In this week's antepost column, Tony Calvin casts his eye over the Cheltenham Gold Cup and reveals why he's backing the 'overpriced' Invitation Only...
"Willie Mullins also said after the race that the Gold Cup is now firmly on the agenda, and he also pointed out that it has historically taken a Grade 1 horse to win the Thyestes off such a mark - and he should know."
Thyestes win a good signal
It's a bit embarrassing to report that I have only had two "proper" bets for Cheltenham so far; Rockpoint at 16/1 for the Albert Bartlett, and in again at 33s after his predictable defeat over 2m5f at Warwick last time, and Supasundae win-only on the Exchange and NRNB each-way for the Champion Hurdle - but at least both punts are still alive and kicking.
The only other horse I have personally nibbled at is Invitation Only for the Gold Cup so it was great to see him enhance his outside claims for the big one with a win in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park last week.
Indeed, I think he remains overpriced for the race and I am going to suggest you back him at 40/1 each-way with the Betfair Sportsbook, who are industry-best price. If you are an Exchange backer, he is currently available, win-only, at [46.0] there.
When I say "nibbled" it is just that, nothing too major. To be (very) exact, I currently have £48.02 on him at an average of [86.33] on the Exchange - the biggest price I have snaffled is £2 at [250.0] - and some 66/1 before his Gowran win.
So, I clearly haven't gone in head down by any means, but I am going to press up now.
He first came on my Gold Cup radar when I was looking at the Ladbrokes Trophy back in November, and I would have definitely chanced him off a mark of 152 had he got the green light at Newbury.
But presumably he was slow to come to hand, and we didn't see him until he finished an underwhelming third to Al Boum Photo over an extended 2m5f at Tramore on New Year's Day.
I have always had this winning pointer down as more of a stayer though, not least because was still in the frontline and travelling well enough when effectively brought down by Monalee two out over 3m120yd at Punchestown in April.
As for his Cheltenham credentials, it is worth remembering that he had yet to be asked for any effort when slipping on landing, and being immediately pulled up, when a 9/2 chance for the JLT in March.
But back to that Gowran win last week.
Now, he clearly has a way to go to reach the chasing heights of last year's Gold Cup winner Native River, and you can't go too overboard about a 4lb and a one-and-a-quarter length beating of Alpha Des Obeaux off a mark of 152.
However, I was very impressed with the way he travelled throughout the race and asserted on the run-in, and they pulled a long way clear of the third.
It was interesting how much Ruby Walsh (pictured) said the pace the horse possesses made his job easier there, but he clearly possesses plenty of stamina, too.
Willie Mullins also said after the race that the Gold Cup is now firmly on the agenda, and he also pointed out that it has historically taken a Grade 1 horse to win the Thyestes off such a mark - and he should know.
Djakadam only won it off a mark of 145 in 2015 before chasing home Coneygree in the Gold Cup on his next start, and On His Own took the contest off 142 before going on to win the Bobbjo at Fairyhouse and finish a short-head to Lord Windermere in the 2014 Gold Cup on his following two outings.
So Willie knows the score, and the route.
Improving and unexposed
Invitation Only is improving, and unexposed over the trip - the Punchestown and Gowran runs were his only efforts beyond 2m5f, apart from his one run and win in a point obviously - and I really like the eight-year-old's profile. Indeed, he has very few miles on the clock, having raced just 14 times.
All of his best efforts have come on soft, so he could do with some rain or watering through Cheltenham week (and they will do the latter if and when required in the current safety climate) but we can worry about that nearer the time.
As it stands, he is definitely overpriced at 40/1, so take a nibble yourself.
A note on the market movers
Presenting Percy confirmed his status as market-leader for the Gold Cup when winning the Galmoy Hurdle last week and last year's RSA winner is probably just about deserving of his current price of [4.2], though I personally would take a pull if you fancy him and wait and back him on the day.
And, although he won the Pertemps on good ground, connections are adamant that he wants plenty of cut, too.
Frodon is the other Gold Cup mover, into [25.0] after his Cotswold Chase win, but I don't have a massive betting opinion on him at that price, though it is probably on the big side for one of the form horses going into the race.
Back Invitation Only at 40/1 each way with Betfair Sportsbook for Gold Cup, or [46.0] or bigger on the Exchange.