EVEN without injured star novice Thistlecrack, this afternoon’s Timico Gold Cup (3.30pm) promises to be a mouth-watering contest, with the likes of Cue Card, Native River and Djakadam all standing their ground.
It’s easy to make a case for any one of the three who are hard to separate at the top of the market.
Cue Card was in the process of running a blinder in this race 12 months ago when crashing out at the third last.
Whether he would have beaten eventual winner Don Cossack is open to debate, but there is no question he would have given him a race.
He’s looked as good as ever this season, but can he win this at the age of 11?
I’m also worried that he had an extremely hard race at Ascot last time without much time to recover.
Native River has gone from strength to strength this season, adding the Denman Chase last time to his Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh National victories.
He’s tough, stays well and will be hard to keep out of the frame.
Willie Mullins’ Djakadam has finished second in both of the last two renewals and has every chance of making it third time lucky.
The Fellow was second on three occasions before finally winning his Gold Cup so it can be done.
Djakadam has been trained differently this year, opting to skip the Irish Gold Cup, and arrives here a fresh horse.
The more rain that materialises, the better his chances.
However, at the current prices I am going to take a chance on Jessica Harrington’s SIZING JOHN, at 9/1 with 188BET.
The seven-year-old looked a revelation when stepped up in trip last time having been previously campaigned over much shorter trips.
Don’t forget he has chased Douvan home an unbelievable seven times and has that all-important mix of speed as well as stamina.
As for the rest, you certainly couldn’t rule out the Jonjo O’Neill pair of More Of That and Minella Rocco.
If there is to be an upset, it could well be the former, who has reportedly blossomed in recent weeks, and was the only horse to ever beat Annie Power over hurdles in a race she completed.
Regular followers of this column will remember I recommended CHAMPAGNE WEST at 20/1 a few weeks ago and I’m certainly not deserting him.
He looked a different horse when bolting up in handicap company for his new connections last time and can go well if his jumping holds out.
Sizing John e/w 3.30pm Cheltenham
Champagne West (already advised e/w at 20/1) 3.30pm Cheltenham
Jeff Parkes, 188BET
Why we are shortest about Le Prezien (5.30pm Grand Annual)
A competitive race but quite a few of the same old faces. This looks ripe for an up and coming novice and Le Prezien certainly fits the bill.
While not thrown in off 146, there are enough reasons to believe he could be a fair bit better than that mark.
His novice hurdle form from last year reads well, in particular the Grade One at Aintree where he threw down a serious challenge to Yorkhill.
He’s been fairly competent over fences so far and I expect the race to be run to suit
We don’t want to lay this one.
Why we are biggest about Djakadam (3.30pm Gold Cup)
It’s a wide open Gold Cup with three vying for favouritism at the front of the market.
Support for Djakadam in recent weeks has been relentless, yet after a quiet start to the festival for trainer Willie Mullins, confidence may be waning.
The underfoot conditions are also a worry as he has been wanting for a turn of speed on good ground in the past.
Cue Card, Native River and Sizing John all probably have a little more toe and for that reason, we’ll be happy to lay Djakadam.