Cheltenham Gold Cup 2016: Timeform's runner-by-runner guide

Don Cossack is the chosen mount of Bryan Cooper
Don Cossack is the chosen mount of Bryan Cooper
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Timeform bring you their runner-by-runner guide to the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

"The highest-rated jumper in training...has won nine of his last ten completed starts."

Carlingford Lough (John Kiely, Ireland) Bounced right back (20/1) to win Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown for second year running last month, coming from last to beat Road To Riches by twelve lengths. Needs another career-best to reach the frame here, though, and only ninth in 2015.

Cue Card (Colin Tizzard) Disappointed last term (including in races won by Don Cossack at Aintree and Punchestown) but back to very best (had wind operation in the summer) when winning Charlie Hall at Wetherby, Betfair Chase at Haydock and King George VI Chase at Kempton on last three starts. Responded most generously to strong pressure to beat Vautour by a head in last-named race. Will stay 3¼m (more tractable these days) and chance there for all to see.

Djakadam (Willie Mullins, Ireland) Runner-up in both this race and Punchestown Gold Cup (behind Don Cossack) last year and easy winner of the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on return in December. Fell at the tenth in Grade 2 contest here in January, returning with a cut to chest which required stitches, but no concerns with his jumping overall and likely to make his presence felt again.

Don Cossack (Gordon Elliott, Ireland) The highest-rated jumper in training. Has won nine of his last ten completed starts (badly hampered when third in 2015 Ryanair) and would have given Cue Card and Vautour something to think about in the King George but for falling two out. Straightforward success in Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles since, albeit rather workmanlike, and very high on the shortlist with this test likely to suit.

Don Poli (Willie Mullins, Ireland) Won RSA Chase here last year (also won 2014 Martin Pipe at the Festival) and put blip at Punchestown last spring firmly behind him by winning both starts this season, defeating Many Clouds in listed event at Aintree and beating First Lieutenant in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown later in December. Open to further improvement and could make his presence felt, though a strong stayer and others perhaps possess more gears.

Irish Cavalier (Rebecca Curtis) Won novice handicap chase at this meeting last year and also took minor contest at Newton Abbot in October. Shaped well for a long way in Paddy Power Gold Cup next time but out of depth in King George and ran no sort of race back here last time. Lots on his plate.

O'Faolains Boy (Rebecca Curtis) Fourth in 2013 Albert Bartlett and won RSA in 2014. Much better for belated return (missed last term) when winning graduation chase at Newbury in December, but let down by jumping in race won by Smad Place at Cheltenham next time and then well held back over hurdles. Not hard to look elsewhere.

On His Own (Willie Mullins, Ireland) Beaten a short head in this race in 2014 (probably unlucky not to win) and bounced back from well-held fifth in last year's renewal when winning Imperial Call Chase at Cork last April. Mixed record since, including close fourth to Don Poli in Lexus Chase and head second to Boston Bob in Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse last time, but plenty to find here.

Road To Riches (Noel Meade, Ireland) Third in this race and Punchestown Gold Cup (behind Don Cossack and Djakadam) last spring. Ran a blinder when third in Thursday's Ryanair Chase and extremely unlikely to run just 24 hours later.

Smad Place (Alan King) 'Nearly' horse for many years (third in 2013 World Hurdle, second in 2014 RSA, eighth in 2015 Gold Cup) but has bloomed this season, his three wins including Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and Grade 2 contest here on Trials day (made all to beat Many Clouds twelve lengths). Only fourth in King George on penultimate start, however and needs another career-best effort.

Timeform's Gold Cup 1-2-3
1. Don Cossack (GER)
2. Cue Card
3. Djakadam (FR)

Timeform Analyst's Verdict
Don Cossack established himself as a staying chaser out of the very top drawer last spring and likely would have beaten Cue Card in the King George but for falling two out. The renaissance of Colin Tizzard's 10-y-o has arguably been the highlight of the season and he's unlikely to go down without a real fight, while Djakadam was runner-up last year and may prove best of the Willie Mullins team.

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