out of competition and ultimately pulled up by Rachael Blackmore.
It may have made for worrying viewing for many who have backed Minella Indo to repeat his Gold Cup heroics as De Bromhead and the group now need to regroup and reassess their choices.
Jack Kennedy and Minella Indo win the Gold Cup at an empty Cheltenham in March 2021
Al Boum Photo (14/1)
The statisticians will say 2019 and 2020 champion Al Boum Photo merely cannot win the 2022 Gold Cup.
For a begin, Kauto Star is the one horse within the race’s 97-year historical past to relinquish the title, earlier than profitable it again a yr later. You additionally should return to Cool Dawn in 1998 for the final 10-year-old winner.
Willie Mullins’ star shall be celebrating that actual birthday as he returns to the monitor for the Savills New Year’s Day Chase at Tramore, a contest he has received three years in a row as the one and solely cease en path to Cheltenham.
This season’s efficiency, extra so than some other, will go a protracted approach to telling followers how a lot life is left in Al Boum Photo’s legs.
Al Boum Photo returns to motion at Tramore on January 1
Tornado Flyer (14/1)
Very a lot the brand new child on the block, Tornado Flyer actually shook issues up with a shock 28/1 victory within the King George for Willie Mullins.
Having been properly crushed on his solely earlier begin over three miles within the 2020 Savills Chase, it’s simple to see why so many missed the eight-year-old at Kempton.
A string of 9 runs with out a victory had preceded his Grade One success, which got here courtesy of a high-quality Danny Mullins trip from the again of the sector.
Similar hold-up techniques have labored in previous Gold Cups with the likes of Synchronised and Lord Windermere however it will be an enormous ask for Tornado Flyer to repeat the feat at Cheltenham.
Tornado Flyer and Danny Mullins after touchdown the 2021 King George VI Chase at Kempton
Leading the British challenge within the Gold Cup appears to be like set to be Dan Skelton’s Protektorat who relatively burst into the picture with a runaway success within the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree in December.
At simply six-years-old and as a second-season chaser, he appears to be like to have probably the most room for enchancment, however would want simply that to compete with the established expertise on supply.
John Hales, who owns the horse in partnership with Sir Alex Ferguson, has lengthy dreamed of Gold Cup glory and made no secret of their goal after victory at Aintree.
Protektorat (crimson cap) jumps the final at Aintree alongside Phoenix Way and Hitman
Perhaps the most important enigma of all of them, Champ undoubtedly has the flexibility to win a Gold Cup, as he confirmed when making a superb profitable return within the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December.
Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old, named after legendary rider AP McCoy, produced probably the most exceptional ending burst to beat Minella Indo and Allaho – each subsequent Festival winners – within the 2020 RSA Novices’ Chase, however issues simply didn’t go to plan final season.
Champ and Jonjo O'Neill maintain off Tom O'Brien and Thyme Hill to land the Howden Long Walk Hurdle
A rushed, and frankly weird, preparation for final yr’s Gold Cup was adopted by a collection of poor jumps within the race itself, which Henderson later put down to again points, resulting in surgical procedure.
Having proved his wellbeing, stamina and engine are all very a lot intact, the query now for Champ is the place will he find yourself in March? The Stayers Hurdle route could properly show too tempting, however connections say “all options are open”.