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.

Which was the last grey horse to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup?

The last grey horse – in fact, the only grey horse – to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup was Desert Orchid in 1989. The iconic grey had been beaten of five previous appearances at the Cheltenham Festival, twice in the Champion Hurdle, once in the Arkle Challenge Trophy and twice in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Nevertheless, on treacherous, barely raceable ground and going left-handed – he was, according to jockey Simon Sherwood, ‘a two stone lesser horse going that way’ – Desert Orchid was sent off 5/2 favourite for his first attempt in the ‘Blue Riband’ event of steeplechasing.

‘Dessie’, as he was affectionately known to his legions of supporters, raced prominently for most of the way and was left in the lead when Ten Plus fell at the third last. However, the confirmed mudlark Yahoo, clearly relishing the atrocious underfoot conditions, arrived on the scene, travelling well, on the home turn and looked all over the winner. Galvanised by Simon Sherwood, Desert Orchid rallied gamely between the final two fences and was almost upsides again jumping the last. On the climb to the winning post, he first drifted right towards the stands’ side and then left towards his rival but, in the last hundred yards or so, Desert Orchid forged ahead to win by 1½ lengths, with Sherwood punching the air in celebration.

Will Presenting Percy be trained for the Cheltenham Gold Cup or the Grand National in 2021?

The winner of the Pertemps Network Final in 2017 and the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase in 2018, Presenting Percy appeared, at one stage of his career, a bona fide Cheltenham Gold Cup contender. Indeed, despite having raced just once, over hurdles, in the interim, he was sent off a well-backed 100/30 favourite for the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, on that occasion, he was never travelling and trailed in eighth of nine finishers, beaten 33 lengths, behind Al Boum Photo. In his defence, he was subsequently found to be lame on his right hind leg.

In the 2020 renewal of the Gold Cup he was staying on in seventh place when falling at the second last and did not win again until November, 2020, by which time he had been transferred to Gordon Elliott from Patrick Kelly. That victory, in a four-runner Listed chase at Thurles may have proved something of a ‘false dawn’, because Presenting Percy was put firmly in his place when beaten the proverbial ‘country mile’ or 76 lengths, to be exact, on his return to Grade One company in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Interestingly, at the time of writing, Presenting Percy can be backed at 40/1 ante post for the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup, but just33/1 for the 2021 Grand National. Elliott has reportedly had the National in the back of his mind since acquiring the ten-year-old in October, 2020 and, as he rightly pointed out, Presenting Percy could be sent off at much shorter odds if he lines up at Aintree. His attitude may have been questioned in the past, but the son of Sir Percy is a classy individual, who is versatile ground-wise, stays at least 3 miles 5 furlongs, travels and jumps, so Elliott might just be onto something.

Will Lostintranslation run in the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup?

Lostintranslation was labelled the ‘forgotten’ horse prior to his participation in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup, in which he finished a highly creditable third, beaten a neck and 1¼ lengths by Al Boum Photo and Santini. He had previously been pulled up in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, having suffered a breathing problem, but subsequently underwent a soft palate operation.

The Flemensfirth gelding reappeared in the Betfair Chase at Haydock where, despite heavy going, on which he had been soundly beaten previously, he was sent off 7/4 favourite to beat four rivals, only two of whom had any realistic chance at the weights. Lostintranslation ran a lacklustre race, losing touch with the leaders before the second-last fence and trailing in third, beaten 47 lengths, behind the winner, Bristol De Mai. On Boxing Day, he lined up in the King George VI Chase for the second year running but, despite assistant trainer Joe Tizzard announcing ‘complete faith’ in hime beforehand, was pulled up after the fourth-last, having burst a blood vessel.

Prior to Kempton, Tizzard had also said of Lostintranslation, ‘If we get him right he can be competitive in these top races’ but, granted he has disappointed on three of his last four starts, that appears to be an increasingly big ‘if’. Connections have yet to make any announcement with regard to the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup, but doubts about him have seen him pushed out to a dismissive

33/1 in the ante post lists.

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