Djakadam for Willie Mullins heads the current Gold Cup market at 7/2 and will need to win well here today to remain there. He won the John Durkan at Punchestown in December in good style and last year's Gold Cup runner should have plenty more to come as a seven year old. He was put in his place by Don Cossack at Aintree shortly after his Cheltenham exploits but his return this season was particularly impressive as it was assumed he was in need of a run and over an inadequate trip.
I have slight reservations about whether he is good enough to win this year's Gold Cup, as it is definitely a stronger renewal than 2015, but he should be plenty good enough to beat his rivals here today.
O'Faolains Boy for Rebecca Curtis was the 2014 RSA Chase winner and looked a top prospect. However, me missed the entire next season through injury so it remains to be seen if he has returned at the same level. He never travelled and pulled up on his first start back in a race won by the excellent Vatour before winning last time out in nice style in a class 2 race at Newbury. It will require a huge step up to be involved today but he should come on an awful lot again so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him go well.
Oliver Sherwood's Many Clouds had a fantastic season last year winning the Hennessey, this race and culminating in a fantastic Grand National win. He was second at Aintree in December behind Don Poli but was beaten comfortably enough and I think he will probably miss out again today and be beaten to second place by potentially one or two others.
Smad Place looked to have improved a great deal over the summer with two wins in November including a fantastic start to finish victory in the Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury. He beat a good quality field from a big weight that day and I think Wayne Hutchinson will ride him the same way here. The race and course really didn't suit him in the King George on Boxing Day but he was still good enough to record a respectable fourth place and I think he will give Djakadam the most to do today, and because of this I think he is a solid each way bet at 7/1.
Champagne West ran a cracking race to get to within four lengths of stable mate Village Vic here in December whilst giving him a stone and only has a four pound rise in the weights to contend with. A repeat of that performance from the Philip Hobbs trained runner should be god enough to put him right in the mix and he has Richard Johnson back on board today to further press his claims. I think he will take plenty of beating in what is a good looking race and I expect Irish Cavalier to chase him home.
Cheltenham 13:50 - Smad Place - 1 point each way @ 7/1 (Bet365)
Cheltenham 14:25 - Champagne West - 3 points @ 2/1 (Most firms)