RACING fan Gaurav Chaddah (@GauravChaddah) begins looking ahead to the upcoming Cheltenham Festival by providing his ante-post thoughts on the Coral Cup.
Cheltenham Festival | Coral Cup | Wednesday 11th March 2020
We continue to look ahead to the Cheltenham Festival with another ante-post selection. It’s not long now until the biggest four days of the racing year and the anticipation is slowly building.
This week saw the release off all the weights ahead of the handicaps which makes it slightly easier for punters to analyse those big field races. Herey, we’ll be looking at the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle.
Skelton looking for more success
It seems like the bookmakers aren’t taking any chances this year on Dan Skelton, who has trained the winner of this race three times in the last four years, including the last two renewals, and is going for the hat-trick with favourite Protektorat, who is 10/1 with Bet365.
It’s not difficult to see why either; he was a listed winner at Cheltenham on New Year's Day before going back to Prestbury Park to finish third in a Ballymore Trial on trials day at the end of January.
He races off a mark of 144 here, which seems a handy mark and Skelton certainly knows how to get one right for the race. He does have some other smart pieces of form to his name. He was ahead of Kingwell winner Song For Someone, who is now rated 154, which could make a mark off 144 seem lenient.
Despite this, he has however only won once over hurdles in his career so far and whilst a big run looks on the cards, it may pay to take on the favourite and the master of the race Skelton.
Sempo can give Ireland glory
Despite Skelton’s recent record in the race, the Irish also have had success, most notably Willie Mullins, who’s won four of the last 10 renewals, but I think 2020 could see victory for Sempo and Joseph O’Brien.
Sempo will race off an English handicap mark of 142, which could look very lenient when looking back at some at some of his form. He broke his median tag at the beginning of the month at the third attempt when stepped up in trip and prior to that finished second in a hot median hurdle at Leopardstown at Christmas.
He was second to the 145 rated Cobblers Way, who subsequently finished second in a Grade 1 at the Dublin Racing festival and saw off the Mullins pair of Francin and The Big Getaway, both of whom have won since, with the latter fancied to run well in the Grade One Ballymore at the Festival.
It is however perhaps Semo’s sixth in the very hot Cheltenham Bumper last season that makes a mark of 142 perhaps seem very lenient. He was only beaten sixth lengths in what now looks an inadequate trip.
The winner, Enovi Allen, has already won two Grade 1's this season an is rated 154 and heavily fancied for Ballymore success at the Festival and he wasn’t too far behind Grade 1 winners Abacadabras and Thyme Hill, both of whom are prominent in Grade 1 betting for the Festival.
The Bumper of last year is working out very well and a mark of 142 may just underestimate Sempo and he can give O’Brien a third Cheltenham Festival victory.
This article was published on Thursday 27th February 2020.