In 1983 Michael Dickenson trained the first five home in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and earned a permanent place in Cheltenham Festival folklore as one of the Gold Cups greatest achievers. Amazingly enough Dickenson was only in his third season as a trainer at that time. The race was won in actual fact by the favourite, Bregawn, who had been second the year before and he was followed home Captain John and the three time King George Chase winner, Wayward Lad.
There has been no-one who had come anywhere near equalling that feat until champion trainer, Paul Nicholls saddled the first three home last year. Coincidentally those same three horses are the leading three in the betting this year but the gamble is that they will most certainly not finish in the same order.
Denman won from Kauto Star with great comfort last season and had it not been for his heart difficulties he would surely be favourite to win again in 2009, however, it appears that the condition and subsequent operation has taken his toll. With only one disappointing race since, when behind Madison De Berlais in the Aon Chase it looks like the Denman legend will not quite be born. He has gone down to third favourite this year and some say he will be fortunate to get home in that position and at one time during the year there had been some takl about him entering the Grand National.
The Gold Cup Odds make the 2007 winner and three time King George winner, Kauto Star the favourite at 2/1. Stable jockey, Ruby Walsh has elected to ride him again this year but only after he had tried his hand on Denman in the Aon Chase; his decision to ride Kauto Star appears to have consigned Denman to defeat.
Kauto Star meanwhile will come into the race fresh having not raced since his epic win on Boxing Day and has been heavily and regularly backed since.
The third horse, Neptune Collonges, has improved significantly since last season and won the Irish Gold Cup last month in great style having previously fallen two from home in the Lexus Chase when in contention. It should be remembered that this horse was very fast finishing when third in the Gold Cup last season and only just finished behind Kauto Star.
It is hard to believe that Nicholls could pull off a first three again this year but anything is possible, that said the hopes of horses of the obvious calibre of Madison De Berlais and Exotic Dancer (winner of the Lexus Chase) should not be overlooked. They are both stand out each way candidates for the race and it wold surprise no-one in racing to see either of them win.
Genuine claims can also be made on behalf of the Queen’s horse, Barbers Shop and there are will be any number of punters queuing up to take the online bookmakers free bets being put up as an incentive to get customers in for the big race.
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