Cheltenham Festival Previews – Cheltenham Gold Cup 1-2-3 Selections
The feature of the Festival, The Cheltenham Gold Cup takes centre stage on Friday in what promises to be another high-quality renewal. Our expert analyst Jordan Arksey has had his take on what the 1-2-3 will be.
Cheltenham Festival 20223:30 pm Friday March 18
Al Boum Photo
Two-time Gold Cup winner AL BOUM PHOTO bids to reclaim the crown he surrendered last season when finishing third behind the Henry de Bromhead’s pair A Plus Tard and Minella Indo.
The ten-year-old was aiming to become the first horse since Best Mate to win the illustrious prize three years on the bounce and despite failing in his record-equalling bid, Willie Mullins’ charge still ran a cracker to finish third, beaten just over five lengths.
Al Boum Photo warmed up in customary fashion when winning the Savills New Year’s Day Chase for a fourth successive time in January and although he appears friendless in the betting, he is far from out of the 2022 Gold Cup picture.
A Plus Tard
Runner up 12 months ago, A PLUS TARD has held his place towards the top of the Gold Cup betting ever since demolishing a field in the Betfair Chase on seasonal return at Haydock, thumping subsequent Peter Marsh winner Royale Pagaille in the process by 22l.
Henry de Bromhead’s stayer went down narrowly to Galvin in a titanic tussle in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, losing very little in defeat after travelling like the likeliest winner coming into the straight.
The eight-year-old should be primed to go close in the Festival feature on Friday, however, A Plus Tard will have to turn the tables on both Galvin and stablemate Minella Indo and with that pair often saving their best efforts for Cheltenham, he could be up against it.
Cheltenham Festival 2022
3:30 pm Friday March 18
ASTERION FORLONGE (CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP)
PLACE BET HERE
Cheltenham Festival 20223:30 pm Friday March 18
- Bookmaker Odds Betting Tip
- 33/1 PLACE BET HERE
A talented performer on his day, it’s safe to say we are yet to see the best of ASTERION FORLONGE over fences as his jumping frailties have continued to let him down when lining up.
The eight-year-old reappeared in the John Durkan at Punchestown back in December and although unseating jockey Bryan Cooper at the third last, Asterion Forlonge had yet to be asked for a serious effort before coming to grief in the Grade 1 contest.
It was a similar story when heading over to Kempton to contest the King George on Boxing Day, travelling well into the home straight in second place and staying on strongly before falling at the last.
Twelve lengths fourth on his latest outing in the Irish Gold Cup was a step back in the right direction over the larger obstacles, and although someway behind Minella Indo, the eight-year-old looks a strong stayer and was interestingly sent off market leader on that occasion. He may not be the most reliable type but if putting it all together on Friday, he could outrun his generous odds.
Useful stayer AYE RIGHT finally had his day in the sun when winning the valuable Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle on the penultimate start, clinging on gamely from the late challenge of Good Boy Bobby over 3miles.
Connections pitched the useful stayer into Grade 2 company on his latest outing, finishing third in the Cotswold Chase in January behind both Santini and Chantry House.
Harriet Graham’s charge is a decent handicapper on his day but looks up against it as he tackles the top company for just the second time in his career.
Seven Barrows handler Nicky Henderson has enjoyed success in the Gold Cup in the past with the likes of Bobs Worth and Long Run, and will be hoping his sole representative CHANTRY HOUSE can go close on Friday after returning to winning ways in the Cotswold Chase when last seen.
The eight-year-old was well fancied on his penultimate start in the King George over the festive period, but despite being sent off a well-supported favourite, Chantry House never travelled from flag fall and was quickly on the back foot, tailing off and ultimately pulling up someway out under Nico de Boinville.
Although bouncing back to form at Prestbury Park, he was far from impressive making notable errors in the process and finishing very tired, having to be dismounted after the line.
Chantry House is still someway behind his previous best and will need to markedly improve if he is going to be competitive on Friday afternoon.
Regarded as a Grand National type at the start of the season, GALVIN now finds himself heading the Gold Cup market after continuing to improve and impress this season, with his only recent defeat coming at the hands of Frodon on penultimate start in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Facing a seemingly tough task in the fiercely competitive Savills Chase in December, the eight-year-old rose to new heights, staying on well under Davy Russell to get up in the shadows of the post and pip odds-on favourite A Plus Tard in the process.
