Certainly Al Boom Photo is in rude health heading off to the Festival, having won at Tram ore on New Year’s Day. Willie Mullins is more than aware that the statistics are against his horse achieving back-to-back wins, to say nothing of the fact that the field is going to be a competitive one.
The likes of Clan DES Beau, who won last year’s King George, and Keystrokes Trophy winner DE Rasher Counter will be hoping to stop Al Boom Photo etching his name into the record books. That he’s won the Gold Cup already means that he has some experience that the other horses are lacking, even if he did fall in the RSA Chase when he ran in it in 2018.
The beauty of the Gold Cup is that it’s a challenging enough race to mean that most entries will feel as though they’ve got a chance of victory with a fair wind behind them. That Delta Work won the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown at the start of February will mean that trainer Gordon Elliott will be more confident about his charge’s chances than most.
That came at the expense of other likely Gold Cup hopefuls Presenting Percy and Embody, seeing his price come in quite a bit for the blue ribald event. The main thing about Bristol De Mai that means he’s worth having a look at is the fact that most bookmakers seem to have completely ruled him out of the running for the blue ribald event.
It was also a small field in the Grade 2 Paddy Power Cotswold Chase during Cheltenham Festival Trials Day in January. He has plenty of experience racing the Pressure Park course and this will be his third Gold Cup attempt, so it’s not as if he’s likely to be overawed by the occasion.
Other big name winners include Master Minded, Sprinter Sacred and Special Tiara, so that probably helps to explain why Willie Mullins would like a win for Min this time out. There’s a chance that Min might be moved over to the Ryanair Chase instead, but whichever horse he’s entered into he’ll be worth a flutter.
He’s quietly unbeaten in three chase run-outs, so the long odds he’ll likely be handed aren’t to be sniffed at. He didn’t take part in the Cheltenham Festival last year after a setback, but wins against horses that went on to do well at Pressure Park earlier in the season meant that he would have been well fancied had he shown up.
Rival trainer End Bolder predicted big things for Ciaos Emery after seeing her own horse beaten by him at Cork in December, so that should tell you something. Willie Mullins has overseen two wins so far this season, with the only defeat coming after he fell in the Keystrokes Dublin Chase at the start of February.
At the time of writing Action is the joint-favourite for the Champion Chase, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him become the outright favorite the closer the race gets. His running style suggests that he’s always likely to struggle, but his placings in racing makes a mockery of that ideal.
A lengthy break between April 2019 and November of the same year might well have meant that he was rather rusty when he returned to the Grade 2 Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot, perhaps explaining his second-place finish out of three runners, his only defeat over fences. Little wonder, then, that trainer Nicky Henderson is quietly confident that he’ll be able to cause some trouble in the Champion Chase, even if he’s wary of the horses likely to give him a run for his money.
There will be a huge amount of money riding on Paisley Park when the race gets underway and the only people likely to be pleased if he doesn’t win are the bookies. All the talk in the lead up to the Festival is going to be about Honeysuckle, with the mare having won the Irish Champion Hurdle at the start of February.
She’s won 8 out of 9 starts since moving over to work with trainer Willie Mullins, so there’s likely to be a ding-dong battle between the two if they are indeed entered into the Mares’ Hurdle. The big difference that she’s gained under Mullins is consistency, with a record that read 33614 prior to the move looking like 111F1 since.
Her only outing so far this season came in the Grade 2 John Muller Galaxy Hurdle at Moran Park towards the end of January. The Irish thoroughbred won the Champion Hurdle in 2015, so he’s got good experience of life at Pressure Park, but there was a suggestion he might not from trainer Willie Mullins after the Floras Novices’ Chase in February.
Eleven Grade 1 wins in a career to date that includes 17 wins out of 25 attempts means that Daughter is a firm crowd favorite, so don’t be surprised if the roar is slightly louder from the Cheltenham racegoers should Mullins decide to give him one more outing this season. The ten hurdles that are in play during the running require a horse to have both skill over obstacles and a good degree of stamina to be in with a chance of victory.
Of course, the fact that he’s notched up seven wins from seven starts also helps the feeling that he’s going to be impressive when asked to step up to a race that some much-loved horses have won over the years. Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park (Time form rating 166p) has been unsurprisingly popular with punters as he builds up to defend his crown.
Bernie DES Door has a Time form rating of 159 but would receive 7 lb, making her Paisley Park’s stiffest test yet. Interestingly, Devi du Stool (170p), who is only 9/4 following Grade 1 victories in the Tingle Creek and the Clarence House Chase, has not been so popular.
