In his final big race preview Racing UK's Alex Steedman takes a look at the Gold Cup and believes Bobs Worth is set to maintain his unbeaten Cheltenham record by winning the blue riband event for a second successive year...
"In other words, though Bobs Worth appears to make hard work of things and to that extent seems vulnerable, he always wins convincingly in the end."
He might walk around the pitch like Steve Claridge, socks round his ankles and mud in his hair but Bobs Worth is definitely Premier League.
Shame the little warrior wasn't around when Claridge was doing his dough because he's become such a favourite with punters at the Festival and the reigning champion is on the cusp of racing history.
Bobs Worth may not have the swagger of Kauto Star or enjoy the public clamour of Denman just yet but he might be about to emulate one and surpass the other as a dual winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. That would put his name in the books alongside Kauto, Best Mate and L'Escargot since the Arkle days; not bad for a scruffy haired urchin from the valley.
Bobs Worth is probably more Bryan Robson than George Best in truth but when the tackles are flying and a late goal is needed, he'll be there. Put it this way, Bobs Worth - available to back at [3.1] for the Festival's blue riband race - would be the first name on the team sheet every week.
His record at both Cheltenham and the Festival is something of a phenomenon stretching now to an unbeaten run of five including victories at the big one in each of the last three seasons.
Though the Nicky Henderson grinder seems to win his races through a macho blend of stamina and attitude, all of those wins - including an Albert Bartlett, RSA and Gold Cup - have come by two lengths or more. In other words, though Bobs Worth appears to make hard work of things and to that extent seems vulnerable, he always wins convincingly in the end.
The door is always creaking though, he gives you a chance and who knows what would have happened had Siviniaco Conti ([4.1]) not fallen three out in last year's race. He was travelling kindly and moving with menace at the time and unlike last term, he has been trained with this in mind. I also think he's more of a stayer this season though perhaps he always was.
Conti's King George victory over Cue Card underlined his quality while hinting at the requisite toughness for the demands of a Gold Cup. Silviniaco might prove too quick for Bobs Worth if it comes down to it but he's a likely winner either way and possibly back-to-lay material.
Beyond the big two, I see only Last Instalment ([11.0]) as the other genuine contender. The Giant Bolster ([22.0]) would be a great story and he's in there pitching for a place (available to back at [5.0] in the Place market) having finished fourth in the last two renewals. But I'm afraid there isn't enough ammo in the holster of 'The Bolster'.
Last Instalment though has always looked the part and having come back from the brink he is on a high. I should add a 'natural high' of course given the back story to his participation.
There is something of 'Denman' in the way Last Instalment sets about his business in that bullish, no-nonsense style of his. No doubt he was granted an easy lead in the Irish Hennessy but he would have won that race any which way and the manner in which he ramped it up late on was quite stunning. He demolished First Lieutenant again, just as he has done as a Novice in 2011 and let's not forget this guy has only been beaten once as a chaser and that was his reappearance following nearly two years on the sidelines.
He's a definite player and seems to have all the necessary tools but I wonder if he has a plan B and if he can do his stuff on an undulating track like Cheltenham where tactical speed will be required. Read on.
The media of course are prowling with that story in mind and racing probably hopes secretly the Gold Cup provides another tale. Perhaps a homespun yarn about the working class hero who finds a way to prevail against the stylists and blue-bloods like an equine Alf Tupper will do. It's a story as old as the hills looking down upon Cheltenham but fitting nonetheless for the unassuming dynamo looking to create history. He may not have cost much but this Bob is worth much, to many.
Gold Cup 1-2-3
1. Bobs Worth
2. Silvianaco Conti
3. Last Instalment
Back Bobs Worth @ [3.1]