A winner of seven of his last eight races, Galvin is seemingly improving at a rate of knots and with stamina assured, Gordon Elliot’s runner commands the utmost respect and is the solid option returning to a track where he has course figures of 6-2-1-1
Returning champion MINELLA INDO will look to become just the fifth horse to win the Gold Cup in back to back seasons and whilst Henry De Bromhead’s charge was impressive when seeing off stablemate A Plus Tard last year, things haven’t quite gone to plan this season and the nine-year-old has looked a shade below his best.
After finishing behind Galvin and Frodon in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase on return, Minella Indo struggled from the outset in Kempton’s Christmas feature, weakening on the approach to three from the finish before pulling up under jockey Rachael Blackmore.
There was slightly more encouraging signs when chasing home Conflated in the Irish Gold Cup, however, he was still beaten over six lengths in second and couldn’t cope with Gordon Elliot’s inferior rival.
Minella Indo often saves his best performances for the Festival with figures of 1-2-1 at the showpiece meeting, and whilst some may argue that he is coming to the boil ahead of another smart Cheltenham performance, he simply hasn’t looked in the same form since returning this campaign and is opposed this time around.
The British charge is led this year by PROTEKTORAT who rounded off last season with a smart performance in Grade 1 company at Aintree, staying on well over the intermediate distance to win by just over three lengths.
Since returning this year, Dan Skelton’s charge went close to landing the valuable Paddy Power Gold Cup at the November meeting, just failing to reel in the gritty and determined winner Midnight Shadow.
The seven-year-old was quickly upped in trip by connections after that strong staying effort and duly got back to winning ways, defeating former Gold Cup winner Native River by 25l under a confident ride by Bridget Andrews in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree in December.
That winning effort was certainly a smart effort, however, the form is up for question considering Native River was some way below his best whilst five of the eight runners failed to give their running.
Stamina will be tested on his first try beyond 3miles and although he is an efficient jumper, he must now prove he has what it takes against seasoned and established staying chasers.
Venetia Williams enjoyed success earlier in the week with L’Homme Presse and will be looking to ROYALE PAGAILLE to provide another Festival triumph in the colours of the Ricci’s.
The eight-year-old regained his Peter Marsh crown when dourly staying on best of all to prevail from Sam Brown back at Haydock in January.
Venetia Williams’ charge was then seen finishing runner-up to Eldorado Allen in a particularly weak renewal of the Denman Chase at Newbury but never looked like catching Colin Tizzard’s charge in the closing stages.
A distant sixth in last season’s Gold Cup, Royale Pagaille was also thrashed by A Plus Tard last November and is hard to recommend despite the underfoot conditions going in his favour.
SANTINI finished a neck second to Al Boum Photo in the 2020 renewal when trained by Nicky Henderson and failed to win in four subsequent starts for the Seven Barrows handler, which included a poor display in last year’s edition where he was forced to pull up after some costly and notable errors.
Now in the care of trainer Polly Gundry, the ten-year-old shaped very much in need of the return in December before chasing home Chantry House in the Cotswold Chase in January.
Santini will have to reproduce the form of two year’s ago to go close in this season’s Gold Cup and that looks a difficult task considering the level of competition he is up against.
Caused quite a surprise when defying odds of 28/1 to win the King George on Boxing Day, but there was no fluke about that victory as TORNADO FLYER readily pulled 9l clear of dual champion Clan Des Obeaux.
That winning performance was just his second start at 3miles and considering how well he saw out the trip at Kempton, Willie Mullins’ charge could improve again now upped further win trip.
Although yet to win at Cheltenham in three previous starts, Tornado Flyer has ran respectably on each occasion and was far from disgraced at the Festival last season when proving no match for stablemate and Ryanair winner Allaho.
He will have to produce another career-best on the biggest stage of all but he proved the doubters wrong the last day and will look to repeat the trick once more.
GALVIN should give his backers a solid run for their money and whilst he’s the obvious choice at the head of the betting, Gordon Elliot’s improving stayer appears the likeliest winner with stamina assured if things turn into a real slog. Willie Mullins’ Al Boum Photo and Asterion Forlonge can outrun their respective prices and chase the main selection home in the Festival showpiece.
- Al Boum Photo
- Asterion Forlonge