Gold Cup Tips – Al Boum Photo Will Be Denied In Hat-Trick Bid

Al Boum Photo winning the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Al Boum Photo winning the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

2021 Gold Cup Tips

The biggest race of the entire meeting is the centrepiece of Day 4 of the Cheltenham Festival and Daniel Overall has cast his eye over the race in which Al Boum Photo bids for a hat-trick

Gold Cup Overview

The jewel in the crown of the Cheltenham Festival, this year’s renewal will see Al Boum Photo bid to become just the fifth horse to win a third Gold Cup, following in the footsteps of: Golden Miller, Cottage Rake, Arkle and Best Mate. 

Looking Back at 2020

A slowly run affair, less than two lengths separated the first four at the finish while ten of the twelve runners jumped the second last seemingly holding every chance; the moderate pace undoubtedly favouring the likes of Monalee and Real Steal who had yet to prove their stamina.

As is often the case with moderately run races, the form has not been working out well. Al Boum Photo has since won what has become his race at Tramore, but the only other horses to have tasted victory since are Kemboy (7th), Bristol De Mai (9th) and Presenting Percy (Fell).

It’s also worth noting that beaten horses in last year’s renewal have a poor record in the next; only one of the last eleven winners had contested a previous running of the Gold Cup (Native River, 2018). 

Al Boum Photo – Hat-trick? 

Well held before falling in an RSA and considered to be Willie Mullins’s 3rd string in the 2019 Gold Cup, it’s quite remarkable to think of what Al Boum Photo has achieved. Beyond just winning two Gold Cups, the tactical versatility he demonstrated to win two starkly different renewals, in terms of pace and tempo, was very impressive. 

His comeback run in the Savills was met with mixed reactions, with some commenting that it was a laboured display; his jumping was not foot perfect and he did momentarily look in trouble before swiftly taking command after the second last. Willie commented after the race that “he needed the run badly” so with all the negativity, it’s perhaps been lost that his performance, in terms of bare form, was actually better than last year. He beat Acapella Bourgeois on both occasions, but his margin of victory was 13 lengths greater this term despite being 9lb worse off at the weights. Indeed, he was given an RPR of 175 this time as opposed to 174 back in 2020.

On the back of the same preparation that has guided him to success in the previous two renewals, Al Boum Photo unquestionably sets the standard. 

Rivalries Renewed 

A narrow second last season, Santini finds himself prominent in the market yet again despite three disappointing performances so far this season. His inclusion in the King George was a surprise and while it added another dimension to that race, it didn’t teach us anything new about him. Outpaced when push came to shove, he ran a similar race in the rearranged Costwold Chase although his season has undoubtedly revolved around the Cheltenham showpiece.

Supporters will argue he would have won last term with a stronger pace, which he may well get this time around, but to my mind he lacks the tactical pace required in a race of this nature. The addition of blinkers has been discussed given he wore first-time cheekpieces in last year’s renewal, but they will need to have a profound effect and I would be surprised if he were good enough to win. 

Lostintranslation (25/1) finished 3rd last term following a poor run in the King George, but it seems unlikely that he’ll repeat that effort this time. He reportedly bled at Kempton and it would be a remarkable training performance were the Tizzards able to coax him back to his best. 

The stable also have 2018 winner, Native River who surged back to form in the Cotswold Chase when last seen; a rare highlight for the yard after a difficult season thus far. Placed in both the 2017 and the 2019 renewals of the Gold Cup, he showed he retains plenty of ability at Sandown and without an entry in the Grand National, it’s all systems go for Cheltenham.

The last horse to win the Gold Cup over the age of ten was What A Myth in 1969; and plenty have tried, including the likes of Kauto Star and Denman. His chances would be helped by soft ground but he does appear vulnerable for win purposes although it would be of little surprise were he to hit the frame once again.

Like Santini, Delta Work would have benefitted from a stronger pace last year although his three runs this term haven’t been up to Gold Cup standard. Still only an eight-year-old, he could sneak into a place. Third behind Kemboy (16/1) in the Irish Gold Cup, Willie Mullins’s four-time grade 1 winning chaser has yet to convince at Cheltenham while his trainer is weighing up a tilt at the Stayers’ Hurdle instead. 

Last Year’s RSA

The Festival Novices’ Chase, understandably, has proven a useful stepping stone to Gold Cup glory. Five of the last 16 to attempt the double have been successful; a fair strike rate, which bodes well for Champ.

Yet to be seen this term, he is due to run in the Denman Chase where he looks set to face Clan Des Obeaux. That will be a thorough test for him on his first start of the season and we’ll know more about him after the race. While his absence has been a concern for many, light campaigns have proved fruitful in recent years so I would not be too put off by that.

Minella Indo (20/1) was the horse many took out of last season’s Festival Novices’ Chase with an eye towards the 2021 Gold Cup. After two convincing wins earlier in the season, he fell in the Savills Chase before finishing fourth of five in the Irish Gold Cup. His jumping lacked fluency, while a bad mistake at the second last severely hampered his chance of winning; perhaps his earlier fall left a mark on him. Time is on his side and he can still prove capable of winning a grade 1 in open company but you’d be coy about his chances of bouncing back here.

New Challengers Emerge

The 2019 Ryanair winner Frodon laid his marker down for the Gold Cup with a surprising win in the King George. He had the run of the race that day under a typically assured front-running ride by Bryony Frost, but he’s unlikely to have things all his own way here, especially with the inclusion of Native River. A six-time Cheltenham winner, a Bryony/Frodon win would send the racing world into a frenzy but that scenario seems unlikely.

The last horse to beat Chacun Pour Soi, A Plus Tard looked a dour stayer when landing the Savills Chase over the Christmas period. Very few managed to get into the race that day, with Melon and Kemboy pushing on a long way from home.

It could be said that they set the race up for A Plus Tard, but he did very well to make up the deficit when no others could mount a challenge, while Kemboy franked the form at the Dublin Racing Festival. Completely unexposed over staying trips, he’s a live contender in a race that isn’t blessed with significant depth. 

Saint Calvados (66/1) finished a length ahead of A Plus Tard in last year’s Ryanair and connections were adamant that more was to come from him over a staying trip. Having shaped like a non-stayer in the King George, the litmus test of his stamina was set for the Cotswold Chase but he fell before the race developed. Still only an eight-year-old, a repeat tilt at the Ryanair would appear to be the more sensible target at this stage with a view to resuming the three-mile experiment next season. 

At the start of the season, few (if any) would have considered Royale Pagaille as a potential Cheltenham winner, let alone a Gold Cup winner. But his immense progress combined with other contenders faltering has led to the Venetia Williams trained seven-year-old emerging as a genuine challenger to Al Boum Photo’s crown. Now rated 166 after two emphatic handicap victories, he would be entitled to take his chance here but it’s worth noting that the last 21 winners had already won at Grade 1 level, with very few taking this having progressed through handicaps.

He’s also only ever raced on testing ground and he lacks Cheltenham form; his run style is rather uncomplicated which bodes well for his chances of handling the track and a sounder surface, but with him there seem to be more questions than answers. His presence here certainly adds another dimension to the race but I would err on the side of caution from a betting perspective. 

Gold Cup Big-Race Verdict

An interesting if not unspectacular renewal, the presence of Frodon and Native River should ensure a decent gallop, with the latter having a great chance of making the frame. Al Boum Photo sets the standard and is the worthy favourite, but preference is for A Plus Tard who boasts a similar profile to 2017 winner Sizing John. Classy enough to win a grade 1 over 2m1f, his last run showed he doesn’t lack stamina and it’s a plus that he’s been kept fresh for this race.

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