This year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup looks a hotly competitive renewal of the extended 3m 2f blue riband chase that is the centrepiece of the four-day Festival. The 2018 Festival starts on Tuesday, March 13 with the big race taking place, as ever, on the final day of the meeting, Friday, March 16.
Some of the market principals in the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting have question marks hanging over them, however, and the better value might lie elsewhere. Which horses look worth a punt then?
Based on the latest Betfair Cheltenham odds for the Gold Cup, here are three that could go well at bigger prices and outrun them.
Killultagh Vic (10/1)
For all his training achievements, top Irish handler Willie Mullins has never had a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner yet. If proving no worse for taking a tumble at the last when going well in the Irish equivalent, Killultagh Vic has claims of ending that hoodoo, making him a top tip for Cheltenham.
The nine-year-old is a previous Cheltenham Festival winner after landing the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle for conditional jockeys back in 2015 as Mullins had eight winners over the four days. He went on to Punchestown, where he beat World/Stayers’ Hurdle hero Thistlecrack over 3f, yet has had just four starts since.
That fragile fitness is a concern, especially after his fall at Leopardstown when last in action, but Killultagh Vic is 2-3 over fences and completely unexposed at the Gold Cup or staying chase trips. He still held an entry in the 2m 5f Ryanair Chase the week before the Festival and could go there instead, but Betfair are offering non-runner no bet on all Cheltenham races.
Definitly Red (16/1)
Northern trained Festival winners have become something of a rarity in recent years, but Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red might go in the Cheltenham Gold Cup en route to the Grand National at Aintree. Already winner of the Cotswold Chase back in January, this nine-year-old also captured another Grade 2 stayers’ prize, the inaugural Many Clouds Chase, on his previous start.
It was Definitly Red’s performance last time out in the Cotswold on Festival Trials Day that have forced connections to seriously think about a Gold Cup tilt. He beat some very useful sorts, including reversing the form and placings with Bristol De Mai from his run in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on reappearance.
This is all evidence that Definitly Red is better than a handicapper. Credit goes to connections for placing him well in winnable races and, while bucking the recent trend of Cotswold winners failing to deliver Gold Cup glory is a challenge, running into a place at Cheltenham could actually be easier than shouldering top-weight in the Grand National.
Minella Rocco (16/1)
Jonjo O’Neill managed to get Minella Rocco spot on for the 2017 Gold Cup where he finished runner-up to Sizing John, so despite similar difficulties in his preparation could do so again. The eight-year-old failed to complete two of the three starts he had before Cheltenham last year, but still ran his race at the Festival.
Minella Rocco has had four outings coming into this renewal of the Gold Cup, finishing a disappointing fourth on reappearance in a Grade 3 at Punchestown before being pulled up under top-weight in a similar grade handicap at Cheltenham’s Open meeting. He then ran with more credit in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase (formerly the Lexus) when chasing home a Gigginstown House Stud owned 1-2-3 and beaten just nine lengths by the winner, Road To Respect.
Like Killultagh Vic above, Minella Rocco fell at the last in the Irish Gold Cup but he wasn’t going anything like as well. Treated on the pick of his form – he is a Festival winner after landing the 2016 National Hunt Chase over 4m – a top three finish is within this horse who performs best at Cheltenham on spring ground.