Gold Cup Preview with Barry Geraghty

The Gold Cup is one of the highlights of the Cheltenham Festival. The 3m 2f chase is the last Grade 1 of the meeting and often the most eagerly awaited.

I spoke to former jockey Barry Geraghty about the race and who he thinks is the one to beat this year.

You won the Gold Cup twice in your career, can you describe how good that feeling is when the race has finished?

“It’s brilliant. As a kid, you dream of it and then it comes true. When you win the Champion Hurdle on the Tuesday you can’t let it get to your head because you have a lot going on for the rest of the week. By the time Friday even comes around, Tuesday feels like three weeks ago. But the Gold Cup at the end of the week is a brilliant way to finish the Festival, especially if you’re lucky enough to win it. It’s a great buzz.”   

How do the two victories in the race compare to your other career successes?

“It’s definitely up there, but the Grand National is the one that stands alone. The Gold Cup is the purest as the class horse of the year wins it, but the National is more of a fairy tale. You can win it on an outsider carrying 10st 3 or 4, or you can win it with top weight. There’s a lot of luck involved and it’s a lottery, but it’s the one as a kid that catches your imagination. As a five or six-year-old you go around dreaming of the Grand National.”

Last year you won the RSA with Champ who is set to run in the 2021 Gold Cup. Could he win it?

“I think AL BOUM PHOTO is the one to beat, Acapella Bourgeois didn’t run badly in the Thyestes (Handicap Chase) the other week so his recent form is looking okay. It is competitive but I think Al Boum Photo, going after his third Gold Cup, is the one to beat.

“SANTINI was only a neck behind him last year, coming off a slow pace on ground that was probably better than he would ideally like so that was a great run. If he was to go back to Cheltenham in similar form with a stronger pace and slower ground, he might be the one that beats Al Boum Photo.

“Of the novices going for the race, there’s CHAMP and Minella Indo. They were very close in the finish of the RSA but I think there’s improvement in Champ with his jumping. If he puts in a good round then there’s no reason why he couldn’t make that next step.”

Looking back at the 2020 RSA, Champ had a lot of ground to make up after jumping the last. Did you always think you would get there?

“We jumped the third-last and Allaho and Minella Indo kicked for home on the turn and I just couldn’t go with them. Instead, I just sat and hung on to a little bit and nursed Champ along. As I came towards the last fence I could see I was meeting it on a nice, quick, sharp stride and at the same moment I had one eye on Minella Indo. He fluffed his lines at the last, which is an indication that the horse may not be going as well as they might hope. Maybe you could say he was a ‘sitting duck’ in a way as I still hadn’t gone for everything on Champ.

“When we landed I went for him and he responded straight away, he came home really well and the two in front paid the price for going at it together so early. It was a great feeling. I knew at the back of the last we had a chance, I was eight or nine lengths down but I knew. Even when I was three lengths down and 70 or 100 yards from the line I still knew I had them in the bag.”

 

Did your previous experience on Champ help in that situation? 

“Certainly, but there are days when you ride a horse for the first time and make a decision and get it right. I think you need as much track experience as possible, it’s knowing the course and knowing what it takes to get home. You have to respect Cheltenham and you learn to through experience.”

Al Boum Photo is 3/1 to win with Bet 365, Sky Bet and William Hill

Champ is 12/1 to win with Bet 365

Santini is 14/1 to win with Bet 365, Paddy Power, William Hill and Betfair
by Charlie Parker-Turner