Dynaste too big at 33/1
Interesting surprises there were none among the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup entries and it's easy to see think that those searching for an off-the-wall betting angle into this year's steeplechasing blue riband might have some work to do.
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Bar an unfortunate event or two between now and mid-March, Bobs Worth will be lining up as favourite with Silviniaco Conti his only real challenger in the betting market.
For potential supporters of those two horses, the question to be asked now is whether the potential gain of taking a price (for example, if the other was to be ruled out of the race) outweighs the risk of losing your bet over the months ahead.
For what it's worth, Bobs Worth really impressed me in victory in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, a contest that wasn't run to suit his strengths yet still saw him produce a dominant display. Had the race been run over the Gold Cup trip of three miles two and a half furlongs he'd almost certainly have won even more convincingly and he is reported to have come out of the race in excellent condition.
Although no decision has officially been made, I'd be surprised if we saw Bobs Worth again on a racecourse (at least publicly) between now and the Festival.
Back him now at 9/4? His Cheltenham Festival record alone entitles him to huge respect, as does the fact that he clearly tends to come good in the spring each year.
But against those considerable positives are the fact that he has had his issues in the past. He underwent a breathing operation after his defeat at the hands of Dynaste in the 2012 Feltham Chase and upon victory in the RSA Chase later that season, Nicky Henderson told the press: "We've had so many problems I never thought I would get him here."
It's enough to put me off getting involved, even though at time of writing the 9/4 seems to be on its way to disappearing.
Silviniaco Conti claimed Cue Card before the final fence of the King George VI Chase last month for an authoritative success and was going sufficiently strongly when falling at the third-last fence in last year's race to think he might have given Bobs Worth a scare in last year's Gold Cup.
However, again at 7/2, bar Bobs Worth being forced out of the race, it's hard to believe that there is a great deal of juice in his price.
Cue Card at 8/1? Well, he's an interesting option at a track that seems to suit him well. I suspect he'll run in this race rather than alternatives at shorter distances and he comprehensively holds Silviniaco Conti (who may have needed the race rather more) on Betfair Chase form.
But head must rule heart sometimes and I find it very hard to see Cue Card powering up the hill in the Gold Cup. Yes, it's a race that can challenge the power of the formbook, most memorably when doubtful stayer Desert Orchid outgalloped relentless mudlark Yahoo 25 years ago or when Nortons Coin beat Dessie at 100/1 the following year, but Cue Card holding off the market principals up the hill at the end of such a stiff test of stamina? For me, that takes a bit of believing.
So is there any value to be found further down the lists? Well Lyreen Legend shaped with some promise when behind Bobs Worth in the Lexus and a big run in the Hennessy against First Lieutenant and others could see his odds of 50/1 come crashing down.
He was second to Lord Windermere in the RSA at last season's Festival but reversed that form with only the ground as a possible excuse last time out.
But with a couple of firms now offering 'cashback' incentives on non-runners to get ante-post money on the book, it's hard to ignore the attraction of Dynaste at 33/1.
Currently still receiving treatment for a back problem that came to light after his no-show in the King George, David Pipe has been understandably reluctant to even suggest that the horse might be back in time for the Gold Cup.
But take that run aside and you're getting 10 times the price of Silviniaco Conti about the horse that finished fair and square in front of him in Haydock's Betfair Chase less than a couple of months ago.
His overall profile certainly isn't without its blemishes, but he got as close as anything (bar perhaps Voler La Vedette) to beating Big Buck's over hurdles at his peak and has already matched that level of form in his short time as a steeplechaser, jumping proficiently at all times and showing a decent attitude even when a below-par second in last season's Jewson Chase.
If he turns up in the Gold Cup, rather than waiting for Aintree or - perhaps less likely - Punchestown, there's no way he'll be a 33/1 chance, and if you can get a bet on with a firm offering a safety blanket of returning your stakes if he doesn't, so very much the better.
1pt e.w Dynaste in Cheltenham Gold Cup at 33/1 (General)