The 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup looks set to answer one of the key questions from last year. Would Silviniaco Conti have beaten Bobs Worth had he not fallen at the third last?
Trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Ruby Walsh were philosophical in defeat that day but there was no disguising the frustration on the face of Nicholls. The Ditcheat trainer had long been warning punters not to underestimate Silviniaco Conti and he appeared full of running at the time of his departure.
Bobs Worth’s victory in the Lexus Chase and Silviniaco Conti’s King George VI Chase win have left the pair clear in the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup betting market. The defending champion had drifted in the betting after running poorly at Haydock on his seasonal debut but Nicky Henderson had him spot on for Leopardstown.
Barry Geraghty always looked comfortable on the nine-year-old and produced him with a long run up the home straight to beat First Lieutenant by a length and a half. Last year’s Cheltenham runner-up Sir Des Champs finished fourth but picked up an injury and will miss this year’s renewal.
Cue Card looks likely to run in the race this year despite his defeat in the King George. Only Silviniaco Conti was able to go with him that day, eventually wearing him down between the last two fences before powering to a three and a half length win.
Having won the Ryanair Chase in 2013, many are doubtful about Cue Card’s ability to last three and a quarter miles up the famous Cheltenham hill. Trainer Colin Tizzard takes encouragement from the gelding’s impressive win over three miles and a furlong in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. He had both of the leading contenders behind him that day, although they were having their first outings of the new season.
First Lieutenant also looked better at shorter distances last season whilst Al Ferof, third at Kempton, is another with possible stamina doubts. There are no such concerns over Boston Bob who could emerge at the leading Irish challenger for the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He may have won the RSA Chase in 2013 but for falling at the last.
Paul Nicholls also has Hennessy Gold Cup runner-up Rocky Creek and Aintree winner Unioniste to consider whilst Nicky Henderson has also entered 2011 winner Long Run and this year’s Hennessy hero Triolo D’Alene. Both horses will also be given an entry into the 2014 Grand National along with Monbeg Dude who pulled up here last season.
David Pipe was bitterly disappointed with Dynaste in the King George and still hopes to have him right in time for the festival whilst Captain Chris seems far better going right-handed these days. Thirty-six horses remain in contention for a place in the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup.