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The “Greatest Show on Turf”, aka the Cheltenham Festival will get underway in less than a month. Often seen as one of the major meetings in the European racing calendar, and just a few weeks before Aintree’s Grand National Festival, Cheltenham features the creme de la creme of British horse racing.
The 2020 Cheltenham Festival
This year, the annual Cheltenham Festival will run at Cheltenham Racecourse from Tuesday 10th March to Friday 13th March.
Each day is packed with challenging National Hunt races, including Grade 1 novice races on Champion Day, the Queen Mother Chase on Ladies Day, and two exciting championship races on day 3 (which also happens to be St. Patrick’s Day) – the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers’ Hurdle.
As is tradition, the Festival will close with Gold Cup Day on the 13th March, the highlight of which will be the eponymous Magners Gold Cup. The most prestigious race in the European jump season, this year the total prize fund for the race exceeds £625,000.
Betting on the Gold Cup
As both the main event on closing day and one of the key races for the entire Cheltenham Festival, you can expect plenty of competitive Gold Cup betting action in 2020. If you’re unsure who to back this year, here’s a look at the top candidates to win.
Al Boum Photo
Trained by: Willie Mullins
Current odds: 9/2
Looking to make his Gold Cup title defence will be Willie Mullins’ first ever Gold Cup Champion, Al Boum Photo. The eight year old gelding finally cracked that all too difficult nut for Mullins last March, so his team’s confidence going into this year’s race will no doubt be at an all-time high.
It looks like it’s all just a bit of history repeating for the Irish-trained horse so far this season. In 2019, Al Boum Photo was the victor in the Savills Chase at Tramore, which was his only warm-up pre-Cheltenham last year. In 2020, he won the same race again. What’s even more coincidental is that on both occasions he won by a massive six lengths. Stranger things have happened than a double victory…
Currently bookies favourite to win the Gold Cup, does Al Boum Photo really have what’s needed to become the first consecutive winner since Best Mate in 2003-04 ? Judging by his season so far he’s a hot contender for sure, and let’s not forget that his 2018 victory saw him first past the post a total of two and a half lengths in front of second place Anibale Fly.
Trainer: Nicky Henderson
Current odds: 5/1
According to Nicky Henderson, the best is yet to come from his eight year old bay. Reportedly “thriving” in the run up to this year’s Cheltenham Festival, Santini showed “terrific form” over Bristol De Mai last month, claiming the blue riband victor in the Cotswold Chase. 2019’s runner up in the RSA Chase has certainly stepped up his game so far this year, making major improvements just between his season opener at Sandown and Cotswold in January.
Far from flashy or speedy in his style, Santini is more of a four mile stayer, but that can certainly count in his favour in the Gold Cup, where having the strength to finish the 3 mile 2 ½ furlong race matters more. He’s definitely a top contender with bookies to go all the way, and has the potential to scoop this year’s Gold Cup. There’s a danger that if the race gets frantic in the early stages he could lose his position, but provided he can be kept in contention there are few other runners who can beat him in terms of staying power.
Trained by: Gordon Elliot
Current Odds: 6/1
Gordon Elliot has high hopes for Delta Work in the Gold Cup this year. His one and only Gold Cup victory came in 2016 thanks to Don Cossack, and it’s clear that in Elliot’s eyes Delta Work will be the horse to give him his second.
Another horse who has improved considerably this season, the seven year old commendably beat out established chasers to be victorious in the Irish Gold Cup earlier in February (Elliot’s first), which has been added to an equally important Savills Chase win. Both are big wins, and it wouldn’t be overstating to say that the Irish Cup was Delta’s career best run so far, but there’s a lot more to come.
The powerful stayer has good Cheltenham form, having won the Pertemps Final in 2018 as a five year old. His jumping has improved considerably as well, and will no doubt improve again the more experience he gets (this season will be his second over fences).
Finishing not far behind Santini in last year’s RSA, Delta Work is another one with the staying power to thrive during the extra distance of the Gold Cup race.