There are likely to be only nine runners in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (Friday 3.30pm), but what the field lacks in numbers it more than makes up for in quality.
Don Cossack heads the majority of bookmakers’ lists and nobody would begrudge trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Bryan Cooper a win in the week’s biggest race, having lost the talented No More Heroes in Wednesday’s RSA Chase.
However, the one concern with Don Cossack remains his jumping on the big occasions.
He was just creeping into the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day when coming down at the second last and wasn’t foot perfect in last year’s Ryanair Chase either.
The drying ground is a big positive and is more than likely the reason that Cooper has chosen him over the other Gigginstown-owned runner DON POLI, but I reckon he may be on the wrong one.
My selection, ridden by Davy Russell, has been to the Cheltenham Festival on two previous occasions and walked away with a win both times.
Having landed the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle two years ago, he was an emphatic winner of last year’s RSA Chase and can follow in the recent hoofprints of the likes of Denman, Bobs Worth and Lord Windermere by taking the Gold Cup the following season.
His doubters are worried about his ability to travel on a sound surface, but the key is his abundance of stamina and no other horse will be finishing stronger up Cheltenham’s famous hill.
Last year’s runner-up Djakadam certainly can’t be discounted, but he’s fluffed his lines by falling on the only two other times he has been to Cheltenham and that’s a worry.
The biggest danger ought to be Cue Card, who has been the star chaser this side of the Irish Sea this season, but he may just get outstayed by Don Poli.
Don Poli, 3.30pm, Cheltenham