Cheltenham Gold Cup
15:30 Cheltenham, Friday
Live on ITV
Course win in favour
1. Ahoy Senor (Lucinda Russell/ Derek Fox)
Initially found the transition from top novice to contender at the highest level a bit of a struggle, but he pieced it all together with a defeat of Sounds Russian, Noble Yeats and Protektorat in Cotswold Chase here in January, asserting near the finish to win by a length and a half. More needed now but his yard is in flying form.
Massive threat if back in form
2. A Plus Tard (Henry de Bromhead/ Rachael Blackmore)
One of the best Gold Cup winners of recent years when beating stable-companion Minella Indo by 15 lengths 12 months ago. Pulled up in Betfair Chase at Haydock in November on his only outing since. Clearly hard to be confident but a threat to all if back on song as he tries to add to his excellent Festival record (two wins and two placed efforts from four runs).
Nicholls' horse has been saved for this
3. Bravemansgame (Paul Nicholls/ Harry Cobden)
Disappointed in Aintree Grade 1 novice on final start last season, but that's his only defeat in seven outings over fences. Took his form to another level in King George VI Chase at Kempton in December, well in control when left clear at last and ultimately beating Royale Pagaille by 14 lengths. Saved for this since and looks a big player.
Saved but is this his distance?
4. Conflated (Gordon Elliott/ Davy Russell)
Top-class chaser who has been kept fresh for this since readily landing the Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, quickening clear on the home turn to win by five lengths. That wasn't the strongest of Grade 1s, though, and he'll need a bigger performance here. Not a certain stayer, either.
Eldorado Allen has limitations
5. Eldorado Allen (Joe Tizzard/ Brendan Powell)
Very smart but his limitations have been exposed at the highest level, including when finishing a well-held fourth in King George VI Chase at Kempton in December. Did too much too soon under a change of tactics when fading into a below-form fifth in Denman Chase at Newbury last month. Big outsider.
Unbeaten but for a fall at...Cheltenham
6. Galopin des Champs (Willie Mullins/ Paul Townend)
Would be unbeaten over fences but for coming down at last when clear in the Turners at this meeting 12 months ago. Proved himself at 3m with an eight-length defeat of Stattler in Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last month, forging clear on the run-in to win with plenty in hand. Another two furlongs further to travel now, but he'll be hard to beat if his stamina holds.
This is tough but Hewick is an improving horse
7. Hewick (John Joseph Hanlon/ Jordan Gainford)
Has got better and better over fences, ending last season with win in bet365 Gold Cup and adding Galway Plate in July. Landed another significant victory when taking Grand National Hurdle in America in October. Couldn't have found a much tougher task for first venture into Graded company, though.
Minella Indo has brilliant festival record
8. Minella Indo (Henry de Bromhead/ Mark Walsh)
Won this in 2021 and chased home stablemate A Plus Tard 12 months ago. Only scrambled home in receipt of 8 lb from Stattler in Tramore Grade 3 on his reappearance on New Year's Day, but his very good Festival record (two wins and two seconds from four runs) means it would no shock if he goes well.
National winner has EW claims
9. Noble Yeats (Emmet Mullins/ Sean Bowen)
Last season's Grand National winner and has progressed again over conventional fences this time round, winning Wexford listed and Aintree Grade 2 before third to Ahoy Senor (Sounds Russian second) in Cotswold here. Cheekpieces back on for the first time since Aintree. Each-way claims.
Betfair Chase winner could bounce back
10. Protektorat (Dan Skelton/ Harry Skelton)
Expertly trained to gain a second Grade 1 success of his career in Betfair Chase on return at Haydock in November. Not at best when fourth of six to Ahoy Senor in Cotswold here in January, but no surprise were he to bounce back and record another good run in this (third last year).
Royale Pagaille an unlikely winner
11. Royale Pagaille (Venetia Williams/ Charlie Deutsch)
High-class chaser who was a creditable 14 lengths second to Bravemansgame in King George on his reappearance but he's finished sixth and fifth in the last two runnings of this race and it's likely he'll find at least a few too strong again.
Sounds Russian looks vulnerable
12. Sounds Russian (Ruth Jefferson/ Sean Quinlan)
Hasn't looked back since sent over fences, gaining a fourth success in Kelso handicap on reappearance. Better form in defeat since, notably a length and a half second to Ahoy Senor (Noble Yeats third, Protektorat fourth) in Cotswold Chase at this course (25f, good to soft) last time. Vulnerable here, though.
Stattler looks a player
13. Stattler (Willie Mullins/ Patrick Mullins)
National Hunt Chase winner at this meeting last year and has improved again in defeat this time round, only narrowly failing to concede 8 lb to Minella Indo on his reappearance before chasing home stablemate Galopin Des Champs in Irish Gold Cup. Slightly longer trip now will play to his strengths.