Road to Cheltenham

Bill Esdaile
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THIS year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup is extremely open with a nice ante-post shape.

Dual-King George winner Silviniaco Conti is a class horse, but Paul Nicholls’ inmate has had two cracks at the blue riband event and has failed to even finish in the top three.

In fairness to him, there’s nothing to suggest he doesn’t handle Prestbury Park. He was travelling as well as anything when falling in Bobs Worth’s Gold Cup in 2013 and last year’s renewal was a messy affair where the first four finished in a heap.

The steep uphill finish may just have found him out then, though, and three miles on a flat track seem his ideal conditions. He doesn’t represent value at 3/1.

Road To Riches is Ireland’s top chaser, but beat a lot of horses that didn’t give their running in the Lexus in December and has a bit to prove.

Oliver Sherwood’s Many Clouds has had a fine campaign, winning the Hennessy and impressive with a penalty in the BetBright Chase.

That demonstrated he’s a live contender, but he’s not my idea of the winner at 9/1.

Keep an eye on the action at Leopardstown on Sunday as the Gold Cup market will be in for a shake-up after the Irish Hennessy (3.50pm).

CARLINGFORD LOUGH has always promised to be a good animal and I thought he ran a blinder in the Lexus, travelling well for a long time on his reappearance before tiring late on.

If he can win on Sunday against horses like Boston Bob and On His Own, who lack his potential, then the 20/1 floating around now for the Gold Cup won’t last long.

A tough beast, that battles when off the bridle, he’s a fair bet to take Cheltenham’s biggest prize next month.

■ Pointers…
CARLINGFORD LOUGH (20/1) Cheltenham Gold Cup