One of the great things about the Cheltenham Festival is that no single race in the four-day event gets all the attention. That is what perhaps separates it from other UK events like the Aintree Grand National Festival, or even international meetings built around the Kentucky Derby or Melbourne Cup.
However, we can say unequivocally that the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most prestigious event of the Festival. Sure, it is but one of 14 Grade 1 races across the 14 days, but it is the big one – the one all jockeys, trainers, and owners prize above all else.
The premier event for long-distance chasers often throws up several conundrums for punters. It rarely has a red-hot favourite. That is good news for those watching as a spectacle, but it can be something of a puzzle for bettors. And the 2022 Gold Cup looks to be no different, and we can cite at least half a dozen runners with brilliant chances, and several more with decent each-way claims.
A Plus Tard can go one better in 2022
We should begin, though, with the current market leader, A Plus Tard (3/1). Last year’s runner-up has shown decent form through the season so far, picking up a fine win in the Grade 1 Lancashire Chase in November, beating out Royal Pagaille by 22 lengths. A Plus Tard was also decent when narrowly losing to Galvin at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Galvin is the current second-favourite at 5/1, but many believe the position should be swapped with A Plus Tard, given what occurred at Leopardstown. There is little between them, however, and A Plus Tard does have the experience of last year’s run under his belt. Moreover, there are suggestions that Galvin is being pointed at the Grand National too. A horse hasn’t done the illustrious double since the days of Golden Miller in the 1930s, and it might be assumed that the distraction could hinder Galvin’s chances.
Next up is Minella Indo, who won the Gold Cup last year under Jack Kennedy. Performances have been patchy ever since. But Minella Indo has always been an erratic sort, and most backers will be well aware that he can turn it on just as easy as he can flop. Odds of around 8/1 seem about right for a horse that leaves most of us scratching our heads.
Al Boum Photo aims for hat-trick
Al Boum Photo, who won the race in 2019 and 2020, is also respected. Naysayers will point to his age – a 10yo hasn’t won the Gold Cup since Cool Dawn in 1998 – but it’s worth remembering that Al Boum Photo is lightly raced (famously so), and he is a specialist over course and distance. He will have his backers at 10/1.
Further down the market, you have interesting candidates like Chantry House and Tornado Flyer. The latter was a surprise winner of the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, and that warrants respect, but it would still be a bit of a shock. Chantry House showed last weekend at Cheltenham that he has the stamina and drive for a Gold Cup when winning the Cotswold Chase. But he will face a different calibre of horse if he lines up for the big one at the 2022 Festival.
One of the more interesting candidates is Protektorat. Like Chantry House, he has shown some impressive form, but there are some question marks over how he can compete with stiffer competition. That hasn’t dissuaded punters from backing him, however, and you can see that his price is ranging from around 12/1 – 8/1. Someone clearly fancies the Dan Skelton-trained horse.
Overall, though, we would probably suggest holding fire on your selection until closer to the race. Many of the names mentioned here will go straight to Cheltenham, but there will be a few more who will get a run out (particularly some of the Irish horses) between now and Gold Cup Day on 18th March. Whatever occurs, it looks set to be another cracking race. Let’s hope it’s a great one for punters.