Sir Anthony McCoy

Sir Anthony McCoy Sir Anthony Peter ‘A.P.’ McCoy retired from race riding in April, 2015, having ridden 4,348 winners in Britain and Ireland and won the British National Hunt Jockeys’ Championship 20 years running. At the so-called ‘Olympics of horse racing’, the Cheltenham Festival, McCoy rode 31 winners, making him the third most successful jockey in the history of the March showpiece meeting, behind Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty.

His first Festival winner, Kibreet in the Grand Annual Chase in 1996, was trained by Philip Hobbs, but most of his early winners – including Make A Stand, winner of the Champion Hurdle in 1997 – were trained by Martin Pipe. Indeed, in 1997, McCoy also rode Or Royal to win the Arkle Challenge Trophy and Mr. Mulligan, trained by Noel Chance, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and become leading jockey at the Festival for the first time, with three winners.

In 1998, McCoy won the Leading Jockey Award, again, with five winners. He won the Arkle Challenge Trophy again, on Champleve, the Pertemps Final on Unsinkable Boxer, the Cathcart Challenge Cup on Cyfor Malta and the County Hurdle on Blowing Wind, all trained by Pipe, and the Grand Annual Chase on Edredon Bleu, trained by Henrietta Knight. Thereafter, McCoy rode at least one Cheltenham Festival winner in every year bar two, 2001 and 2005, of his career, finally signing off with Uxizandre, owned by J.P. McManus and trained by Alan King, in the Ryanair Chase in 2015.

In terms of the main ‘championship’ races, McCoy won the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice, on Mr. Mulligan and Synchronised, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, in 2012, the Champion Hurdle three times, on Make A Stand, Brave Inca, trained by Colm Murphy, in 2006 and Binocular, trained by Nicky Henderson, in 2010. Perhaps surprisingly, McCoy never won the Stayers’ Hurdle.

Favourites for the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2020

Favourites for the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2020

(Photo by Cheltenham Racecourse under CC BY-SAY 2.0)

The Cheltenham Festival is just over a month away, so it’s time to start working out your top tips. The Cheltenham Gold Cup takes place on Friday, March 13 and is one of the biggest races not just in the UK but the world. This article looks at the top contenders for the 2020 race, which one will find that Friday the 13th can be very lucky indeed.

Al Boum Photo bids for repeat win

Not since 2004 has a horse retained the Gold Cup. That was when Best Mate won the race. Can Al Boum Photo also win the race two years in a row? His win gave trainer Willie Mullins his first victory in one of the few big races he hadn’t won, and it was only the horse’s second appearance at the festival. 2018 had seen Al Boum Photo fall in the RSA Chase but last year he won the Gold Cup by two and a half lengths.

Two months later, he made several mistakes when finishing second to stablemate Kemboy in the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup. His only race this season was a comfortable win in the Grade 3 Savill New Year’s Chase at Tramore. He is reported to have recovered well from that race and will next line up at Cheltenham. More rain will be helpful as his wins have come on soft, good to soft and heavy ground.

Already, Al Boum Photo is favourite with the bookies, priced at 4/1 to win the Gold Cup.

Santini success?

Favourites for the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2020

Santini photo source unknown

Trainer Nicky Henderson has won the Gold Cup with both Long Run and Bob’s Worth. He bids to make it a hat-trick with Santini who will be taking part in his third Cheltenham Festival. 2018 saw him finish third in the Albert Bartlett Novice’s Hurdle. He got closer last year when second in the RSA Novice’s Chase, half a length behind Topofthegame. He might have won but for losing a left fore shoe.

The last year has seen him make steady progress winning a listed race at Sandown in November. Soon after that, he had wind surgery but returned to the racetrack in late January winning the Grade 2 Paddy Power Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham. If there is further progress, then this runner has a good chance of winning the Gold Cup.

Delta Work in good form

With six wins in eight races over fences, Delta Work is very much a live contender this year. Trained by Gordon Elliott, he won the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle two years ago. Last year, Delta Work was third in the RSA, just behind Santini ending a run of three wins, including two Grade 1 victories.

Since last year’s festival, Delta Work has won two more Grade 1 races including winning the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup from Kemboy. He’s another that likes soft ground but has won on good. A visit to the SportNation website sees Delta Work at odds of 11/2.

Lostintranslation on the comeback trail

Winner of the 2019 Betfair Chase, Lostintranslation went on to be pulled up in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. A breathing problem was the reason for that happening, and wind surgery took place at the start of 2020. It’d be a big story if he could come back from that and win the Gold Cup and is currently 7/1.

Native River chasing second Gold Cup

Favourites for the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2020

Native River source unknown

The 2018 Gold Cup winner will have another crack at the title next month. He made his seasonal reappearance with a 33-length win at Aintree. It would have been a lot closer if Might Bite hadn’t unseated his rider. February saw his final race before Cheltenham at Newbury. Native River made all to win the Betfair Denman Chase and the ten-year-old (fourth in the Gold Cup last year) will make a bold bid to win his second Gold Cup. 11/1 makes Native River a decent each-way bet.

Clan Des Obeaux going for the double

Fifth in the Gold Cup last year, this Paul Nicholls trained contender won the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day for the second successive year. Before that he’d finished second behind Road to Respect in November’s Champion Chase at Down Royal. He did finish ahead of Delta Work though and had been off the track for 212 days. You can get 17/2 on his doing the King George/Gold Cup double.

This year’s race looks a fascinating one. The last six Gold Cups have only seen one favourite win (Don Cossack in 2016). This year looks a very open one, too.