Nicky Henderson staged his pre-Cheltenham open day yesterday and was, as ever, very bullish about the chances for his horses at the festival next month, writes Vernon Grant.
Bobs Worth is still the current favourite to win the race and is arguably a decent price at 7-2 and 10-3.
Then, on Monday evening, I listened to an interesting online debate in which some racing bloggers and bookies were ready to oppose Henderson’s Bobs Worth in the Gold Cup.
It was the jockey Barry Geraghty who first bought Bobs Worth in May 2009. The horse is progressive, no doubt about that. He has a 100% strike rate at Cheltenham – four wins from four outings. At the festival he has won both the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and the RSA Chase.
Henderson said: “Earlier in the season I wasn’t happy with him but then, at the end of November, I thought “Hello!” It was like watching a rose come out. All of sudden he looked fit, healthy and really well.”
Nicky Henderson has lots of stars in his stable and the only time he looked sad at the open day was when he lamented the passing of Darlan.
But he is very keen on Bobs Worth.
Henderson has said: “He is an adorable character. All he wants to do is please you. He isn’t a Sprinter Sacre, who always wants to show off. You wouldn’t notice Bobs Worth in the middle of a race and you wouldn’t notice him on the gallops, but then at the second last you suddenly see Bob. He is very special.”
Oddly I agree with him being favourite for the Gold Cup and yet I also see where those who are opposing Bobs Worth are coming from. The current price is attractive and yet I cannot get rid of this nagging feeling that he might get beat come Gold Cup day.
As a punter who doesn’t tend to bet ante post, I did break my habit and did get on the two I fancy at the start of December. My reasoning was that the odds on them would shorten and that they would be there in March to take their chances.
The ante post bets were placed the week after Bobs Worth was impressive in winning the Hennessy Gold Cup Chase at Newbury. Brushing aside the likes of Tidal Bay.
Right now Bobs Worth is a good price at 10-3. I would not put anyone off backing him at a price of 3-1 or above. Perversely, I also want to get him beat.
For a long time now I have been fixated on those other two in the race. Perhaps I have become too fixated. Punters must guard against being stubborn. Taking such a firm opinion so early in the season that you are reluctant to commit that other cardinal sin of punting – changing your mind.
I keep hearing that one of the two I have fancied for the Gold Cup for a long time will not make it up that hill at Cheltenham. And I keep being told that my other choice is not a good enough jumper to cope with the fences.
The only thing I know for sure right now is that I know which horses I will not be backing in the Gold Cup, and Bobs Worth stablemate Long Run is one of those.
Those who long ago took a big ante post price on Bobs Worth to win must be feeling pretty pleased with themselves right now. They are confident and so, I suspect, is trainer Nicky Henderson and the man who sold him Bobs Worth, that most pleasing of jockeys Barry Geraghty.
Those two original choices of mine – made months ago – are no longer available at each way prices. Indeed I would question if they are value at the current prices. But I was on them at much bigger prices so I am happy to sit back and wait to see if my early confidence was justified.
As ever, for members only, I will be looking into coming up with a much bigger priced each way selection in the Gold Cup. One that may get placed at a double figure price.
I think the race this year is one that offers up more questions than answers. In recent years gone by we have been in something of a comfort zone with the Gold Cup. Will it be Kauto Star or Denman? Will it be Kauto Star or Long Run?
But this exciting looking Gold Cup race includes several horses that could land a big surprise on the day. And a handful who could flop big style.
I admire those who are very confident about Bobs Worth and he may well prove those people right. He should certainly be involved in the finish. Bobs Worth may turn out to be worth a great deal indeed. Come March 16th we could be waking up to photographs of new superstar of racing.
I just have a sneaky feeling that the running of the high profile this year will prove to be more open than some expect.
Even now much could change between mid February and mid March. Not least the weather that has played havoc with racing this season. Some horses will benefit if we experience a largely dry four weeks and the going is Good at Cheltenham. Other contenders will relish the conditions should heavy rain arrive in March.
The Cheltenham God Cup is a great race to watch. And if you pick the winner, it looks even better!
Members will receive my selections for that race, and many other top class races at the Cheltenham Festival, from March 11th.
Come join us in time for the festival, Last year I tipped up winners including Une Artiste at 40-1 and Brindisi Breeze at 12-1.