With less than a week to go until the start of the Cheltenham Festival, the pressure is mounting for the favorites to fulfill their potential.
But the festival is no stranger to an underdog claiming fame at the top of the national hunt racing calendar.
Last year the Gordon Elliott trained Commander Of Fleet won the Coral Cup despite having a price of 50/1.
100/1 Norton’s Coin’s victory over the legendary Desert Orchid in the 1990 Gold Cup will also remain in the memory of any player wishing to bet on a high-priced horse.
With the upsets factored in, Marcus Townend shares his thoughts on the underdogs who could yet sideline the favorites.
First Street triumphed at Newbury
FIRST STREET (Champion Hurdle – Tuesday) – Paddy Power Odds: 66-1
Let’s face it, most of the field will be jockeying for spots when Constitution Hill and State Man both compete, and you might throw a few in the ring to fight for scraps.
First Street wouldn’t be a pick on his last start when he finished a well-battered third from I Like To Move It in the Kingwell Hurdle, but that run looked too bad to be true and when trainer Nicky Henderson decides to go in the Running the champion hurdle would suggest he thinks so too.
First Street has pace and that makes him a player who at least picks up the pieces on his better form.
FUNAMBULE SIVOLA (Queen Mother Champion Chase – Wednesday) – Paddy Power Odds: 33-1
This day two race is held at Cheltenham’s Old Course and the emphasis is on speed. Trainer Venetia Williams reckons this gelding is one of the fastest horses she has ever trained, making him ideal for competition. Remember he finished second last season.
Funambule Sivola (pictured 2021) was beaten by Energumene in the same race last season
He is in good form after winning the Spirit Chase game at Newbury last month. It’s a stretch to see him win the race but another place wouldn’t be a surprise,
SUMMERVILLE BOY (Coral Cup – Wednesday or Stayers’ Hurdle Thursday) – Paddy Power Odds: 33-1 (CC) & 66-1 (SH)
The Horses for Courses system is certainly worth a second look. His eight course starts include a win at the 2018 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, as well as a couple of second places and a third. Summerville Boy is now in the veteran phase of his career but interestingly he was transferred from the Tom George stable to Henry de Bromhead in Ireland.
Summerville Boy has walked twice for his new farm which is a little promising. His handicap has dropped significantly and that would be important if he takes the Coral Cup route.
Henry de Bromhead saddled 18 winners at Cheltenham last year and recently took over Summerville Boy from Tom George’s stable
JUPITER DU GITE (Triumph Hurdle – Friday) – Paddy Power odds: 40-1
Things were looking potentially exciting as he won by a wide margin on his British debut at Newbury before blowing his top off on the day of the Cheltenham Trials when he crashed himself into the ground.
Jupiter Du Gite may be far from straightforward but could prove to be a lively outsider at Cheltenham
Obviously there are massive question marks about him now and trainer Gary Moore says on record that this gelding is anything but straight forward. But Moore is also very confident that this longshot can be better decided based on the evidence he’s seen at home. If right, Jupiter Du Gite is undeniable and could be a lively underdog.
SOUNDS RUSSIAN (Gold Cup – Friday) – Paddy Power odds: 20-1
Sounds Russian, still has room for improvement and will be happy about a Gold Cup
At eight, there’s still room for improvement in this Ruth Jefferson-coached hope whose form has been on the up all season. He still needs to improve, but this three-quarter mile ride is right up his alley.
He finished the Cotswold Chase on test day in January with real purpose when he finished second to Ahoy Senor, despite absolutely beating the fourth from last fence. That mistake should add to what he’s accomplished on this run.
CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP CHANCES
Galopin des Champs – 6/4
Bravemansgame – 11/2
A Plus Tard – 15/2
Noble Yeats – 8/1
Stadler – 8/1
Shishkin – 10/1
Protectorate – 1.10
Merged – 12/1
Ahoy Senor -14/1
Sounds Russian – 20/1
The Real Whacker – 33/1
Capodanno – 33/1
Wutstrasse – 33/1
Royal pagaille – 40/1
Envoy Allen – 66/1
El Dorado Allen – 66/1
Ga Law – 100/1
Franco de Port – 100/1
Breath of Angels – 150/1
Cool Cody – 250/1
*Odds provided by Paddy Power