Saturday 16 December 2017

Cheltenham 2015: Djak is good for gold in the cup

Dkakadam runs in tomorrow's Gold Cup at Cheltenham
Dkakadam runs in tomorrow's Gold Cup at Cheltenham

The Cheltenham Festival is a meeting that defines our equine greats, but few races has a prouder history of doing so than Friday’s feature and the blue riband contest in the sport of horse racing, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Arkle, Golden Miller, Mill House, Best Mate and Kauto Star are some of the names that dot the roll of honour and two of tomorrow’s 18-strong field will be looking to add a second Gold Cup to their name as Bobs Worth and Lord Windermere are back for more.

Despite their previous victories, it is a horse that was behind them in their respective Gold Cup triumph’s that heads the market as faith is put in Silviniaco Conti being better than he was here 12 months ago when finishing fourth behind Lord Windermere.

The previous year he fell at the third last when seemingly travelling strongly but that’s a long way out in a Gold Cup and although Paul Nicholls does suggest that issues have been resolved from last year, he is opposable and this could be a year for a second consecutive Irish Gold Cup winner.

Nobody can claim to have witnessed a Galway Plate winner win a Cheltenham Gold Cup but two will attempt to become the first tomorrow as Road To Riches and Carlingford Lough both look to have outstanding chances, but it is Djakadam, who will bid to follow Arkle and become the second Thyestes Chase winner to win the Gold Cup.

Take nothing away from the last two Galway Plate winners who have improved beyond all expectations with Road To Riches trying to give Gigginstown a second win in the race following War Of Attrition in 2006 and of course Carlingford Lough being AP McCoy’s final opportunity to land the most prestigious prize in the profession he has dominated for over two-decades.

Willie Mullins has never won the Gold Cup and all the fancy prices are now gone about his leading contender Djakadam, but in what looks like a wide open 18-runner field, the Gowran Park winner could well hold the key.


Extremely well fancied to win the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury earlier in the season, Mullins later admitted that he asked the horse an unfair question there but he bounced back to win the Thyestes emphatically and while the Gold Cup is a big leap from that heavy ground on a January afternoon, he is a horse that looks open to the most improvement.

It’ll be a big day for the Mullins family as not only does Willie have three-runners in the Gold Cup, but his son Patrick will be on board last year’s runner-up On His Own.

Proceedings get underway with the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle which has found itself coming to Ireland for the last two years, having not done so previously since 2002, and normal order is expected to be resumed tomorrow afternoon as Beltor is the horse who appears to set the standard.

The common line at the many Cheltenham preview nights held around the country was that if Beltor was trained by the likes of Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson or Paul Nicholls it would be an awful lot shorter than it currently is and that is probably a fair point.

But Robert Stephens looks to have done a fine job with the juvenile and is expected to continue the winning streak with the son of Derby winner Authorized.

Nicky Henderson’s Peace and Co is the obvious danger.

A course-and-distance winner on one of his two runs, he has hardly done anything wrong, but Beltor is the selection and as far as his price is concerned, the longer he is overlooked the better.

Depending on how the week is going up until tomorrow, the dream of AP McCoy bowing out of his last Cheltenham Festival with a winner will become very significant and although, at the time of going to print, he has options of JP McManus horses to ride in the Grand Annual, which this year has been named in his honour, East Lake looks to be the one that has the best chance.

Noel Meade’s Ned Buntline has obvious claims but with Jonjo O’Neill’s horses starting to fire again, it is course-and- distance winner East Lake that looks the more appropriate choice.


Cronin's Choice

Cheltenham Friday

1.30 Beltor

2.05 The Game Changer 

2.40 No More Heroes

3.20 Djakadam

4.00 Salsify

4.40 Quick Jack

5.15 East Lake

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