Prior to his King George flop he had been an impressive winner of the Bet fair Chase, achieving a level of form that entitles him to respect. Henry de Bromhead’s seven-year-old got off the mark over fences at the second attempt in January, and the runner-up on that day has since come out to land a Grade 2 contest by six lengths.
Champ (155p), the 3/1 market leader for the RSA, did well to win on his second start over fences at Newbury, prevailing despite putting in a slow jump at the last and nearly taking the wrong course on the run-in. He then fell in the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, when set to make it three from three, but has remained popular and is the ninth best -backed runner at the Festival.
In her novice season, Annie Power elected not to take part in the list of Cheltenham World Hurdle runners. This success immediately made her a favorite for the upcoming Cheltenham Festival as one of the horses in Champion Hurdle.
Even though Annie Power did not start as the favorite Cheltenham World Hurdle horses, but she came very close to beating More Of That. The 2014 season saw Annie Power make a major step up in the game by winning the likes of Don caster Mares’ Hurdle.
Annie Power’s odds in hurdle events started rising considerably since 2014 and it was a sign that she was now one of the horsesCheltenham wanted to feature the most as a Cheltenham runner. Overcoming a strong list of runners Cheltenham gave, Annie Power finally achieved the biggest glory.
Biography Place of birth: France Weight: 10-10 Career wins: 10 Foaled: 5 May 2008 Color: Bay Breeder: Hara's de La Roeselare & Mme M. Chateau Trainer: Fabrice Voucher & Willie Mullins Staying undefeated in the first five races clearly showed a lot of potential as Cheltenham World Hurdle runners.
During this period, he made the transition into one of the top Cheltenham World Hurdle horses after winning the PRI Hypotheses by beating Grande Course de Haies d’Auteur winner Remix, who is regarded as one of the top horses for Cheltenham. UN de Sceaux started taking part in novice steeplechase events in the 2014-15 season.
Despite not being a favorite among the horses in Cheltenham Festival 2015, UN de Sceaux managed to win the Ankle Challenge Trophy beating popular Cheltenhamhorses like Vibrato Val tat. Even into the 2016 season, UN de Sceaux was still considered as a specialist when it comes to chase events and not among the top horses in Champion Hurdle.
It did not stop UN de Sceaux from being paired up alongside Queen Mother Champion Chase horses like Sprinter Sacred. Even though he did not emerge victorious, he remains as one of the top Queen Mother Champion Chase runners.
Nichols Canyon is a British-born thoroughbred racehorse which started out well in flat races before being considered as one of the top Cheltenham World Hurdle runners. It made him a prominent face when it comes to competitors for Cheltenham Gold Cup runners.
One of the major events that elevated Nichols Canyon to the status of being a top Cheltenham Champion Hurdle runners was his victory over Daughter, who had been undefeated until then. Sired by none other than Authorized, who is himself regarded as one of the top Cheltenhamhorses after winning the likes of the International Stakes.
Nichols Canyon may have failed to win his debut race, after coming a close second, but he was already on his way to being considered as potential Cheltenham runners. Nichols Canyon made a prominent impact in the National Hunt novice season by managing a string of wins in 2015.
It was during the transfer to Ireland when Nichols Canyon started making progress as one of the top Cheltenham World Hurdle horses. It may be awhile before Nichols Canyon’s makes his mark as Queen Mother Champion Chase runners.
Biography Place of birth: France Weight: 11-7 Career wins: 8 Foaled: 23 April 2006 Color: Bay or brown Breeder: Christophe Male Trainer: Nicky Henderson Only Flying bolt and Ankle on 212 are regarded as better Queen Mother Champion Chase runners purely in terms of ratings.
Even though Sprinter Sacred has managed to be part of Champion Hurdle runners, he has always excelled in terms of Chase events. Still, it does not surprise to learn that horses in Champion Hurdle do fear at the sight of Sprinter Sacred.
One of the prominent was a success at the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and it finally elevated him as one of the best Gold Cup horses. This new status as one of the best Gold Cup runners did not create issues for Sprinter Sacred in that season as he managed to win several more major events.
Cheltenham Gold Cup horses are truly changed upon the ability to sustain success for a long, but there was a major scare for Sprinter Sacred in the coming season. Cheltenham World Hurdle horses started taking the attention off Sprinter Sacred during 2014, as numerous health issues prevented him from making a major impact.
After no titles in 2014, Sprinter Sacred returned with a bang in 2015 with a couple of Chase victories to once again still fear into the Cheltenham World Hurdle runners. Even though there was not much in the way of new titles in 2015, Sprinter Sacred maintained his status as one of the top horses in Cheltenham by staying unbeaten.
