Improving novice Dkakadam can strike gold
Cheltenham Gold Cup, 3m2f110y, New Course (due off 3.20pm)
Backers of Silviniaco Conti will be hoping it’s a case of ‘third time lucky’ as the long-time favourite is bidding to win the sport’s most prestigious prize after coming up short twice previously. That would be no precedent as two horses have achieved that very feat, while The Dikler (1973) and The Fellow (1994) won on their fourth attempt. To be fair, he may may well have beaten Bobs Worth in 2013 but for falling, although last year’s meandering fourth, having jumped the last looking all over the winner, is harder to excuse. There may have been a physical reason as he’s looked better than ever this season since being treated for stomach ulcers and, after a lack-lustre reappearance, being fitted with cheekpieces, running out a convincing winner of the Betfair Chase and his second King George. That’s by far the best form on offer but he’s still got to produce it at Cheltenham, where his form figures read 3F4. Top price: 4/1 Paddy Power.
Who else is fancied?
The challengers are queuing up behind him and one horse who could even press him for favouritism on the day is Willie Mullins’ Djakadam. He is more about potential than actual form in the book but he gave us a glimpse of what he might be capable of when running away with the Thyestes Chase off top weight when last seen in January. The vibes from jockeys and connections that day were that he was nowhere near peak fitness and that he’d come on in leaps and bounds. Only six, he’s by far the least exposed runner in the line-up after just five starts over fences and he’s the one horse in the field who could blow the race apart. He apparently worked very well with stablemate and Thursday’s JLT winner Vautour recently and there seems to be a real belief amongst connections that he’s got what it takes.
The British challenge is headed by Holywell, who has twice shown he can come up the Cheltenham hill in great style, and Many Clouds, who has not stopped improving this season The latter has won all three of his starts (all on soft), including the Hennessy at Newbury in gutsy fashion and a Grade 2 at the course last time out. He could do with the forecast rain materialising as it would slow down some of his rivals, whereas Holywell would prefer it to stay good.
Any decent outsiders?
There’s a host of horses priced between 10/1 and 20/1 and the most fascinating is the novice Coneygree, whose connections have taken the bold decision to run here instead of Wednesday’s RSA. Their prayers for rain look set to be answered and this relentless galloper could make them all go from the front, as is his style. Novices have a terrible record, though.
Road To Riches could be a big drifter if rain gets in as the quicker the ground the better for him. He’s been a huge improver this season, mind, and his last-time-out Lexus win was a hint of better to come. Last year’s winner and second, Lord Windermere and On His Own need to step up on what they’ve shown this season, but you wouldn’t rule that out.
At bigger odds, Sam Winner could surprise. He was probably not at his very best when third in the Lexus and his trainer Paul Nicholls reckons rates him a a “lively outsider.” The form of his win at the track in December was boosted when the second, The Druids Nephew (beaten one a half lengths ion receipt of 6lb), won Tuesday’s 3m handicap chase.
And we haven’t even started on Tony McCoy’s last ever ride in a Gold Cup on Carlingford Lough, who provided the retiring champion with his first ever Irish Hennessy last month to emotional scenes. If he wins, get ready for the Cheltenham roof to take off!
Owner quote: “”My only niggle at the back of my mind is, will he stay? If the Gold Cup was three miles I’d be leaning in and saying, ‘Wow, what a great chance we have’, but that last two and a half furlongs is so gruelling up the hill. It’s my only niggle. That being said, Willie loves the horse, Ruby loves the horse and he’s in great order.” – Rich Ricci on Djakadam.
Best bookie offer
If you fancy Silviniaco Conti and don’t have an account with BetVictor, you’d be mad not take their 10/1, which is up for grabs to new customers, albeit to a maximum stake of £5. Sky Bet are offering four places.
Boy, this is tough. I’ve fancied Road To Riches for a good while and I’m loathe to desert him (holding an 20/1 ante post slip), but the forecast rain is a big worry and, if it does materialise, I’m prepared to jump ship to DJAKADAM. Take the sponsors’ 9/1, with a view to laying him back at shorter! SAM WINNER can nick a place.
Selections – Djakadam @ 9/1 Betfred / Sam Winner each-way @ 28/1 Sky Bet (1/4 odds, 126.96.36.199).