Trends & Stats
Twenty of the last 24 winners were aged between seven and 10
Only four of the last 31 winners started in double figures in the betting
Twenty-two of the last 29 winners had been at least placed at the festival before
The last 15 winners had fewer than five runs that season
Only two winners since 1989 had fewer than eight chase starts
Every past winner had run within 95 days
My leading contenders
The best National Hunt horse in training. Won the Tingle Creek in style and then bossed the Victor Chandler Chase. Is versatile as regards how he's ridden and his presence will pretty much reduce this field down to a minimum of viable opponents. Available at around [1.4] in the antepost win market there's part of me that thinks that is amazing value as he'll be nearer [1.2] on the day.
The best chaser in Ireland but even I think he'll need soft ground at this trip to be able to operate at his best. If he wins the Irish Hennessy I'm 95% sure they'll run in the Gold Cup.
Second in this race last year and has started to give the impression that a bare 2m on better ground may not be ideal. Couldn't beat Finian's Rainbow and the stable doesn't hold that horse in the same breath as Sprinter Sacre. Ryanair looks the more likely option.
Won this last year in gutsy fashion but given that he's been campaigned as if staying could be his forte (entered in Gold Cup) then you'd have to be worried. Another for whom the Ryanair looks the more likely option given how the stable have this pretty much wrapped up with the favourite.
Been rocketing up the handicap having won his last two races in very taking fashion. Rated 153 but given how he races it's easy to think he can better that mark by some way. Has 26lb to find officially and as well as that I get the impression the soft ground has aided his riding style given the way his two previous races have been run. Whether he'll get close enough to Sprinter Sacre to land any kind of blow is questionable and if he does try to beat him it could leave him vulnerable to a stronger stayer as regards the places are concerned.
Campaign has been geared towards him staying 3m, although his win in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter suggests he's no back number over 2m. Again another who'll probably race in the Ryanair, although if he comes here he's likely to stay this trip better than most given the way it will be run.
Well and truly put in his place in his last two runs by the favourite and even with better ground I cannot see him reversing his fortunes at the Festival. In my eyes he's a short runner at the trip in a strong run race.
Needs soft ground to be seen at his best and despite a good second at Leopardstown at Christmas it is hard to see him having the pace for this on better ground.
Who I'm backing
It's impossible to oppose Sprinter Sacre given how well he's won his last two races and there's every reason to think [1.42] is value.
I'm willing to take a few small and speculative punts in the w/o Sprinter Sacre market. I'm ignoring any horse that looks like it has any possibility of lining up in the Ryanair and want to be with those with Cheltenham and/or Festival experience.
I think this race will cut up badly with the favourite scaring a lot of these off and I can see Edgardo Sol running a big race at [34.0]. He has finished second here in a County Hurdle and will love any improvement in the ground. As the Ryanair horses make their targets more certain this price could prove amazing value.