Is Champ entered for the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup?

The simple answer is ‘yes’; at the time of writing, Champ is one of 41 horses remaining in the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup at the latest declaration stage. Indeed, despite his relative inexperience over fences, the King’s Theatre gelding is currently 10/1 joint-second favourite for the Gold Cup, alongside Minella Indo, whom he collared close home when winning the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2020.

A dual Grade One winner over hurdles, Champ won his first two starts over the larger obstacles and, although falling in the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in January, 2020, regained the winning thread on his return to Prestbury Park two months later. Now a nine-year-old, Champ has not been seen in public since, with a wind operation in the autumn of 2020 delaying his return to competitive action.

Originally, the Grade One Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas was mooted as a possible starting point for the 2020/21 season, but trainer Nicky Henderson decided that the Grade Two Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in late January – which he won with subsequent Gold Cup runner-up Santini in 2020 – would present a less arduous task for Champ after his lengthy absence. Henderson has described Champ as ‘very, very good’ and, while he admits that there is room for improvement in his jumping, two Grade One wins over an extended three miles on soft going suggest that the Gold Cup distance is well within his compass and he remains an exciting prospect.

Who is Sir Michael Stoute?

Born on October 22, 1945 on the Caribbean island of Barbados, Sir Michael Stoute has been a leading light in British horse racing for decades. In fact, he was Champion Trainer ten times between 1981 and 2009, yet was awarded a knighthood, in 1998, for services to tourism in his native country. Having narrowly lost out, to Julian Wilson, as the new BBC Television racing correspondent in 1965, Stoute subsequently became assistant trainer to the late Hubert Patrick ‘Pat’ Rohan in Norton, County Durham, before taking out a training licence in his own right in 1972.

All told, Stoute has won the Derby five times, most notably with Shergar in 1981 and Workforce in 2010. The fate of Shergar, kidnapped from the Ballymany Stud in County Kildare, Ireland two years later is an abiding mystery, but his ten-length winning margin remains the widest in the history of the Epsom Classic. Workforce won the Derby by just seven lengths but, in so doing, beat the previous track record for the mile-and-a-half at Epsom, set by Lammtarra 25 years earlier, by nearly a second.

Stoute is also the most successful trainer in the history of Royal Ascot, have beaten the previous record of 75 winners, set by the late Sir Henry Cecil, when Poet’s Word won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes in 2018. Stoute has since saddled four more winners at the Royal Meeting, most recently Crystal Ocean, also in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, in 2019, to extend his career total to 80 winners.

What happens if no horse finishes the race?

On the face of it, the ‘Totepool Flexi Betting At The Cheltenham Festival Novices’ Chase’, staged at Towcester on March 17, 2011, looked, at best, a run-of-the-mill event. The two-and-a-half mile contest featured just four, unexceptional runners and its scheduling, in the midst of the Cheltenham Festival – in fact, less than a hour after Big Buck’s had completed the third of his four consecutive wins in the Stayers’ Hurdle – hardly added to its attraction.

However, nondescript though it may have appeared at first glance, the race did enter the record books as the first ever to be declared void because none of the runners finished. In November, 2009, the British Horseracing Authority introduced a new rule, in the interests of safety to horse and rider, which banned remounting, under any circumstances, after the start of a race. The rule introduced the possibility of no finishers.

At Towcester, two of the four runners, Zhukov, who fell when in the lead, and Cenzig, who swerved on landing and unseated rider when tailed off last, had already departed the contest before halfway. That left Identity Parade, ridden by Adrian Lane, and Radharc Na Mara, ridden by Peter Toole, to fight out the finish. Approaching the final fence, Identity Parade was firmly in command but, distracted by people gathered around the fence, tried to refuse and fell, with the race at his mercy.

At that point, the sole surviving runner, Radharc Na Mara was left, albeit briefly, in the lead. However, he failed to avoid his stricken rival and unseated Toole; granted that his mount had not actually fallen, Toole was involved in a discussion with a racecourse steward but, when the possibility of remounting was ruled out, the result of the race was struck from the record.

Cheltenham Festival is a month away and excitement is building

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Last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo is favourite to defend his title in a months’ time and a preparation run at Tramore on News Years Day went well as the horse won in style with Paul Townend on board. Trainer Willie Mullins would also have been impressed and confident the horse can head to Cheltenham Festival to look to retain the crown.

Al Boum Photo was the 100/30 favourite before the running of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2020 and justified favouritism to win the race by a neck from Santini and Lostintranslation. Willie Mullins once again delivered a top horse to win the race and is the master of Cheltenham having won yet another group 1 race.

This year’s running of the Cheltenham Gold Cup will be one to savour with quite a few horses looking to knock Al Boum Photo of his crown, but the back to back winner will be hard to beat and the likely challengers are set to come from Ireland with Willie Mullins second string of horses the main dangers.

The current odds for this year’s 2021 running of the Cheltenham Gold Cup at sportsbookreview have Al Boum Photo at 7/2 (4.5) + 350 to win the race for a record three times in a row and you wouldn’t put it past the horse to deliver a hat-trick of wins given the two previous runnings have shown the hose loves Cheltenham and is very comfortably at the track, which is a huge plus, given the three mile circuit.
The current second favourite is Minella Indo at 17/2 (8.5) + 750 to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and after finishing second in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham Festival in 2020, Minella Indo can make the step up to compete in the top chase race at the Festival. In 2019 Minella Indo won the Albert Bartlett Hurdle, so has proven course form and now heading for the Gold Cup, the horse can cause Al Boum Photo a lot of issues.

Two wins from Minella Indo this season at Navan and Wexford have further given the horse good claims that it can run well at Cheltenham this year and is a good each way selection for the race.
Another horse who has performed really well this season is Royale Pagaille. The Venetia Williams trained horse has won three out of three this season and will head to Cheltenham in top form. Wins this year have come at Kempton and twice over chase fences at Haydock.

The most impressing performance came at the Peter Marsh Chase where Royale Pagaille won the three mile chase by 16 lengths and looked very impressive as beat some tough horses along the way. Be sure to check the odds for Royale Pagaille as current price is 12/1 (13.0) + 1200 and should the horse take to the unique conditions of Cheltenham, especially the long hill and climb to the finish then the current price could look too big come race day.

Those who haven’t yet run at Cheltenham are likely to have bigger odds than others, but if you like the horses potential and that they will handle the course, then as a punter you are getting great value. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is tough race to win and durability is essential to jump well and then finish well.
Last years runner up Santini will likely want to avenge that defeat and hope to go one better. But will need to put in a greater performance to get past Al Boum Photo, but it is not out of the question, given history suggests runners up have gone onto win the race at a later date. At 14/1 (15.0) + 1400 Santini is definitely worth having on your short list for the race, especially as given the price is over 4 times that of Al Boum Photo who only narrowly beat Santini last year.

A horse from the UK trained by Paul Nicholls called Frodon is one who could run well at a big price. Be sure to check out all the odds of the Cheltenham Gold Cup at Sportsbookreviews.


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