Who will win Cheltenham’s Gold Cup?

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  • Standby for an avalanche of accolades if Best Mate (pictued) becomes the first horse for 32 years to win back-to-back Cheltenham Gold Cups on Thursday.

    But there’s a chance the champion’s party could be gate crashed by Hussard Collonges, a new kid on the block in the top races this winter.

    Hussard Collonges, an immaculate jumper, is expected to hold too many guns for Best Mate up the final, lung-bursting hill and provide North Yorkshire trainer Peter Beaumont with his second Gold Cup, following Jodami in 1993.

    History is stacked against Henrietta Knight’s magnificent Best Mate and relates that Ireland’s L’Escargot in 1970 and ’71 was the last to make it two-in-a-row.

    But he is a worthy favourite and as champion jockey Tony McCoy has been insisting all winter: “Best Mate is still the one they all have to beat.”

    McCoy, who was stood down with dehydration after a fall in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle, would love to be on aboard but is claimed by Martin Pipe.

    Best Mate’s regular rider Jim Culloty, on board last year, knows he has a great chance of making it a golden double.

    But Hussard Collonges, prepared by a master when it comes to long distance chasers, is sure to turn in a great show and is given the nod.

    Hussard Collonges hit the headlines at the meeting last year with his SunAlliance Chase victory. This season he has made his presence felt in three big races, with Beaumont priming him to run for his life on 13 March.

    Beaumont may not consider Hussard Collonges as robust a campaigner as Jodami, though he insists there is an equally powerful engine inside his bay frame.

    The Brandsby trainer declined to send Hussard Collonges to Ireland last month for his favourite prep race, Leopardstown’s Hennessy Gold Cup because he did not want to take the edge off him with a hard race. Beaumont’s patience should be rewarded with a memorable victory.

    See More Business, the winner in 1999, is now 11 years young and waltzed home at Wincanton last time. He finished third behind Best Mate and Commanche Court 12 months ago and will again be fancied to take a hand in the finish.

    Commanche Court scrambled home at Navan the other day and you can be sure his Irish handler Ted Walsh will have him cherry ripe again.

    An even more interesting raider from Ireland is the novice Beef Or Salmon, unbeaten in four chases and possessing everything it takes to rise to the top. But he may have to be content with third place behind Hussard Collonges and Best Mate.

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