Cheltenham Gold Cup – Potential Surprise in Store?

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Cheltenham Gold Cup – Potential Surprise in Store?

As the final day of the Cheltenham Festival dawns on Friday, all eyes will undoubtedly be on the Gold Cup. It is the most prestigious and profitable race of the event, and in 2016 the prize money stands at $810,175 – and so it is expected to be nothing less than a spectacle.

Already the festival has produced its fair share of excitement – starting of course with that emotional victory by Annie Power in the Champion’s Hurdle on the first day of the event. Although much is being made of the Willie Mullins trained Annie Power potentially emulating Dawn Run (trained by his father) and winning the Gold Cup too someday – that is something to look forward to in the future. For now, the 2016 Gold Cup already has its fair share of potential surprises.

 No Standout in Sight

Last year when Coneygree became the first novice to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup since 1974 it was undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the festival. If Coneygree was participating this year it would almost certainly be favored however seeing as it’s injured and will not be participating it has resulted in a relatively open field with no clear standout in sight.

Add to that the recent switch of otherwise-favorite Vautour to the Ryanair Chase after failing to impress recently in training – and it really does open things up even further.

As the Gold Cup stands now it will be the grounds on which several contenders, all of which have the potential to win a Grade 1 race at 3 ¼ miles, will attempt to stake their claim. Leading the way in terms of favorites will be Don Cossack, Djakadam, Cue Card, and Don Poli.

As many racing fans know, both Don Cossack and Don Poli are under Gigginstown House Stud ownership and it was recently announced that main rider, Bryan Cooper, will be astride the former as opposed to the latter. According to Bryan Cooper, Don Cossack has been their highest-rated horse in training – and his assessment seems to be one that is echoed by many considering it now stands as the slight favorite, just a little above Djakadam who took second place last year.

Neither of those horses are very much ahead of Cue Card however, and many eyes will be on the 10 year old gelding come Friday. Potentially England’s best chance of a Gold Cup win, Cue Card also stands to pocket an additional $1.44 million for winning all three of the biggest weight-for-age chases of the season. Previously Cue Card took wins in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on the 21st of November, and the Grade 1 King George V Chase at Kempton Park on the 26th of December.

It is interesting to note that of the three favorites both Don Cossack and Djakadam have fell in recent starts. First Don Cossack fell in the Grade 1 King George V chase on the 26th of December but has since rebounded to win at the Grade 2 Kinloch Brae Chase on the 14th of January. On the other hand, Djakadam took a fall in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase on the 30th of January – his last start prior to the Gold Cup.

Whether that bodes well for Cue Card remains to be seen, but it is safe to say that while Djakadam and Don Cossack are still favored – the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2016 is probably going to be anyone’s race.