horse racing

The road to the 2014 Cheltenham Festival: The Cheltenham Gold Cup…

How much of a worry was the seasonal debut run from Bobs Worth?

The early season Gold Cup ‘trials’ are pretty much in the form book now and it’s safe to say they have given us plenty to think about already. The biggest talking point perhaps would be the rather lackluster seasonal opener from the reigning Gold Cup champion BOBS WORTH. His ‘disappointing’  6th place finish at Haydock in the Betfair Chase surely begs the question…

Should we be looking for a new Gold Cup Champion or was this simply a minor blip on seasonal return? 

To my eyes it never looked likely that Bobs Worth was going to win at Haydock, he never really looked a threat and was beaten a long way out. Plenty have mentioned his Cheltenham form, which is a fair enough point as he is 5 from 5 at the track, including 3 successive Festival victories, however before Haydock you could also have waxed lyrical about his Left-Handed track form (he was 7 from 7 pre-Haydock on LH tracks) and his excellent record fresh (he was previously 11112 after a break of 90 days or more). He was also 7 from 7 when being sent off favourite for a race, the market had never got him wrong previously, when the money was down it had always been given back with interest. What’s to say his sturdy Cheltenham record also wont give way in spectacular fashion when he next sets hoof on the hallowed turf of Prestbury Park?

Similar to my Champion Hurdle/Hurricane Fly article from last month I went back and looked at the seasonal debut performance of the past 15 Gold Cup winners to see how they fared, both in terms of finishing position and the RPR figure they recorded that day. My conclusion was…

It is an advantage to have run to a solid RPR figure on seasonal debut in your Gold Cup year.

In the Betfair Chase Bobs Worth finished a well-beaten 6th and recorded a lowly (for his uber-high standards) RPR figure of 142.

So how does that shape up with previous Gold Cup winners on their seasonal debut run in their Gold Cup winning season?

Let’s take a look…

2013 – BOBS WORTH: 1ST with an RPR of 174

2012 – SYNCHRONISED: 7TH with an RPR of 129 (HURDLES) – First Chase start of season produced a 1ST and an RPR of 171

2011 – LONG RUN: 3RD with an RPR of 170

2010 – IMPERIAL COMMANDER: 2ND with an RPR of 177

2009 – KAUTO STAR: 1ST with an RPR of 162

2008 – DENMAN: 1ST with an RPR of 183

2007 – KAUTO STAR: 1ST with an RPR of 176

2006 – WAR OF ATTRITION: 1ST with an RPR of 164

2005 – KICKING KING: 1ST with an RPR of 159

2004 – BEST MATE: 2ND with an RPR of 162

2003 – BEST MATE: 1ST with an RPR of 171

2002 – BEST MATE: 1ST with an RPR of 172

2000 – LOOKS LIKE TROUBLE: 3RD with an RPR of 165

1999 – SEE MORE BUSINESS: 4TH with an RPR of 168

1998 – COOL DAWN: 7TH with an RPR of 99

In summary that is…

12/15 Top 3 on seasonal debut

13/15 RPR of 159+ on seasonal debut

Clearly the figures are indicating that you want to start the season as you mean to continue by firing in a solid RPR figure and grabbing a top 3 finish in the process; Bobs Worth was unable to achieve either of these.

To give an indication of where Bobs Worth seasonal debut RPR figure sits with other potential 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup candidates I’ve compiled the following list. It has been sorted so that it runs from highest RPR figure to lowest RPR figure…

DYNASTE: 2nd with an RPR of 175 on seasonal debut (14-1, current best price for Gold Cup)

SILVINIACO CONTI: 3rd with an RPR of 173 (10-1)

CUE CARD: 3rd with an RPR of 172 (7-1)

AL FEROF: 1st with an RPR of 168 (16-1)

FLEMENSTAR: 1st with an RPR of 164 (33-1)

ROCKY CREEK: 2nd with an RPR of 164 (50-1)


HARRY TOPPER: 1st with an RPR of 154 (25-1)

FIRST LIEUTENANT: 3rd with an RPR of 152 (16-1)

TRIOLO D’ALENE: 3rd with an RPR of 153 (RPR 164 in Hennessy) (33-1)

LORD WINDERMERE: 8th with an RPR of 152 (33-1)

UNIONISTE: 3rd with an RPR of 148 (66-1)

BOBS WORTH: 6th with an RPR of 142 (5-1)

LONG RUN: 5th with an RPR of 118 (33-1)

KATENKO: FELL no RPR recorded (40-1)


SIR DES CHAMPS: Yet yo run, runs Sunday (6-1)

BOSTON BOB: Yet to run (25-1)

A couple are still to play their hands yet this season and a couple have run again since their seasonal debuts.

