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Forgiveness The Key To The Cheltenham Gold Cup

Diarmuid Nolan for Bookies.com

Diarmuid Nolan  | 8 mins

Forgiveness The Key To The Cheltenham Gold Cup

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The ability to forgive is extremely important, now more than ever.

Technological advances, especially in terms of social media, means that life seems to gallop past us at a frightening pace. Clinging on to any angst or frustration is foolhardy.

We are all just hanging in there, so bitterness is a travel companion we cannot afford to burden ourselves with.

Overall, with a few exceptions of course, I have always been quite good at the art of forgiving. It is possible I have harnessed these skills because I am a long-suffering Leeds fan, or maybe it is because I have always loved rogue-ish racehorses such as Blast of Koeman or Abacadabras. Whatever it is, rather than write one off I tend to look for a reason as to why a horse has underperformed, in fact I think it is an angle that can lead to grabbing some nice prices.

The masses tend to jump fervently towards the latest winners - after all recency bias is an irrefutable force in any market. This can mean that extremely worthy contenders with valid excuses can go off at prices that are far, far too big.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a murky picture at this current moment with the form broken into unreadable fragments and getting a handle on it overall is akin to putting together a jigsaw while missing half the pieces.

Forgiveness is the only way forward and Minella Indo is a great price to put it all together at Prestbury Park once again.

Christmas Crackers

As expected, the King George and the Savills Chase have sculpted the Cheltenham Gold Cup market and we saw two extremely riveting races play out over the Christmas period.

The Savills Chase at Leopardstown was a brilliant spectacle, where Galvin firmly emerged as a Gold Cup contender. This is a horse I really did not fancy for this division, and he valiantly got up late to take this race while achieving the rare feat of silencing me. I still have no interest in backing him at 5/1 with Fansbet for the Blue Riband in March, but it is irrefutable that he is an improving horse who will be involved in a major way.

He stays, he has course form and we do not know his limits – Galvin seems to have it all.

I still have a gnawing doubt that he would come up just short of the others at their brilliant best. However, whether the others will arrive at the peak of their powers in March is the main question that at this juncture we simply cannot answer.

I just do not think Henry De Bromhead’s horses were running to the very top of their abilities over the festive period. I am not saying they were terribly sick or anything dramatic like that, but even Henry himself alluded to this saying “they definitely weren’t flying on all cylinders anyway.” At an elite level, a simple cold can scupper an athlete’s chances, and whatever marginal issue his horses were feeling was definitely holding back a few of De Bromhead’s charges when it mattered.

This is not a stick to beat Galvin with, even on a line through Kemboy he is a serious contender, but A Plus Tard is not one to dismiss lightly. However, I have never been convinced he adores Cheltenham and at 10/3 with FansBet I am happy to let him run. Galvin had to overcome quite a lot in the end to win, and the change of tactics worked a treat. As I said, at 6/1 or so he is not my idea of value, but I could not turn anyone off him either.

The King George was another example as to why Ireland wins so many of these affairs. They murdered themselves up front, and Danny Mullins sat back and gleefully picked up the pieces aboard Tornado Flyer.

The exact same situation played out in the Betfair Chase as well. UK based jockeys really need to get back to basics and stop going for home so early. This is another chat for another day of course, but that is two major races that were handed to the Irish on a platter. It is simply not good enough.

It was a brilliant performance by Danny Mullins and Tornado Flyer, but not one that would scream Gold Cup contender. Overall, it was a momentous day for connections, but not form to take forward beyond the 26th of December.

I think Minella Indo is being wrote off far too hastily for this run. It was an off day for him, his trainer, and his jockey. It just all fell asunder.

Henry De Bromhead alluded to the fact that the horse simply should not have run here, Rachael Blackmore has said she gave him a bad ride and Minella Indo himself simply never looked comfortable on a racecourse that plenty before him have not enjoyed either.

I just cannot quite fathom the incredible overreaction to the performance. I would struggle to forgive Minella Indo a bit more if it were not for the fact that his form before Cheltenham has always been problematic. He is a horse who peaks in March.

Before he won the Albert Bartlett he was still a maiden after being seen off at Limerick and Clonmel. The following year he was second in the RSA Chase having only raced twice over fences, being beaten once by Laurina, and then only seeing off Captain CJ by just over a length, who is now rated 143.

Minella Indo won the biggest race of them all last season, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, having had two wins in easy races, before a bad fall in the 2020 Savills Chase and then finishing fourth of five in the Irish Gold Cup.

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Did any of those preparations look ideal? What about this year makes him so much harder to fancy?

His first run of this season was more than ideal as he looked unfit duelling with Galvin and Frodon, going down by less than five lengths on a track that was not to his suiting. I admit that adding blinkers at Kempton was a surprising call for Henry De Bromhead, but clearly connections wanted to avoid A Plus Tard and took in the King George, so he would have in theory needed this aid at a speedy track like Kempton. It was a gamble that did not go to plan, but Minella Indo has a superb ability to put everything else behind him once he steps on the hallowed turf at Prestbury Park.

Henry De Bromhead brought him back from the wilderness in 2021, and at 15/2 with Fansbet Minella Indo is a remarkable price to do this again.

Al Boum Photo won an unsatisfactory renewal of the Savills Chase at Tramore on New Year’s Day as he beat only stablemates but saying this, he showed plenty in doing so. While it is folly to rule him out, time is a relentless foe, and I am not sure he can take a race like the Gold Cup at his age.

Ante-Post Interests

My ante post interests are few and far between this year. The value just is not there anymore and the offerings you can get on the day gazumps betting early. Naturally, there is a few exceptions to this, as there always will be!

In the Gold Cup I am also not willing to give up on Eklat De Rire just yet. He is 40/1 with Fansbet, but there is 100/1 out there. Djakadam ran poorly in the Ladbrokes Gold Cup before nearly taking the big one and in the spirit of forgiveness I am not deserting Eklat De Rire. He is a horse full of promise and it will take another bad run before I give up on his Gold Cup dreams.

Pats Fancy is a horse I have liked for a long time, and it has been fantastic to see him meeting his potential. His trainer, Rebecca Curtis, has earmarked the 2022 Welsh National as his future aim, but he does look a decent price at 25/1 with Fansbet for the National Hunt Chase. He is by Oscar, and like the trainers other Oscar in the past, Teaforthree, he has improved immeasurably for going over fences.

Pats Fancy has been foot perfect over his fences, a longer trip will only unlock more potential, and he could surprise a few in this.

At the moment my strongest fancy for the 2022 Cheltenham Festival comes in the shape of Tellmesomethingirl in the Mares Hurdle. She ran a massive race over Christmas, she comes out clear best at the weights, has course form and like a lot of Henry’s she should improve a lot over the next few weeks She will be awfully hard to stop in March, as a rejuvenation Minella Indo will be. Whatever happens in March, these next few weeks are always so enjoyable as we build up towards the World Cup of National Hunt Racing.

The Dublin Racing Festival, The Ascot Chase and plenty more are to come in the meantime. It is all rather exciting, isn’t it?

About the Author

Diarmuid Nolan for Bookies.com
Diarmuid Nolan
Diarmuid Nolan is a horse racing journalist & creator of the #racehour community on Twitter which also produces a weekly podcast during the jumps season. A passionate Leeds fan, and a keen follower of all thing’s Kerry GAA, sports, media & politics.