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The Gold Cup looks like it will be competitive as usual of course but there isn't a clear and obvious contender to take on the two-time champion Al Boum Photo.
He has always seemed to be a fairly dull horse to me, not a particularly awesome jumper and not overly imposing in the paddock but it's impossible to knock his two victories in this race. He might not look like a superstar but he is one and has to be respected.
I think the 4-1 available with Betway is very fair at this moment in time (although they aren't offering NRNB) because he is the sensible obvious choice and that's a decent price.
There aren't many horses going back to win a race for the third time in a row at Cheltenham where you can get 4-1 about them.
Of the alternatives, there are a few that are of interest. I have always thought that Santini was made for this race and his 2nd place finish last year did little to dissuade me from that. He is a dour stayer and for the most part, jumps pretty well.
He was caught for a turn of foot last year as they turned for home but rallied up the hill and with another 50 yards would have caught Al Boum Photo.
The downside for Santini was that he didn't look great at all in the King George and you wonder whether he has maybe now had his best chance to win a Gold Cup.
A Plus Tard is another that we cannot ignore particularly after his recent win at Leopardstown in the Savills Chase at Christmas.
He arrived late on the scene suggesting that he has developed into a real staying chaser. It's worth bearing in mind that he is only a 7-year-old so it's entirely possible that he has improved this season after his slightly disappointing performance in last year's Ryanair Chase.
The one that I am siding with at this early stage though is my old pal CHAMP.
He came from out of the back of the telly to win the RSA last year, nabbing Minella Indo and Alaho near the line as they both folded.
Champ is a rogue, running in snatches at times, throwing in the odd dodgy jump and even deciding to take the wrong route at Newbury on one occasion before Barry Geraghty snatched him back at the very last second to go on and win.
He is nothing if not exciting to watch and he has that underlying class that allows him to get away with mistakes and flat spots in races. He is likely to run in the Cotswold Chase on Festival Trials Day at the end of this month which was the same prep race that Santini had last season.
Some would be concerned about that trial being too close to the festival but I'm not overly worried about that. Better that he has a run rather than no run at all.
He has also had a wind op since the RSA which is probably a positive. My thinking is that he is something of a forgotten horse at the moment so 10-1 NRNB now will probably look quite good if he wins or performs well in the Cotswold Chase.
For the record, I haven't completely given up on Presenting Percy who was looking decent again after the switch to Gordon Elliott with a win at Thurles beating Monalee and Kemboy who are two decent yardsticks.
He then found nothing in the closing stages at Leopardstown and as a result, can be backed at fancy prices for the Gold Cup.
I also have my eye on him as a potential Grand National horse but we'll come back to that at a later date once the weights are announced.
We are likely to still get the big prices to come the day for the Gold Cup when we will also have the bonus of extra places from most bookmakers so we will hold off until then. He is undoubtedly now a cliff horse for me but at prices like 33-1 I won't lose much by following him once more.
Gold Cup Ante-post Tip
- Each way bet on Champ
11:40 Cork - Race: 1
11:55 Punchestown - Race: 1