Matt Tombs / Tuesday 10th February 2015 / 16:17
You always have to be philosophical when a big priced ante-post bet gets injured, and in Dynaste’s case, it was probably the least bad horse in the portfolio for it to happen to, as David Pipe was probably going to run him in the Ryanair anyway. With the final major trials for the Gold Cup run either side of the Irish Sea last weekend, its time for another look at the race.
I’m itching to oppose the favourite Silviniaco Conti (100/30). On this season’s form 100/30 is, if anything, a big price. If the race were run on a flat track, I’d have him as a 2/1 shot. However, it isn’t and its rare for horses that have been beaten on their first run in a Gold Cup to ever win it, (See More Business in 1999 was the last and he was carried out the previous year.) Silviniaco Conti has had two bad experiences in the Gold Cup, falling 2 seasons ago and then going sideways on the run in last season with the race at his mercy. The cheekpieces have clearly helped but I just can’t back a horse, even a top class one like him, with that sort of Cheltenham record. Horses need to dig to the depths to win a Gold Cup, and he’s got some serious scar tissue that I think will find him out.
By contrast, Road To Riches (9/1) has just the right profile. He’s a 2nd season chaser on the up that’s won a key trial in the Lexus. Evaluating his chances really depends on evaluating that form. Runner-up On His Own and 4th Boston Bob let it down in the Irish Hennessy but 5th Carlingford Lough bounced back in that race. On form you could argue his price is a bit skinny, but he’ll be miles better on decent ground and is just the sort of progressive horse that wins the Gold Cup. I think he’s decent value, especially as he proved in the Lexus he didn’t need to lead.
Carlingford Lough (12/1) had been held up in the first half of the season, (John Kiely’s yard has been out of sorts all winter,) before just a decent 5th on his reappearance in the Lexus. He improved markedly when just running Foxrock out of the Irish Hennessy. He’s tough and stays – in some ways he reminds me of the same owner’s Synchronised. He started as handicapper, and can be a sticky jumper who gets himself out of contention in the first half of the race – but if AP can nurse him round as he did Synchronised in the Gold Cup, he could provide the champ with a fairytale retirement present. He never got in a rhythm in the RSA on his only run at Cheltenham though, and I’m concerned he’ll get too far behind.
It sounds an odd thing to suggest of a winner of the Hennessy (3m2½f) and Betbright Cup (3m1½f,) but I’m not convinced Many Clouds (10/1) is a definite stayer. Before his Hennessy win, he’d looked better at intermediate trips. He was apparently exhausted after the Hennessy and they crawled round in the Betbright, so I’m slightly concerned whether he’d get home in a fast run race. He was winning the Hennessy off 151, (9lb lower than Bobs Worth and 10lb lower than Denman,) and I think he did two stayers for toe in the Betbright. He’s a classy, improving type but I’m not sure he’s quite up to Gold Cup standard – I’d also be really concerned about him handling genuinely good ground.
Defending champions tend to be over-bet in the Gold Cup but you couldn’t say that about Lord Windermere (14/1). He ran well in the Irish Hennessy, travelling much better than in the Lexus, but ultimately weakening on the run in. It’s hard to know what to make of that performance – perhaps he’s still short of peak fitness and will be a different proposition again at Cheltenham. They did go steadily in the Gold Cup last year though and perhaps he just got outstayed at Leopardstown where they went pretty quickly, (albeit that seems illogical over 2½f shorter.) 14/1 is probably decent value.
Holywell (14/1) is an unknown quantity. He only seems to come alive in the spring, when the all important blinkers go back on. He’s no chance on this season’s form and I’m not convinced the promise of his novice campaign justifies him being such a short price. If he wins, they’ll be plenty of people keen to explain that they understood how Jonjo campaigns his horses etc – but I don’t like backing horses with that sort of profile unless its at big prices.
Coneygree (16/1) was impressive in the Denman, beating a solid 161 rated yardstick easily. He’s only had 3 runs so is hugely inexperienced for a Gold Cup, but few novices take their chance, so the fact one hasn’t won since Captain Christy 41 years ago is a bit misleading. He’s 12/1 NRNB, (might run in the RSA instead,) and if he runs here is likely to be shorter on the day given his profile. As well as his lack of experience, I’d be concerned about genuinely good ground not suiting.
With the other Mullins contenders not enhancing their claims, it’s likely his main chance will rest with 6 year old Djakadam (16/1). He won the hugely competitive Thyestes Chase last time off 145, (a 3lb higher mark than On His Own won the Thyestes off before being edged out in the Gold Cup last season.) He’s always been highly regarded at Closutton and, whilst he has plenty of improvement to find, he could easily find it. He has stamina to prove but looked to be staying on well at Gowran and I’m optimistic he’ll get the trip. He has raced mainly on testing ground and his breeding suggests he might need plenty of cut, which would be a concern if it came up genuinely good ground in the Gold Cup. I might have missed the price by then, but he’s one I’m going to look at again near race-day, when I have a better idea of the likely going conditions.
Bobs Worth (16/1) is an easy one to scrub off the list. He had an incredibly hard race when winning 2 years ago and that looked to tell in last season’s race. He ran no race in the Lexus on his only run this season and the vibes aren’t great. I think he’s on the downgrade and am keen to oppose him.
Of the others, Foxrock (14/1) needs supplementing and the vibes from Ted Walsh are that he thinks him next season’s horse. Shutthefrontdoor (20/1) isn’t quick enough and looks more likely to be aimed at the National. Sam Winner (33/1) ran a good race to be 3rd in the Lexus but I doubt is quite good enough.
The interesting one at a big price is Smad Place, (25/1). He ran a blinder to be touched off in the RSA last season, (well ahead of Sam Winner and Carlingford Lough). With the pair he split, O’Faolains Boy and Morning Assembly, not running this season it’s not easy to assess the form, but its possible the market has incorrectly considered it a substandard RSA.
Smad Place was only 20l 5th off 155 in the Hennessy but Alan King said he was short of fitness there, having not had a prep run, (to protect his mark). He was given a decent break after a hard race at Newbury and then was 1¼l 2nd to Many Clouds, (who gave 8lb,) in the Betbright Cup over 3m1½f at Cheltenham.
In theory that leaves him plenty to find with Many Clouds but they crawled round in the Betbright, (all six runners within a couple of lengths turning into the straight.) The crawl-sprint nature of the race allowed Many Clouds to get first run and didn’t suit Smad Place, who was too keen and whose strong suit is stamina. Both his runs have been on soft ground this season and, whilst he acts on soft, he loves a sound surface, relishing the fast ground in last season’s RSA – all of which suggests he can improve significantly in the Gold Cup.
As a stayer he’s susceptible to the sort of horse with a turn of foot that often wins this, (having had stamina question marks beforehand), but unusually, there isn’t really a horse with that sort of profile this year, other than possibly Djakadam.
Smad Place has been placed at the last 3 Festivals, (2 World Hurdles before last season’s RSA,) and I think he’s got an excellent chance of being placed again. More importantly, in what looks a weak renewal, I can see him winning if there’s a truly run race.
1pt e/w Smad Place in the Gold Cup @ 25/1 NRNB