Of the ones that have run again…

Cue Card has obviously fired in a high profile 2nd run and produced an even better figure than on seasonal debut, recording the heady figure of RPR 180 in winning the Betfair Chase.

Long Run has also run and improved upon his seasonal debut figure (RPR 161 in Betfair Chase) but perhaps importantly he is yet to grab a podium spot from his 2 runs. From the past 15 Cheltenham Gold Cup winners all of them managed a top 3 finish on 1 of their first 2 runs in their Gold Cup season. Even Cool Dawn and Sychronised podium-ed on their 2nd run of the season. At this stage it would need a Carl Froch style comeback and a ‘timely’ intervention by the referee to see the 2011 champ winning the Gold Cup again.  

First Lieutenant has also run again but worryingly for his supporters he looks to have gone backwards and produced a worse RPR 2nd time out (RPR 142) than he did on debut.

The interesting one could be Triolo D’Alene. To some he was a surprise winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup last Saturday although NTF subscribers were completely un-surprised by his victory; he was solidly on the short-list for the race and put up by myself as the value alternative in the ultra-competitive Grade 3. The RPR of 153 he recorded on debut didn’t shout ‘potential Gold Cup winner ahoy!‘ but the RPR figure he recorded in winning the Hennessy (RPR 164) certainly puts him in the wider picture. If he can improve upon that next time out then he has to be considered for Chelteham in March. The one concern would be the race really doesn’t appear to be on Nicky Henderson’s radar for his Hennessy champion, in fact only 1 bookies appears to have him in the betting for the race!

Staying on the 2nd run front it would appear BOBS WORTH is heading over the Irish Sea to take in the Lexus Chase as the next step on the rung towards the defence of his Gold Cup crown and it’s safe to say a much improved performance is needed for him to justify his position at the head of the Gold Cup market.

It’s may be easy to have a go at the current champion after his dismal Haydock run but the facts are that the majority of recent Gold Cup winners have started the season in fine fettle, not necessarily with a victory but at least with an RPR figure pushing 160. Regardless of his unblemished Cheltenham record Bob has some serious questions to answer for me. But…

What are your thoughts on Bob?

Was Haydock a minor blip on the way to regaining his crown?

Are you looking elsewhere for this season’s Gold Cup champion?

Does the 5-1 on offer provide any sort of value?

It is still a long road to travel before we get to the Gold Cup but there are questions to be answered about Bob and I want to hear your opinions!

Ben (NTF)

23 responses to “The road to the 2014 Cheltenham Festival: The Cheltenham Gold Cup…”

  1. I was impressed by Dynaste behind Cue Card I think he’s improving at a rate of knots but will he be ready for 2014?

    • Hi Colin

      I must admit Dynaste impressed me greatly in the Betfair. Cue Card had the fitness edge that day and that would have made a big difference over that trip in that ground. Can’t see why he won’t be ready come Gold Cup time, I guess the question is will Pipe go for the shorter trip again?

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  2. A thoroughly enjoyable read and I certainly agree with the assessment that Bob’s Worth has it all to do before the Festival.

    I also have seemingly gone over the cliff by following a tipster’s selection of First Lieutenant, backed it, and now I could do with finding a replacement !

    lucky pin time again ?

    • Thanks Norman

      I’m not a huge ante-post player myself but I have to say Rocky Creek looks interesting at 50’s. I thought it was a big run the Hennessy and Triolo had the fitness edge that day.

      First Lieutenant could still come good but I have to admit his win strike-rate over fences has often worried me, doesn’t convert as much as he should in my opinion. I thought he had a huge chance last time out but he ran a bit of a stinker!

      Plenty of analysis to come before getting your lucky pin out though, no need to dive in for the sake of it 🙂

      Ben (NTF)

  3. Where do you stand on horses going throug the pain barrier and never returning to anything like their best? It’s something myself and my brother were discussing about Bob’s worth.

    Looking back at the Gold cup, he was outpaced and beaten in my eyes, and i’d totaly written him off as the winner, only for him to stay on up the hill, and for me the race at Haydock panned out pretty much the same way, except when he looked beaten he stayed beaten and faded. Did he hit his peak and think, sod this, i cant go through that again?

    • Very interesting thinking Mick and I can fully see that point you are making.

      I guess it can happen and his style of running could be a bit hard on his constitution. He looked well out of things turning for home in the Gold cup and he really had to get down and dirty over the last couple.

      The Haydock run just looked wrong all over. I’m pretty sure Henderson said he was ripe and ready to fire, it was a Grade 1 and they were there to win. His past form figures also suggested he had plenty in his favour but the way he ‘downed tools’ very easily must be a worry.