Part of the reason why Thistle crack has already been considered as one of the top horsesCheltenham would witness in the upcoming event is due to its lineage. It was sired by none other than Kay Tara, who managed to win two Irish St Levers and two Ascot Gold Cups at his peak.
Other horses in Cheltenham that share its lineage are the likes of Carriers, Tea For Two, and Planet of Sound. The National Hunt 2014-15 season saw Thistle crack, now starting to become one of the top Gold cup runners, managing two wins at minor hurdle races.
Biography Place of birth: United Kingdom Weight: 11-11 Career wins: 9 Foaled: 23 February 2007 Color: Bay Breeder: John Oakley Trainer: Mark Brad stock Cleared was bred by John Oakley, and he is one of the reasons for transforming talent into among the great Cheltenham Gold Cup runners ever witnessed.
The step up towards being one of the top Cheltenhamhorses for Cleared came in the 2011-12 season when he made his debut and straightaway managed a victory. It was clear that Cleared was going to be among the top Queen Mother Champion Chase runners, but such quick progress was not expected.
The 2013-14 season would probably rank as one of the poorest for Cleared, as he failed to win major events and suffered a pelvic injury to be ruled out for 2013. Cleared was not going to experience an elevated status as the favorite Gold Cup runners to win the tournament.
Cue Card has managed to win 14 steeplechase events to be considered as one of the top Cheltenham runners. An incredible seven victories have been at Grade 1 level making Cue Card as one of the bestCheltenham Champion Hurdle runners around.
Success at the Cheltenham Festival came through the Champion Bumper event and it made him one of the top Gold Cup horses. His poor record as a Cheltenham World Hurdle runners is visible from the fact that most of the successes in the 2012-13 season were in chase events.
Poor performance in the hurdle events is not a factor when it comes to considering the bestCheltenhamhorses, and Cue Card is certainly one of the bestCheltenham runners around. The main criterion for festivals of horses in Cheltenham is to win major events, and Cue Card has managed to do this spectacularly.
The year 2016 would be considered as a disappointment for Cue Card, one of the top horses in Cheltenham festivals, as the Retired Bowl is now the only solitary success. Still, a few bad months do not affect Cue Card as he still remains as one of the horses for Cheltenham Festival success.
Biography Place of birth: Germany Weight: 11-10 Career wins: 16 Foaled: 21 March 2007 Color: Brown Breeder: Gesture Ethan Trainer: Edward Hales & Gordon Elliott Don Cossack showed a lot of promise that it would become a Cheltenham runner right from the young age after winning a novice hurdle and three National Hunt events in 2013.
Don Cossack was sired by Sholokhov, who may not have been one of the Queen Mother Champion Chase horses, but managed to win numerous other top events. After training in Ireland, Don Cossack returned to the United Kingdom to be part of the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle runners after the first win.
Even in his first season, Don Cossack was proving his ability as among Cheltenham Gold Cup runners with Gilmore Novice Chase wins. By spring, Don Cossack was being regarded as one of the top horses in Champion Hurdle after winning the Punches town Gold Cup and Selling Chase.
The 2015-16 season will probably be regarded as the best year for Gold Cup horses as it saw the rise of Don Cossack as a winner at the Cheltenham Festival. After entering into the 2016 Festival as one of the horses for Cheltenham victory, Don Cossack did not disappoint and went on to lift the Gold Cup.
Being unable to win the King George VI Chase in the season would probably rank as one of the biggest disappointments for one of the top runners Cheltenham has seen. However, it will not be long before Don Cossack is back in the frame for this event as one of the top Champion Hurdle runners.
Regarded as one of the best Queen Mother Champion Chase runners around, Dougan came to prominence in the hurdle events. He managed to finish second in his debut race, but that was not going to prevent a rise into one of the best Queen Mother Champion Chase horses.
It was not until the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle event that Dougan started making his presence felt as a Cheltenham runner. Despite starting at the back of the favorites field of Cheltenhamhorses, Dougan managed to come from behind and beat the likes of L’AMI Serge.
This victory truly made everyone stand up and take notice of Dougan as a top Champion Hurdle runners. Dougan’s trainer Willie Mullins maintains that the world is yet to be aware of the full capabilities of this horse as one of the top Cheltenham Gold Cup runners.
Dougan may have had only two appearances as one of the runners Cheltenham had witnessed, but victories at the likes of Ankle Challenge Trophy have transformed him into coveted horsesCheltenham loves.