Willie Mullins has a stranglehold on the 2020 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup betting after Topofthegame, third favourite for the race and the only other contender to be trading in single figures, was ruled out for the entire season by trainer Paul Nicholls.
Last year’s RSA Chase winner was regarded as one of the most exciting prospects for top honours in the big staying chases and has long been regarded as a Gold Cup contender of the future by his 11-time champion trainer.
Talking on his Betfair blog, Nicholls said: “Unfortunately Topofthegame is out for the season after sustaining a minor leg injury. While the problem is not serious it is enough to make us stop with him at this stage and give him plenty of time to recover.
“It’s frustrating because he’d done so well over the summer and has been cantering away nicely at home ahead of a crack at the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury at the end of November.
“Hopefully he will be back in training again next season.”
Topofthegame was a general 8/1 chance in the Gold Cup ante-post betting before news broke of his injury, but his defection now means Willie Mullins-trained contenders Kemboy and last year’s winner Al Boum Photo head the market.
The former is slightly shorter at top price 6/1 despite having got no further than the first fence in the 2019 renewal, although two stunning subsequent Grade 1 wins last term suggest he could easily land the biggest prize in National Hunt racing.
Fitzdares Offer £500k For Treble
This week’s news that Fitzdares bookmakers are stumping up a £500,000 bonus if any horse wins the Peterborough Chase, the King George and the Gold Cup, doesn’t appear to have swayed Nicky Henderson from the early season plan for possible Gold Cup candidate Altior, who remains on course for the 1965 Chase at Ascot on November 23.
Henderson said of the Fitzdares carrot: “It's very admirable, we've discussed Altior's plan and that bonus but my feeling is that while I like Huntingdon and Fitzdares, it's 18 days to the King George and it's just close enough.
“The plus side of the Ascot race is it gives us another two weeks. That's why my line of thought is to go down the Ascot road at the moment.
“That's as far as Altior is concerned – what I might do with some of the others is a different matter. It's a very attractive bonus and I'd rather go that route than the Betfair Chase one as that Haydock race doesn't seem to suit us at all.”
The dual Champion Chase hero is being stepped up in trip this term with his major mid-season target being the King George VI Chase on Boxing day, although how he performs at Ascot, where he could clash with the brilliant Cyrname, will have a major bearing on whether connections decide to have a crack at the longer trip at Kempton.