Let’s get straight to it…
Big Race Preview
The Gold Cup
Don Poli – 2 points win – 11/2 (general, PP money back if second)
Cue Card – 1 point win – 11/2 (as above)
(ensure you bet with a NRNB bookie)
The first thing to say is whether to hold of our bets until the day of the race. One of those at the top end of the market will get supported and backed into 3/1 I suspect – which one the crowd latch onto I am not sure – probably Vautour, but it could be Don Poli – or Cue Card. I am not sure if their price will move, and there is a small chance one or both go out to 7/1 in the morning. There is also the chance one of those at the top end has a problem and doesn’t line up, compressing the prices. So, there are pros and cons. Up to you. They will be recorded at this price.
I should also add that for these two, and the shape of the race for me, questions over the going don’t mater too much. Good is fine for both, soft is fine for both, and heavy is no problem. Either extremes play into Don Poli’s strength which I will get onto in a minute.
There is a profile for this of sorts and the eye-catching stat for me is the record of those with 21 or more career starts in the UK/Ireland, going into this race – now 0/80, 10 places since 1997. Kauto Star won his final Gold Cup on the back of 20 previous career ‘home’ runs.(so his 21st) Remember, my HorseRaceBase stats don’t take account of foreign form – mainly we are talking about French form. The general point is that this is no place for exposed horses – or it hasn’t been.
There are a lot in here that fall down on that stat, including Don Cossack/Cue Card/Smad Place and a few others. It makes me think that it could be broken this year, and clearly if Cue Card is to win he has that to overcome.
DON POLI…will jump well, and he will stay all the way to the line for me, and past it. I think he will relish, absolutely relish, every yard of this trip. He also has G1 class. There is no other horse in this field that I can have that opinion about. I really don’t see a chink in his amour, and for me that makes him a bet. I think he will win this.
People say ‘he only ever does enough’ – as if to suggest he can’t win a race going away, or well. What utter rubbish. Have these folk not seen his RSA win? (incidentally winners of that have a great record in this, as you would expect) He was pulling away at the end, ears pricked and I suspect he could have gone round again. Yes it may not have been the strongest race, but he could do no more than that. He will get a stronger pace in this race, and he has 2f further – everything about his past running styles/wins suggests he will relish every yard. He ‘looks’ like he will stay – certainly more so than Vautour. Of course until they try it you never know, but that applies to them all in here, at Gold Cup pace, and he looks the most likely.
People say he is lazy – that he may be, but please dont confuse this with a lack of guts or determination. His win in the Lexus showed he loves a battle so we have no worries on that front.
There is a theory that he is slow and if this is good ground he could get run off his feet. There is a chance of that, but given his class I think he should be able to keep tabs on the leaders – and the thing is, if it is good, they will go quicker up front and the pace could be even more furious – horses will be going faster for longer, and that will bring stamina into play – his strength. Likewise if it is soft, that will bring stamina into play. Quite simply, if you don’t stay, you can’t win this race. There is no hiding place.
So, that is the case for him. Mullins has yet to win the big one but most other trainers would like his record – 14 runners, 6 places. Given the ammo at his disposal, and his skill, it is only a matter of time.
CUE CARD – I don’t think we need to say much about him. What a horse. He may be too exposed on paper for this but I just had to back him. More heart than head maybe, but I was never going to leave him alone. If you cant bet with the heart in the Gold Cup, just give up the game. It is once a year, and this sport is about enjoyment and excitement. If you take a cold hard ‘betting head’ view as to this race (same with Grand National) then I am lost for words 🙂
He has the best form of the English team, seems better than ever and his yard could not be in better form. We will get a run for our money from this chap – he may give out after the last but the King George gave hope that stamina is now his thing. He should not be too far away, and we may have 4 or 5 jumping the last together – what a sight that would be. Don Cossack will make an error, Vautour will start to wobble, Don Poli will grind past them all, Cue Card clinging onto second, Smad Place trying to stay in 4th. Something like that maybe!
What of the rest….
The other contenders are Smad Place, Vautour, Don Cossack and Djakadam for me, with a mention for Road to Riches.
After some thought I don’t think Smad Place will be good enough here. He is a different horse this year but at some point Vautour will serve it up to him – before entering the home straight I suspect (Ruby will only be able to keep hold of him in second/third for so long). There are just too many proven G1 winners in here for me to think he can bat them all off. He will give it a really good go, and I would be delighted if he won – and not annoyed I didn’t back him. At the prices you could make a case but having thought about it my head says I can’t see it happening.
Vautour – connections are adamant he will stay,and they should know more that me. Visually on his KG run he won’t. He was able to dictate from the front in the final third there and still couldnt cling on. Ruby is the best jockey in the world on front running chasers for me – or has been – and he had the perfect race there. He still emptied out and I don’t want to make excuses. He has still yet to win over 3m and there will be no hiding place here. If he goes onto win it and out-stays them all then I will applaud – we all like to see a classy winner of this – but I won’t be cursing I am not on him. He also likes to get to the front and there is a chance he gets racing with Smad too early. He will ensure this is run at a good clip and that plays into the strengths of the selections.
I can’t have Don Cossack either. He falls down on the career runs stat but that isn’t why I don’t like him. I just don’t like his jumping under pressure. Both in the Ryanair last year and the King George – when asked to quicken and catch those in front he has been found wanting. They will go as quick here as they did in the Ryanair, maybe quicker – and his jumping at pace there was sloppy at times. I just worry about that, and at 4/1 it is a big enough worry for me to leave him. With a clear round he could be right in the mix but I am content to take him on.
Djakadam has had an interrupted prep and has fallen twice now in his last 7 starts. That concerns me. We have seen what he can do in this race but maybe last year was his year. He had stitches the last day and had, in Willie’s words ‘an extra 10-12 or so quiet days post race, than planned’ (that is not verbatim!) His prep has been interrupted and for this race, that is never a good thing. Of course he could be stronger than last year, or he may have matured early, and clearly a repeat of that run would see him thereabouts. I can’t have him.
I suppose I should mention Road To Riches – again though, he couldn’t do it last year and I see no reason why he should this year. That run last time was really poor as well, even accounting for the heavy ground. He will be better on a sounder surface but I like all of the others far more.
I would be shocked – falling of my seat shocked – if anything other than that lot wins this race! And if something does then I was never destined to find the winner of it this year.
PACE…as discussed Smad will try and lead, and he should be able to. Ruby will surely want to keep hold of Vautour to give him every chance of staying – but he does like to tank along and wont be far behind Smad – he could well force Smad to go quicker also. At some point Ruby will let his mount take him on – he can only keep hold of him for so long I suspect. Road To Riches likes to push the pace also. In essence, this should be run at a very good pace. No excuses. That will definitely play to Don Poli’s strengths, and maybe Cue Cards – he can be ridden how they want now and I suspect Paddy will settle him in 4th or so, ready to pick up the pieces.
So, that will be the Gold Cup 2016. It will be a cracker and only bet an amount where you can enjoy the race, regardless of the winner! I am quite bullish about Don Poli, time will tell if I have got that right.