It was a date for all punters diaries on Saturday, as the Cheltenham Festival grows ever closer. It is the first big festival meeting of the season before the Grand National. The meeting over the weekend has historically been known as trials day for the showpiece event in March, and one horse showcased all his potential for the biggest race at the festival itself.
Santini was considered a wild card for the Gold Cup, but his performance on Saturday afternoon in the big race of the day has made punters stand up and re-examine their thought process. The Nicky Henderson trained horse began the weekend at odds of around +2000 with most leading bookmakers.
Experts Doubts Over Santini Gold Cup Credentials
On the television coverage before the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase, former champion jockey Ruby Walsh still queried over his credentials to be a Gold Cup contender. The Irishman admitted after the race that his performance over the three miles and a half circuit that some questions had been answered, but there will still be niggling concerns.
Santini remained in reach for the race on the Saturday as he settled for third spot for large portions of the race. But he upped his intensity over the final circuit, as Nico De Boinville began to turn the screw. As the field entered the final couple of fences, there was little doubt that the eight-year-old was building up for a big finish. He took the lead over the second last from Bristol De Mai.
Walsh’s concerns were realised as Santini began to drift after jumping the final fence with a healthy advantage. He let Bristol De Mai back into contention, before finishing strongly to win by three and a half lengths. Punters will still need extra evidence before backing Santini for the big race at the festival, but the bookies are already fearing that he could be a winner, as his price has dropped to as low as +700 with some sportsbooks.
Native River To Re-Emerge Next Month
One of the punters’ favourites in the big race over the past couple of years has been Native River, and he will return to the track next month in the Denman Chase before heading to the Gold Cup. While there are doubts surrounding Santini’s credentials as a Gold Cup horse, the same can’t be said of Native River.
The Colin Tizzard trained horse won the Gold Cup in 2018 and came fourth last year. In 2017, he finished third behind Sizing John. The conditions will have a big indicator on his chances this time around, but his form so far this season has been encouraging. He returned to the track in December at Aintree where he roared to success by 33 lengths from Black Corton.
Punters are immediately weighing up the possibility of betting on the ten-year-old to become a two-time Gold Cup winner. He is priced as high as +1400 with some bookmakers, but that price is expected to be slash if he is successful on his return to the track next month. He is one for the punters to keep an eye on.