Djakadam – 7/2
Don Poli – 4/1
Don Cossack – 11/2
Cue Card – 6/1
We may still be a way off this year's Cheltenham Festival but already Betfair have gone Non Runner No Bet on the Gold Cup which means that there is plenty of value to be had for those of you willing to take an early chance.
With 32 entries on the list of potential runners, the final line-up will likely be half that number and will definitely not include the 2015 Gold Cup winner, Coneygree, who unfortunately suffered a set back due to a hock injury prior to Christmas.
One horse who has captured his fair share of headlines over the last few years and who once again is being tipped for Gold Cup success is Cue Card from trainer Colin Tizzard. Having missed the feature race in 2015, he is back with a vengeance and with three back-to-back wins already under his saddle this season, is as short as 6/1 to add the Gold Cup to his tally.
Notable wins in the Charlie Hall Chase, the Betfair Chase and the King George VI Chase have all boosted his chances and jockey Paddy Brennan believes Cue Card has a “massive chance” of landing connections the £1 million bonus in March by winning the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Brennan said: “I think he has a massive chance as Cheltenham brings out the best in him.
“I've been lucky enough to win the Gold Cup before and would pay money to win another one.”
Despite his recent impeccable performances, Cue Card is not the favourite for the Gold Cup. In fact, he is currently fourth on the list with Djakadam taking poll position with odds as short as 7/2.
He finished second last year behind Coneygree and at just six years of age, was the youngest runner in the race. Another year older, hopes are high for Djakadam, one of eight Gold Cup entries from Irish trainer Willie Mullins.
Yes, you read that correctly. Eight Gold Cup entries. That one trainer can have such a staggering number of brilliant horses is enviable though it is highly unlikely that he will actually run more than three or four of them.
The most prominant, other than Djackadam, are Don Poli on odds of 4/1 and Vautour on odds of 6/1.
Looking at statistics to whittle down the potential winner is a useful tool and for the Gold Cup, the following trends have emerged over the last few years:
- All of the last fifteen winners of the race had previously won a Grade 1 contest.
- Thirteen of the last fourteen winners were aged between seven and nine, Long Run (2011) was the first 6 year old to win since 1963.
- Thirteen of the last fourteen winners started in the top three of the betting.
- Twelve of the last fourteen winners were rated at 166 or higher.
- Fourteen of the last sixteen winners had won earlier in the season.
It's no surprise that Djakadam ticks all of those boxes and Cur Card only misses out on the age factor.
All that said, there isn't much value in having a punt on a 7/2 favourite so who else should be considered more of a longer shot?
No More Heroes from trainer Gordon Elliott is an interesting horse. Currently at 10/1, he's had three wins this season, most recently at Leopardstown, but his lack of experience will probably tell if he does run. With four other Festival options on the table, I think he will run elsewhere where his chances of success will be higher.
Road To Riches at 12/1 is worth a closer look. He was third in the Gold Cup last year and at nine years of age has already amassed earnings of over £400K for connections. From 12 chase starts he has won 6 and placed in a further 5 which is an excellent record and worthy of an each way bet. He is also entered into the Ryanair Chase.
The odds increase dramatically outside of the top seven in the betting but that's predominantly because as you go through the list many are considered a bit too old to pose a serious threat e.g. Boston Bob and On His Own, while those that are young enough haven't displayed the class associated with Gold Cup winners of the past.
That's not to say that they can't contend, it's just that up against Don Poli, Don Cossack, Vautour, Cue Card and Djackadam, they would have to be on the form of their lives which of course we won't know until the day!