Cheltenham Gold Cup
15:30 Cheltenham, Friday
Live on ITV
1. Al Boum Photo (Willie Mullins/Paul Townend)
Won this race in 2019 and 2020 and finished a creditable third to Minella Indo and A Plus Tard last year. Warmed up in customary fashion with a fourth successive win in a Grade 3 at Tramore on New Year's Day and he seems sure to be suited by likely conditions. Can't be ruled out now sporting first-time cheekpieces which could eke out more.
2. A Plus Tard (Henry de Bromhead/Rachael Blackmore)
A good second to Minella Indo in this race last year and was very impressive when beating Royale Pagaille by 22 lengths in the Betfair Chase on his return in November. Made a big move into contention when collared by Galvin at Leopardstown since but yard in better form now and he seems sure to launch another bold bid.
3. Asterion Forlonge (Willie Mullins/Bryan Cooper)
Produced a high-class handicap performance when winning easily at Punchestown last spring and was set for second behind Tornado Flyer when falling at the last in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. Only a fair fourth in Irish Gold Cup since, though, and needs to bounce back.
4. Aye Right (Harriet Graham & Gary Rutherford/Callum Bewley)
Very smart chaser who finally gained a deserved big handicap win in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle in November. Creditable five and a quarter lengths third to Chantry House in the Cotswold Chase here last time but this is asking too much of him.
5. Chantry House (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville)
Grade 1 winner over fences as a novice here and at Aintree last spring but ran abysmally when sent off favourite for the King George won by Tornado Flyer. Back on track with cheekpieces fitted cheekpieces (retained) when winning Grade 2 Cotswold Chase here in January but he will need to improve further to play a part here.
6. Galvin (Gordon Elliott/Davy Russell)
Capped an unbeaten novice chase campaign with a success in the National Hunt Chase at the 2021 Festival. Has improved again this term, too, staying on strongly when narrowly prevailing from A Plus Tard on the line in Savills Chase at Leopardstown in December. May yet have more to offer and is a big player.
7. Minella Indo (Henry de Bromhead/Robbie Power)
Saw off A Plus Tard to win this race last year but has yet to really fire this season. He did at least bounce back from an abject display in the King George when second in the Irish Gold Cup last time and he has a very good course record to call upon, so it would be folly to ignore his claims.
8. Protektorat (Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton)
Grade 1 winner at Aintree in his novice season and built on a fine reappearance second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup here when easily winning a 25f Grade 2 back at Aintree in December. Very much unexposed at this sort of trip and is the unknown quantity for a yard that has been bullish about his chances in the run up.
9. Royale Pagaille (Venetia Williams/Charlie Deutsch)
Defied a big weight to win the Peter Marsh at Haydock in January and was a good second in the Denman Chase at Newbury last time, but he was a remote sixth in this last year and A Plus Tard slammed him in Betfair. The softer the ground the better his chances.
10. Santini (Polly Gundry/Nick Schofield)
Close second to Al Boum Photo in this in 2020 but lost his way last term. Back on song for new yard when second to Chantry House in the Cotswold Chase here last time, though it would still be a surprise if he can do as well as two years ago.
11. Tornado Flyer (Willie Mullins/Danny Mullins)
High-class chaser who ran the race of his life when proving nine lengths too strong for Clan des Obeaux in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. Will need another career best to follow up but trainer thinks he will be well suited by the extra emphasis on stamina.
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