All eyes will be on the Cheltenham Festival tomorrow (Friday 18 March) when the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup gets underway. The blue riband of jump racing has previously been won by such outstanding horses as Arkle, Best Mate, Golden Miller, Kauto Star and Denman.
Sadly, last year’s Gold Cup hero Coneygree (pictured) will not be back to defend his title due to injury, which has seen his 2015/2016 season end prematurely — so which steeplechasing stars does that leave the door wide open for? We asked some well- known faces from the racing world to share their Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup tips with us…
Horse & Hound‘s racing correspondent Marcus Armytage fancies the Willie Mullins-trained Don Poli (pictured below).
“He wouldn’t be the most obvious choice of the Mullins quartet — also including Vautour, Djakadam and Valseur Lido. But he has won two from his two previous starts at the Festival. He’s not the fastest horse in the world but in a slog he will come into his own and find another gear coming up that hill,” says Marcus.
Racing Post journalist Lee Mottershead believes Colin Tizzard’s Cue Card (pictured below) could win the big race and, in turn, scoop the Chase Triple Crown with a hefty £1 million bonus for his connections.
“For those who flock to the Festival the heart often competes with the head. Sometimes, though, they work as one. For me, that is the case with the marvellous Cue Card. I dearly want to see him win the Gold Cup and I believe he will do just that,” says Lee.
“The Tizzards have done a wonderful job with their evergreen star, who first won at the festival as a raw but brilliant bumper performer six years ago. This season, with a major breathing problem solved, he has started to fulfil his destiny with three glorious victories, most recently in the King George. If he stays — and I think he will — he is the most likely winner of the Gold Cup.”
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Channel 4 Racing‘s betting presenter Tanya Stevenson thinks Gordon Elliott’s Don Cossack (pictured below) shouldn’t be ignored.
“Don Cossack has only been beaten twice in his last 11 starts. The debate will rumble on to whether he would have won the King George if he hadn’t fallen. But we do know he was staying on in that race and his run at Thurles — last time out where he won — rid memories of the fall. He would be my pick,” concludes Tanya.
Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s full Cheltenham Festival report in the 24 March issue of the magazine