Some of the very last and biggest Cheltenham Festival trials take place this weekend at the Dublin Racing Festival, highlighted by the Irish Gold Cup, whose betting suggests, it's anyone's race!
Three horses have won the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March in the same year - Jodami (1993), Imperial Call (1996), and Sizing John (2017).
But in the last 10 years, the Gold Cup trends highlight that 2013 winner Sir Des Champs went on to be second at the Festival, while 2014 Cheltenham winner Lord Windermere had his last race in the Irish Gold Cup, as did last year's Cheltenham third Anibale Fly, and the 2017 second Minella Rocco.
Form of Irish Gold Cup winners in Cheltenham Gold Cup
1986 - 8PFP651281F332-6F-00-4-P-2U9418 - 2019
There is a huge gap between Imperial Call's double and that of Sizing John's, but for 16 years between that win and the victory of Lord Windermere, British-based trainers dominated the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Paul Nicholls alone winning four.
He’d been a deeply impressive winner of the Grade 1 JNwine Champion Chase at Down Royal on his seasonal reappearance, before running third in the Savill's Chase at Leopardstown, when unlucky not to get closer to winner Kemboy
He was checked when short of room before the fourth-last fence, then stumbled on the crucial run around the home turn, losing all chance.
That was a difficult race to make ground from the rear in, as shown by the way that jockey Danny Mullins seized the initiative with Kemboy, and we can expect Road To Respect to go close this Sunday.
Kemboy (11/2 Coral) won the Grade 1 Savill's Chase over course-and-distance in December, and this extremely progressive seven-year-old must be given a strong chance of making it a Grade 1 double at the Dublin Racing Festival.
He has been a different horse since falling in the Irish Grand National last April, with four straight wins, and whilst jockey Danny Mullins's race tactics had a lot to do with his win at Christmas, he still won by seven and a half-lengths.
That superiority over his rivals was growing at the end of the race, rather than decreasing, and whilst he is not going to be let loose off the front end this time, his tactical speed should still be handy - and he is hardly a non-stayer. It is surprising that he is not shorter than the 11/2 with Corall.
Anibale Fly (12/1 Ladbrokes) was third in the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup – finishing ahead of Road To Respect - and then fourth in the Grand National.
A course-and-distance winner, the Irish Gold Cup is much more suitable than the Hilly Way Chase, in which he was a well beaten sixth on his only run this season, so he ought to be a big player at Leopardstown.
Look back at the nine-year-old's past form and you will see he was beaten on his return over 2m last year before romping to victory in Leopardstown's Paddy Power Chase. He was bang on then after one run, and should be bang on once again, the 12/1 about him in the Irish Gold Cup betting looking far too big to ignore.
Bellshill, the 2018 Punchestown Gold Cup winner, made a fine reappearance in the Savill's Chase behind Kemboy, making up late ground to be fourth, after a solid round of jumping.
He hadn't run since April and ought to strip fitter for that run, plus we can expect a stronger pace in the Irish Gold Cup, which should suit hthe nine-year-old better, making him a major at 11/2 with Paddy Power.
His trainer Willie Mullins also saddles Al Boum Photo, who was the winner of the Grade 1 Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse in a very busy novice season last year. He impressed on his return at Tramore on New Year's Day, giving 10lbs and a six-length beating to Total Recall (also entered on Sunday).
Monalee – second in the 2018 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival - was another Savill's Chase runner, improving from a below-par comeback at Down Royal to be second.
The Henry De Bromhead-trained eight-year-old is an extremely sound jumper, but perhaps not the strongest stayer, and a more end-to-end gallop would not necessarily suit him – he had a fairly charmed passage at Christmas. He is 8/1, but Road To Respect and Bellshill would make more appeal.
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