Lessons from Cheltenham: Who looks good for Gold Cup 2016?

The novice Coneygree won a wonderful renewal of the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup and, despite having been bowled over by his performance and that of Vautour in the JLT Novices’ Chase, my antepost recommendation for the 2016 Gold Cup must be the RSA winner Don Poli who may lack the exuberance and brilliance of his stablemate but this indolent sort will appreciate the step up in trip and fast pace that is, seemingly, guaranteed if Coneygree defends his crown.

Don Poli is unbeaten in three starts over fences having demolished a decent field in the RSA when he was six lengths too good for Paul Nicholls’ Southfield Theatre who connections reported post-race required stitches after pulling some skin off the back of a leg after a mistake at the top of the hill.

The racecourse commentator suggested Don Poli came off the bridle about four out in the RSA but the truth is he was running lazily and had been niggled by the excellent Bryan Cooper for some time but he always looked to have the race under control and this trait may stand him in good stead when facing the hill after an additional quarter of a mile next year.

Don Poli beat Apache Stronghold 3l in a Leopardstown Grade 1 over 3m at Xmas and using Noel Meade’s charge as a barometer the selection has a dozen lengths to find with the exuberant Vautour given the 15l beating the latter gave Apache Stronghold in the JLT.

Vautour has yet to race beyond two-and-a-half-miles and he would be some machine if he were able to keep up the gallop of his JLT success for an additional three quarters of a mile when he put in a faultless round of jumping on fast ground (time nearly five seconds under standard). Yes it is possible that the 2016 Gold Cup might be run on similar good to firm ground but if it was genuinely good to soft or softer ground I can’t see him running.

The rains came on Friday 13th and Coneygree ran everything ragged in the Gold Cup to become the first novice to land the Festival Blue Riband since Captain Christy in 1974 with a wonderful display of jumping in a decent time given the underfoot conditions. He is 10/1 at BetVic tor to become the first horse since Best Mate in 2003 to defend his Gold Cup crown but that surely can’t last given he is so lightly-raced over fences.

Coneygree’s win in the Feltham Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day suggested the King George would be a suitable mid-season target and I feel he can once again lower the colours of Silviniaco Conti, so disappointing at Cheltenham, in the latter’s hat-trick bid in December.

Djakadam was 2l behind Coneygree in the Gold Cup and there is surely only one race he can be aimed at next year and that trying to go one better; I’m not convinced leading owner Rich Ricci will let both Vautour and Djakadam take each other on in 2016 with the Ryanair looking a more suitable target for Vautour despite the fact that connections, in the immediate aftermath of the JLT, suggested the Gold Cup would be his Festival target in 2016.

Don Poli is never going to pulverise his field, but his style of running can often be underestimated. Ruby Walsh said on dismounting from Vautour that the chasing world was his oyster and he could be right but I suggest of the pair Don Poli is the one to get behind with the unique test of the 2016 Gold Cup in mind.


2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup: 2 points win Don Poli 6/1 at BetVictor and SkyBet

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