Coneygree or Vautour – Who should be Cheltenham Gold Cup fave?
Given that the favourite has won five of the last 11 renewals of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, it is certainly a race where it makes sense to pay attention to the market ahead of placing any bets.
The 2016 running of the Gold Cup threatens to have more strength in depth than any other this century, with Vautour, Coneygree, Don Cossack, Don Poli and Saphir Du Rheu all currently residing towards the top of the market.
In terms of the favourite, this honour currently falls on Vautour at 4/1, with Coneygree remaining next best at 6/1. However, does the market have the duo the right way round?
After all Vautour has won on both his previous Prestbury Park visits by a combined distance of 21 lengths, with Coneygree securing victory on three of his four trips.
Let’s evaluate the leading pair:
Both market leaders are second-season chasers and only 1lb separated the pair based on official ratings before they ran this term. Coneygree was rated 172 for his farcical seasonal reappearance in the three-runner Future Stars Chase, while Vautour is currently on a mark of 171 and not expected to return to action until the King George on Boxing Day.
The Gold Cup has been dominated by horses aged either eight or nine in recent years, with the only victor not emerging from this age range since 2007 being Long Run, who was the first six-year-old to triumph since 1963 when landing the spoils in 2011.
Vautour will only be seven by the time of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, with Coneygree arguably at the peak age of nine as he attempts to defend his title.
It is interesting that in the last 40 years, Best Mate and Kauto Star are the only horses to have won the Gold Cup more than once.
This is because the races do tend to be quite brutally run and can have an effect on future performances.
Bobs Worth triumphed in 2013 and has largely disappointed since with just a single chase success, runner-up Sir Des Champs hasn’t run since Christmas 2013 and third-placed Long Run has just a lone triumph in eight starts.
To date Coneygree has had five chase starts and Vautour four, only the former has certainly had the tougher past over the bigger obstacles.
As much as a decline could be expected from Coneygree after his previous Gold Cup heroics, no such signs were visible at Sandown in the Future Stars Chase, when he jumped and galloped his minimal rivals into submission.
He is also entered into the Hennessy Gold Cup next and another strong run off top weight against opposition that are potentially better handicapped would be solid Gold Cup preparation.
With Vautour not due to run until Boxing Day, knowing how well he has progressed over the summer remains a mystery.
Vautour is yet to race over a trip further than 2m4f, although he would not be the first potential Gold Cup winner that arrived at Cheltenham with some stamina doubts.
However, with Coneygree in the field, it is unlikely to be a slowly-run race and it will be the test of stamina that the Gold Cup is historically regarded as.
Even by running in the King George, Vautour will not truly sample the Gold Cup distance and doubts will remain about his stamina until the Cheltenham showpiece’s conclusion.
Vautour is fairly versatile when it comes to ground, with winning form on a good surface and soft conditions.
Coneygree is more at home with cut in the ground and this will also play to the strengths of his stamina reserves. The softer the turf on race day, the more he can take the race away from the speedier horses.
These reasonings and opinions suggest that Coneygree should be the favourite and this suggests that the 6/1 currently on offer that he wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup for a second time is a price worth taking.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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