Minella Indo Ready For Gold Cup Defence

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most prestigious National Hunt contest in the world and as the new season gets underway, many of the leading trainers in jumps racing will be preparing their horses for the contest at the Cheltenham Festival.

Last year’s winner Minella Indo tops the betting to prevail again in the 3m2f race. Only two horses in the last 50 years have been able to defend their crown. Best Mate won three straight races between 2002 and 2004, while more recently, Al Boum Photo was successful in 2019 and 2020.

The eight-year-old from Henry De Bromhead’s yard has not featured since his impressive Cheltenham result last March. He had to miss the Punchestown Festival back in April due to a bruised foot. He has now had the summer off which should ensure he is fresh when he returns to action.

Cheltenham is a course the Irish horse has produced his best at throughout his career. He was successful in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in 2019, while in 2020, he finished second behind Champ in a close finish to the RSA Chase.

De Bromhead, who had an excellent campaign last season, winning the Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase along with the Blue Riband event of the meeting, has indicated the Gold Cup winner’s seasonal reappearance is likely to come at Down Royal.

Minella Indo is also likely to appear at the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown in December in the Grade One Savills Chase. He came down at the eighth fence when making a mistake in the race in 2020. Connections will be hoping he can make up for that error by prevailing in one of the biggest races in the division 3m+ division in Ireland.

Challengers To 2021 Winner Include His Stablemate

The biggest challenger to Minella Indo in the 2022 renewal of the Gold Cup is likely to be his stablemate and last year’s runner-up A Plus Tard. There was just over one length separating the two horses in the race earlier this year.

As a seven-year-old, A Plus Tard was one of the youngest horses in the field for the Gold Cup in 2021. He is likely to gain more experience over fences this season before he arrives at Cheltenham at the back end of the campaign.

Retained stable jockey Rachel Blackmore may have a tough decision to make as to which horses she chooses to rise at Cheltenham next year. She opted for A Plus Tard last March in what must have been a tough call to make.

Unfortunately for racing fans, one of last season’s leading novices, Monkfish, has been ruled out for the season so he will not line up at Cheltenham. Marsh Novices’ Chase winner Chantry House is set to step out of novice company, with the Gold Cup being his target. Nicky Henderson’s runner is expected to be a strong contender.

Two-time winner Al Boum Photo is also likely to be back as he bids to win the race for a third time. Willie Mullins’ runner could only finish third in 2021. Given how strong his record is in the Gold Cup, he cannot be ruled out from having another success.

It should be another strong renewal of the feature race of the Festival on March 18. If Minella Indo can defend his crown, he will prove he is one of the best chasers of his generation.

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Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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