The fluctuating ante-post market in the build-up to last year’s Prestbury Park showpiece certainly made for interesting reading. Two-time defending champion, Al Boum Photo, was the favourite in the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting prior to the Festival, but the form of Henry de Bromhead and the sensational Rachael Blackmore throughout the week threw A Plus Tard into the limelight and he was quickly backed into the market leader.
However, while everyone expected a thrilling two-horse race between Willie Mullins’ nine-year-old and his seven-year-old counterpart, it was actually another De Bromhead-trained horse who swept in and stole the headlines unexpectedly — a certain Minella Indo. Ridden by the young Jack Kennedy, the eight-year-old was two lengths clear over the last and held on to beat his stablemate by little more than a length from 9/1.
A Plus Tard is set to come back with a vengeance at this year’s renewal and is already getting a lot of backing to win the Gold Cup in the Cheltenham racing tips, but could we see another champion from left of field pip the favourite again this year? Read on as we take a look at some of the contenders.
With the Irish having won the last three renewals of the Gold Cup, it is about time the British put an end to their dominance in the Cheltenham showpiece. It appears their best chance of doing that is 10/1 shot Protektorat. Trained by Dan Skelton, the seven-year-old has won four of his last seven races, coming home in second in the other three outings. It is impressive form, with his recent success in the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase, which he won by 25 lengths last month, his biggest victory to date. Whether or not he can compete with the likes of A Plus Tard remains to be seen, but his recent record certainly suggests he could there or thereabouts.
With Mullins hoping to regain the Gold Cup after those back-to-back victories in 2019 and 2020, Tornado Flyer was thrown into the mix after a shock victory in the prestigious King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. Winless in his last nine outings, dating back to December 2019, the nine-year-old caused a mighty upset as he romped home over nine lengths clear of the much more fancied Clan Des Obeaux to win the historic three-mile race from 28/1. He has subsequently entered the Gold Cup market at around 12/1, but we might need to see another run from Tornado Flyer before Cheltenham if we are to be convinced he can pull off another surprise.
Al Boum Photo
At 10 years old, Al Boum Photo may be edging on veteran status, but it would be foolish to rule him out completely — especially when you think back to Tiger Roll’s triumph in the Cross Country when everyone had written him off last year. Yes, Cheltenham and the preceding Punchestown Festival didn’t go to plan for the Mullins-trained horse, but he got back to winning ways in the New Year’s Day Chase at Tramore, and while it was only a Grade 3, it was the perfect seasonal reappearance and perhaps just what he needed. He’ll likely feature again before Cheltenham and another victory could see his odds slashed.