The Big Question: Will faster ground change Gold Cup picture?
Forecasters are predicting a largely dry week for the Cheltenham Festival. That is great news for racegoers but will not be welcomed by connections of the soft-ground horses.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the feature race of the week and does not take place until Friday. The going is expected to be good to soft for the opening day and the prospects of genuinely soft ground are receding fast.
The leading Irish hope is Last Instalment who jumped his way into the Gold Cup picture with an impressive victory in the Irish Hennessy. Philip Fenton’s gelding is known to have fragile legs and will not be risked if the going is not suitable.
Kim Bailey faces a similar predicament with Denman Chase winner Harry Topper. The horse is reported to be in great shape but will not be running unless the going is sufficiently testing.
The favourite Bobs Worth should not be inconvenienced by the likely going change as his best performances have come on good to soft ground. It was soft when he won the race 12 months ago but Nicky Henderson has always maintained that he is a better horse on decent ground.
Silviniaco Conti battled to victory in the King George at Kempton on soft ground and probably would not want the ground too quick. He looked ill at east on good ground when beaten at Aintree last season, although he may have been over the top by then.
One horse that won’t mind the change in the going is Newbury winner Triolo D’Alene. Nicky Henderson declared him a definite starter last week and he has been waiting for better ground all winter.
The quicker ground may encourage connections to run doubtful stayers First Lieutenant and Captain Chris. First Lieutenant’s only victory over three miles came at Aintree in April on good ground and he could yet be Gigginstown House Stud’s representative.
Captain Chris won the Arkle here in 2011 but has not enjoyed his subsequent visits to Cheltenham. He handles soft ground but is yet to win beyond three miles.