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When National Hunt racing fans are discussing the likely contenders for the Cheltenham Festival’s Gold Cup, many are of the belief that it is Galopin Des Champs’ race to lose. Those opinions are reinforced in the Cheltenham day 4 antepost betting, with the Willie Mullins-trained horse a short favourite at 13/8.
It’s easy to see why the seven-year-old is garnering such hype however, with the gelding having won seven of his last eight starts dating back to his win at the same meeting two years ago when he reigned supreme in the Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle by more than two lengths from Langar Dan.
His only blemish since then came in the Turners Novices’ Chase at Prestbury Park last year, in which he fell at the last when leading by 12 lengths. Galopin Des Champs then picked up from where he left off when on return this season, securing two dominant wins at Punchestown and at the Dublin Racing Festival most recently.
Therefore, with that in mind, there’s no doubting Mullins’ horse will be very hard to beat on the day, however, the Gold Cup is an extremely deep field yet again this year and consists of some elite horses who could cause Galopin Des Champs plenty of headaches down the stretch.
Let’s take a look at three thoroughbreds who arguably have the best shot of causing the upset.
A Plus Tard
Write off a former champion at your own peril. A Plus Tard may not have the recent form when compared to that of Galopin Des Champs’, but he does have the experience in this specific fixture – and it’s impressive experience at that. Not only did the French horse reign supreme in the Festival’s feature race last year – he did so by 15 lengths from then reigning champion Minella Indo.
Despite that, he is still somewhat flying under the radar – even as the joint second favourite at 13/2.
The other joint second favourite to take home the £351,000 in prizemoney is eight-year-old Bravemansgame, who enters in a rich vein of form that includes triumphs in six of his last seven appearances. He was particularly imposing last time out, making light work of his opposition to finish first past the post 14 lengths in front of the second-placed Royale Pagaille.
He doesn’t have either course or distance form for this race however, which could negatively impact his chances of securing his trainer Paul Nicholls with his first Gold Cup title at Cheltenham since 2009.
Galopin Des Champs’ stablemate Stattler could boast strong claims at 9/1. While the nine-year-old doesn’t have any one run that has jumped off the screen, he has been an incredibly consistent performer for the better part of three years.
You only have to look at his last six outings, in which he has won four and finished second twice, all but one of which were graded fixtures. Couple that with the fact that he has had success at Prestbury Park in the past, having won the Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Chase last year, and Stattler is shaping up to be the surprise packet of the Gold Cup contenders.
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