Andy Gibson's Cheltenham analysis: Is the favourite the right price for the Gold Cup?

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is barely ten weeks away, and horse racing analyst Andy Gibson has been busy studying the form and the prospects of the favourite to see if he is worthy of his ante-post price.

After Galopin Des Champs won the John Durkan Memorial Chase just before Christmas, it appeared that a little bit of improvement was required in his jumping, albeit no more than one would expect from such an inexperienced chaser.

Other than that, in terms of how it looked on the day, we are scratching around for negatives as this was certainly a most pleasing performance to the eye.

In addition, on the surface, his 13-length defeat of the Grade 1-winning 165-rated chaser Fakir D'oudairies reads very well indeed.

As with most things in life, the meaning and quality of this form might be a little more complicated than that, particularly in its relevance as a Gold Cup trial.

The runner-up was beaten a long way by Allaho in the 2021 renewal of this race and he had the benefit of a previous run on that occasion.

This was Fakir D'oudairies' seasonal debut run and there is every chance we will see him improve on this performance later in the season. The fact that he finished only just in front of the 155-rated Lifetime Ambition adds plenty of substance to this supposition.

I think it is much safer to consider the quality of the winner's performance by using the third horse home as a guide as that one was race fit, having finished second in the Troytown in late November.

Hype Or Substance?

The Gold Cup betting is fascinating, and a significant dilemma is trying to consider what percentage of hype has played a part in Galopin Des Champs trading at 6/4 for a race that is ten weeks away.

I suspect there is a reasonable chance that he will stay the three and a quarter miles at Cheltenham, and it is even possible that he may improve for the longer distance, especially if the race is run on good-to-soft ground or quicker - nevertheless, he must go out and prove it.

In essence, we have a top-quality horse that is proven over two miles, five and a half furlongs as a chaser, trading as the 6/4 favourite for the Gold Cup.

If he were trained by anyone bar the top three or four trainers, he would be an awful lot bigger in the market, and most punters would have a quiet question mark next to his stamina limitations.

If we knew the ground was going to be testing on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival, I would much prefer the claims of at least two other horses in the current Gold Cup betting.

Furthermore, would his trainer consider rerouting him to the Ryanair Chase if having to compete on a heavy surface?

Galopin Des Champs will probably trade close to even money for the Gold Cup once the Non-Runner-No-Bet rule comes into play.

However good he may be, his short price does not take into account the fact that he still has to prove his stamina for the race, nor the quality of the proven stayers he will be facing on the day - assuming, that is, he gets to March fit, healthy and in the best of form.

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