2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup Top Contenders
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2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup Top Contenders

 

This is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing Cheltenham Gold Cup’s in many a year and the prospect of three past winners coming back makes it especially tantalizing. It’s also shaping up to be a fairly good betting race, which makes it the must-play fixture on the day’s card.

Imperial Commander is an impressive specimen and he boasts plenty of talent – that’s not in dispute. What is in dispute is the ability to come out and beat this talented field off a single run and a racecourse gallop. Connections will probably opt to put him just off the pace again but if the ground proves to be as soft as I expect tomorrow, he may wind up extending himself a bit too much and may not be able to maintain that rapid pace he likes as he goes over each fence. Firmer going works in his favour, softer going takes the race away from him. Remember that if you’re looking to stack a big bet on him.

Kauto Star obviously deserves respect and is by no means a spent-force. Forgive his poor performance in the King George as he didn’t have his regular pilot and did not look to be in tip-top shape for the trip. Softer going works in his favour and his jumping ability is going to be the make or break factor on his quest for a third Gold Cup. The 5/1 price he’s floating at now represents much more value than last year and if a contender has shown so much in the past, it’s difficult to say that they’re dead in the water before the race is run. Those avoiding Kauto or dismissing him are likely making a mistake – the Nicholls yard wouldn’t have entered him if they didn’t think he could win. If you’re feeling cautious, back him in-running after he’s shown that he’s ready to go over the obstacles. Having Ruby Walsh up for the trip might make all the difference here.

Long Run is really the wildcard here and the question isn’t whether his King George VI victory was a one-off but it’s about whether he’s ready to step up to this level yet. I could see him tackling one of Kauto, Denman, or Imperial but facing off against all three, as well as a talented supporting cast, makes him a bit less appealing. His 9/2 price tag is just a bit too short considering how up against it he really is here. At 8/1 or 10/1 he’d be a great shout but at 9/2 you’re probably only going to play him if he’s been your selection all along.

Denman could become part of the equation with relative ease but his form just leaves a lot to be desired. He’s not actually won a race since 2009 and needs to be in cracking form if he’s going to pull off a victory here. He pushed Imperial all the way last time out but just couldn’t do enough. 13/2 is a bit short but he isn’t out of the question to complete the bottom-end of a forecast.