Timeform bring you their comprehensive runner-by-runner guide to the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Day 4 of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival on Friday and pick out their 1-2-3...
"...is excellent value at a double-figure price..."
Timeform on Native River
1. Al Boum Photo (Willie Mullins/Paul Townend)
Won this race for the last two years, beating Santini by a neck 12 months ago in tenacious style. Travelled and jumped well on that occasion, allowing him to be in the perfect spot once the tempo lifted from three out. Looked as good as ever on his return when winning a Grade 3 at Tramore (for the third year running), and will have been trained to the minute for this. Worthy favourite, though this does look a stronger renewal than last year.
2. A Plus Tard (Henry de Bromhead/Rachael Blackmore)
Emphatic winner of the novice handicap chase at the 2019 Festival and beat Chacun Pour Soi in the Grade 1 Paddy's Rewards Chase (17f) at Leopardstown last season. Tongue tie fitted and produced a borderline career-best effort upped to 3m in the Savills Chase last time, coming with a strong, late surge to beat Kemboy by half a length. It was stamina which won him the race, so there is hope of staying this two-furlong longer trip, and he is right up there in form terms.
3. Aso (Venetia Williams/Daryl Jacob)
Only seventh in the Ryanair Chase (A Plus Tard third) at the Festival last season, and was well beaten by Cloth Cap at Kelso last week. Flying too high here.
4. Black Op (Tom George/Tom Scudamore)
Put in his place by Imperial Aura on his return at Carlisle in November and didn't really cope with the demands of the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on his next start. Ran as well as could have been expected when sixth to Frodon in the King George at Kempton last time, but makes little appeal.
5. Champ (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville)
Extraordinary winner of the RSA Chase at the Festival last season, looking well beaten in third jumping the last, but turning on the after-burners to power up the hill and overhaul Minella Indo and Allaho. Has undergone wind surgery and been seen only once since, but shaped very well dropped to 2m when second to Sceau Royal in the Game Spirit at Newbury last month, impressing with his slick jumping. That will have set him up perfectly for this and he has to be high on the shortlist.
6. Frodon (Paul Nicholls/Bryony Frost)
Likeable sort who has a very good record at this track, notably winning the 2019 Ryanair Chase. Arguably better than ever this season, showing a cracking attitude under a well-judged ride to win the King George at Kempton last time. This test demands much more, though, and he isn't sure to get his own way in front, which is a slight concern. Opposable.
7. Kemboy (Willie Mullins/Danny Mullins)
Top-class performer who unseated his rider at the first in this race in 2019 and could finish only seventh in last year's renewal. Beaten half a length by A Plus Tard in the Savills, but put up a tenacious front-running effort to win the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last time. Wasn't pestered in the lead that day, however, and his record at this course is less than convincing.
8. Lostintranslation (Colin Tizzard/Robbie Power)
Looked a potential top-notcher when winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock last season, but his record since has been more miss than hit. Ran a cracker to finish third to Al Boum Photo in this race last season, but arrives with plenty to prove following three disappointing efforts.
9. Minella Indo (Henry de Bromhead/Jack Kennedy)
Won the Albert Bartlett at the 2019 Festival and lost out only to Champ in the RSA last season after duelling with Allaho. Completed two easy tasks at the start of this season, but fell in the Savills and then failed to meet expectations when only fourth to Kemboy in the Irish Gold Cup last time. Still relatively unexposed, though, and a big run would not be a surprise.
10. Native River (Colin Tizzard/Richard Johnson)
Brilliant winner of this race in 2018 and has won three of his last four starts, looking as sprightly as ever when beating Bristol de Mai by nine and a half lengths in the rearranged Cotswold Chase at Sandown last time. Now an 11-year-old, but is lightly raced in recent years, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Has a good chance and is excellent value at a double-figure price.
11. Royale Pagaille (Venetia Williams/Charlie Deutsch)
Proved a totally different proposition this season, winning all three starts with plenty in hand, looking a top-class prospect when winning the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock by 16 lengths from a BHA mark of 156 last time. That was on heavy ground and Haydock form is not always replicated elsewhere, but there's no doubt he is progressing at a rate of knots. Folly to ignore.
12. Santini (Nicky Henderson/Aidan Coleman)
Won the Cotswold Chase at this course and then ran a blinder to finish a neck second to Al Boum Photo in first-time cheekpieces in this race on his final start last season. Shaped well at Aintree on his return and wasn't suited by how the King George developed but his effort behind Native River in the Cotswold Chase last time was concerning, his lack of application the main problem. This course will suit better, and he gets more severe headgear now.
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Timeform's analyst verdict
NATIVE RIVER's victory at Sandown last month was a joy to behold and a repeat of that effort will see him go close. He looks cracking value at double-figure odds at time of writing and is taken to emulate the great Kauto Star and regain the crown 3 years on from his first victory. 2019 and 2020 winner Al Boum Photo seems sure to go well in his hat-trick bid. A Plus Tard is also a big player.
1. Native River
2. Al Boum Photo
3. A Plus Tard