This historic Grade One headlines day four of the Cheltenham Festival on Friday 17th March
Galopin Des Champs leads Noble Yeats in the betting
Bravemansgame is our ante-post selection at 9/1
Harry Cobden riding Bravemansgame (orange) clear the last to win The Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton Park. (Getty)
The most famous race in all of National Hunt racing, barring the Grand National, is the Cheltenham Gold Cup. This three-and-a-quarter mile Grade One takes place on day four of the Cheltenham Festival and the roll of honour for the Gold Cup features many of jump's racing's most legendary names.
In recent days, I've been looking through the ante-post Gold Cup betting and can't help but feel that one horse has been criminally overlooked. Here are my ante-post Cheltenham Gold Cup tips.
Willie Mullins' star will line up in the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival. Victory there would cement Galopin Des Champs' position at the head of affairs and could he even shorten into odds-on favourite. If Paul Townend's mount was to suffer a shock defeat, however, the betting for the Gold Cup would get blown wide open.
When looking for the Gold Cup winner, backing an improving, second-season chaser, who is proven at Grade One level and over three miles is usually a sensible plan of attack. One who fits the bill perfectly from that perspective is BRAVEMANSGAME, and odds of 9/1 vastly underplay his chances.
Paul Nicholls' star jumped impeccably as a novice last season. Bravemansgame thrashed a future Grade One winner in Ahoy Senor when picking up his second Grade One victory in the Kauto Star and went into the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase as one of the favourites to claim victory.
Nicholls withdrew his star on the morning of that race when the ground turned from good to heavy. Bravemansgame then threw in a stinker of a performance at Aintree, where he made more jumping errors than he had done in his previous four chase starts combined and was never really able to recover.
Despite only being 75% fit, according to Nicholls' calculations, Harry Cobden's mount cruised to an easy victory on his reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, after which Nicholls set his sights on the King George VI Chase. Despite drifting out to 11/4 on the day of the race, Bravemansgame handed Nicholls his 13th victory in the prestigious race, scooting clear of L'Homme Presse on the run to the line to seal a commanding victory.
Cobden was pitched wide throughout the King George, which is far from "Position A" around Kempton Park. Yet, Bravemansgame was still tanking along entering the home straight and, had L'Homme Presse not unseated Charlie Deutsch at the last, there's no chance he would have been able to repel Bravemansgame in a sprint to the finishing line.
The time analysis of the 2022 King George VI Chase makes for interesting reading. The overall time of the race was very quick. On ground officially described as good-to-soft or slow, Only Kicking King's first King George win back in 2005 was run in a faster time, and he went on to bolt up in that season's Gold Cup.
From the second-last to the line, Bravemansgame was a second-and-a-half quicker than Thyme Hill in the Kauto Star, the overall time of which was eight-and-a-half seconds slower than the King George. What's more, Paul Nicholls' winner was almost three seconds quicker from the second-last to the line than 2021 winner Tornado Flyer, and only fractionally slower than the time clocked by Frodon when his stablemate won the King George on genuinely good ground in 2020.
Bravemansgame received an RPR of 177 for his victory in the King George, making him Paul Nicholls best winner since Kauto Star. Nicholls' eight-year-old now holds an official rating of 172, just three pounds inferior to Galopin Des Champs. Yet, Bravemansgame can be backed at 9/1. Why is that?
Well, bookmakers and most of the horse racing fraternity have labelled Bravesmansgame as simply "a Kempton horse". Yes, Bravemansgame has done his best work at that venue, but he's also claimed imperious victories around Newbury, Haydock and Wetherby during his time over fences.
Sitting ahead of Bravemansgame in the betting is the Grand National winner Noble Yeats, who might still be improving, but remains completely untested at Grade One level. Defending champion A Plus Tard will return to Cheltenham on the back of that shocking run in the Betfair Chase, with major question marks lingering around his wellbeing.
Stattler, although clearly a talented stayer, couldn't beat an ageing Minella Indo on his reappearance at Tramore and the form of his National Hunt Chase is fairly suspect. Conflated may be forced into making the running over a trip he's not guaranteed to get, and British rival Protektorat would want the ground to come up softer than good-to-soft - something that has only happened on day four of the Cheltenham Festival twice this century.
Cheltenham form is important when picking out Festival bets. Some may crab Bravemansgame because he could only finish third in the 2021 Ballymore, his only previous outing at Cheltenham racecourse.
Harry Cobden was forced into making the running that day and was easy prey for Bob Olinger after making a bad mistake at the second last. Bravemansgame has improved massively since going over fences and he's currently rated 12 and 16 pounds better than Bob Olinger and Gaillard Du Mesnil - the two horses who finished ahead of him in that Ballymore and both have won Grade Ones over fences since.
Paul Nicholls may be the king of Kempton, but he's also the second most successful trainer in Gold Cup history and he knows exactly how to ready a horse for Cheltenham. After the King George, Nicholls immediately stated that it would be the Cheltenham Festival next for Bravemansgame and his record on the back of a break is excellent.
With the ground likely to come up on the good side and a lack of genuine pace in the race, this year's Gold Cup could be run to suit Bravemansgame, who has the ideal profile for this most prestigious of races. 9/1 is a massive price.
2023 Gold Cup Tips: Bravemansgame Each-Way @9/1 at BetUK - 15 Units
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