      It is certainly something for us to bear in mind for his next race or 2, worth keeping an eye on the moment when the going gets tough to see if he digs in or downs tools…

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  4. It was a slightly worrying display from Bobs Worth and definitely we need to see significant improvement wherever it next runs. Dynaste ran a really good race in the Betfair but I have to say the run from Cue Card impressed and there shouldn’t be stamina problems at Cheltenham on that run. Shaping up to be a really good race already with a number putting their names forward as genuine contenders

    • Hi Andrew

      Yes I was far from convinced Cue Card was a 3 mile+ horse pre-race but after that run it would be hard pushed to say he isn’t! Mind you it will be a different ball game over the Gold Cup course and distance but he has certainly put himself bang there, he could be a Imperial Commander type; wins the Ryanair, goes onto run a huge race in Betfair Chase then lands Gold Cup!! All he has to do now is disappoint in the King George for the 2nd time!!

      Ben (NTF)

  5. hendersons yard are still to hit proper sride there seems to be something lurking in the yard . even today sprinter sacre took out of saturdays race . i just wonder if bobs worth was under the weather in the betfair . the gold cup slog has ruined some horses but i believe bobs worth will win the lexus should he go there . but another bad run would suggest the gold cup took more out of him than we thought

    • Hi Mel

      Yeah the Henderson runners are going well enough but still not quite the same heights as last couple of seasons. The Lexus will be a good test for Bobs Worth, he needs a huge improvement from the Betfair run so lets hope he can show a bit of his old sparkle.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

      • Other perhaps smaller yards performing better than usual can make the larger yards look like they are performing worse than they actually are.

        The general public will take the top yards to perform the best as given.

        Owners with good horses can find often find better value at smaller yards these days.

    • Cheers Simon

      Both, in different ways, have to prove they can still reach their heights again but both, undoubtedly, can do it.

      Fingers crossed for you…

      Ben (NTF)

  6. Hello Ben
    Your e-mails are always interesting reading and whilst I don`t always agree I wont bet until I have read them so thanks for that.
    What I really would like to know is what has happened with Zander Voy there doesn`t seem to be any trace of him either via you or the media in general, any info would be appreciated

    • Hi Robert

      I appreciate your comments and I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to agree with ALL I say 🙂

      Zander was only writing for me for one season. He then got injured during the summer and as far as I’m aware he is still recovering. Not heard of any comeback dates for him but I assume it should be too far off.

      Thanks as always for reading

      Ben (NTF)

  7. Interesting to note that Nicky Henderson basically said that Haydock is a totally unsuitable track for Bob’s Worth and that therefore so is Kempto, so Lexus is probably the next step. I therefore am not writing him off just yet.

    • Hi Paul

      It’s a fair point regarding the track suitability but even taking that into account you really wouldn’t expect the Gold Cup winner to be beaten so far out and so easily. I’m not writing him off but he certainly needs to show massive improvement on his next run.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  8. I havn’t been impressed with anything yet if i’m honest but out of what i have seen Al Ferof looks the one for me but he needs to step up on the trip so winning the KG looks the obvious step with this one before the GC

    • Hi Bob

      Yeah I don’t think there has been an outstanding ‘he is going to go close in Gold Cup’ type run yet. A few have played some probing hands but no-one yet with a real strong play. Al Ferof is certainly an interesting one, my main worry would be his Dosage figures, only 4 points in profile.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  9. Hi Ben – Thought provoking stuff. Although I don’t have the facts (e.g. RPR’s) I’m left with the distinct impression that the Gold Cup can “bottom” some horses & they never produce the same level of form subsequently. Time will tell if BW is similarly affected.

    An interesting point from the Hennessey Gold Cup – although the top weight was rated only 158 suggesting a weaker renewal than in previous years, it is worth noting that the top TWELVE finishers were aged no more than 7 (appreciate though that only 4 of the 21 field were aged older). BW beat an 11 year old in the previous year’s race (OK a pretty talented one in Tidal Bay!) & Carruthers beat a couple of 9 year olds two years ago. An indication that we should be looking to the emerging talent for this season’s winner?

    • Hi Gary

      I tend to agree with you that although in official ratings the ceiling of this years Hennessy may have been below recent seasons I do think it was full of an array of improving ‘youngsters’. Rocky Creek really caught my eye for a long long way in the Hennessy and he certainly looks a tad over-priced for the Gold Cup.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  10. I’m on the same wavelength as Mick regarding horses going through the pain barrier then not wanting to do so again. I suspect Long Run may be an example of that. However, I also think that the Henderson stable wasn’t firing at the time and quite a few of his horses weren’t seeing out their races. Bobs Worth’s next run will tell us a lot.

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