The Cheltenham Festival is just two months away, and already the excitement surrounding the historic meeting is starting to build. There may not be a 70,000-strong crowd roaring the horses on up the famous hill, but at least there’s hope that there won’t be the eery silence we’ve seen at the likes of Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood last summer, with current restrictions admitting around 2,000 a day.
Of course, amongst the whopping 15 Grade 1 races, the Gold Cup stands out and is arguably the most sought-after trophy by all those involved in the entirety of jump racing. So, as we count down the days to the four-day festival, let’s take a look at the possible entries who the bookies are backing to win this year’s Gold Cup.
Al Boum Photo – 11/2
It’ll come as no surprise to see Al Boum Photo leading the way in the early Cheltenham betting market. After all, if he is entered, the eight-year-old will be gunning for a hat-trick of victories in the historic race. The Willie Mullins-trained gelding won his first Gold Cup as a 12/1 shot in 2019, beating 22/1 outsider Anibale Fly by two and a half lengths, before beating Santini over the line by little more than a neck last year to become the first horse since Best Mate to win the race twice on the trot, and Mullins will be hoping that Al Boum Photo will join the likes Best Mate and Arkle in landing three successive victories this year.
Minella Indo – 8/1
After pervious Cheltenham Festival outings in the 2019 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, which he won at a whopping price of 50/1, and last year’s Novices’ Chase, where he was narrowly beaten by Nicky Henderson-trained Champ, Minella Indo could try his luck in the Gold Cup. The seven-year-old bounced back from that disappointing defeat to Champ with an emphatic 25-length victory in the M.W. Hickey Memorial Chase at Wexford in October and a comfortable seven and a half length triumph in a Grade 2 outing at Navan in November, so is in good stead ahead of the festival.
Santini – 8/1
It’s been a case of so close yet so far for Henderson-trained Santini at the last two Cheltenham Festivals. In 2019, the eight-year-old was just half a length off the pace set by Topofthegame in the Novices’ Chase, whilst last year the gelding was beaten only by a neck to the Gold Cup by Al Boum Photo. Santini could return for another attempt at the illustrious trophy again this year, and all those connected will be hoping that he can go one better!
Champ – 12/1
After finishing second, two lengths adrift of City Island in the Grade 1 Novices’ Hurdle in 2019, Champ, who is named after the legendary Sir AP McCoy, bounced back with an emphatic victory in the Novices’ Chase last year. The eight-year-old went into the race as the third favourite but he charged over the line, one length clear of Minella Indo, to secure his Cheltenham Festival triumph. This year, Henderson could enter the horse for the Gold Cup, and how fitting would it be if he were to win after being named after two-time Gold Cup victor McCoy?