When winning the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on trials day, Santini put himself right into the mix for what could be one of the most competitive renewals of the Cheltenham Gold Cup we have seen in a long time.
The Nicky Henderson trained eight-year-old was having just his fifth run over fences when landing the Cotswold Chase, but looked the type that is ready for the test a Gold Cup brings. His biggest strength is certainly his ability to stay and if he can keep tabs on the speedier horses in the race then he should be able to pounce on them as they tire up the hill.
There was no stopping him over 3m1f in the Cotswold Chase, and he looked the type that would improve further for another couple of furlongs. He gets one extra in the Gold Cup, and when those with staying doubts are struggling to get up the hill and begin to tire, you can expect to see this horse staying on and relishing the task of getting up the hill and to the finishing line.
The horse that finished second to him at Cheltenham was Bristol De Mai, a reliable yardstick and one that has shown staying ability in the past. However, he could not live with Santini and the Henderson runner always looked to be on top after the last fence and on the run to the line which bodes very well for his chances in the big one.
Right now it is the Irish horses Al Boum Photo, who won the race last year, and Kemboy who lead the market but Santini is just behind them. That puts him ahead of horses such as dual King George winner Clan Des Obeaux and Betfair Chase winner Lostintranslation as the main hope from the UK according to the bookmakers. Those looking to back a runner in the Gold Cup can take advantage of the latest Cheltenham betting offers for 2020 and use them when placing bets on the big event in March.
For the British runners, all eyes are already on Cheltenham with none of the main contenders scheduled to run before the festival now that the Cotswold Chase is out of the way. Santini and Clan Des Obeaux will head there on the back of a win in a big race, while Lostintranslation hasn’t ran since being pulled up in the King George, which is not ideal preparation.
As for the Irish runners, the Dublin Racing Festival will hold many Cheltenham clues and be the last chance for punters to see the main challengers in action. Kemboy will head there to put his Gold Cup credentials on the line while last year’s winner Al Boum Photo will go straight to Cheltenham after winning at Tramore on New Year’s Day.
With six runners priced up in single figures already for the Gold Cup, it shows just how competitive this could turn out to be and how many horses head there with genuine chances of winning.