A leg injury resulted in Topofthegame being ruled out of action last season, but I believe that he has the potential to make up into a leading contender for the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup given the strength of his form shown in his first season over fences.
The eight-year-old enjoyed his finest hour at this year’s Cheltenham Festival when landing the Grade 1 RSA Chase in impressive fashion.
Topofthegame jumped superbly and travelled strongly throughout under Harry Cobden in the 3m contest before being produced to take up the running after the last.
After a spectacular leap, the huge son of Flememsfith then found plenty to see off the persistent challenge of Santini to score by a cosy 1/2 length, with Elliott’s Delta Work finishing a further 1 3/4 lengths behind in third.
It was a most taking display and the form has worked out really well with the runner-up finishing a fine neck second to Alboum Photo In last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and Delta Work going on to land three Grade 1 successes.
Topofthegame, who owned by Paul Barber and Chris Giles, ran in the same colours of Denman who landed the 2007 RSA Chase before going on to capture Jump racing’s Blue Riband event 12 months later.
Discussing Topofthegame‘s similarities with the mighty Denman, nicknamed “The Tank”, Nicholls said after the race: “He is not unlike Denman. We’re really excited to have him. He is rated pretty much the same as Denman was at this stage of his career. Denman was a grinder and this horse has plenty of boot. He travels well and jumps well – he is only going to get better.”
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Incredible effort at Exeter
That is high praise indeed and Topofthegame went on to round off the 2018/10 campaign with a decent second to subsequent Betfair Chase winner and this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup third Lostintranslation in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase.
That is again strong form as is his second on chasing debut to Defi Du Seuil at Exeter where he lost more than 20 lengths when whipping around at the start before keeping on strongly to be beaten just 3 1/2 lengths by Phlip Hobbs’ stable star who has since won four Grade 1 contests – including the JLT Novices’ Chase at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.
It was an incredible effort against such a talented rival now officially rated 170 and Nicholls said during a stable tour ahead of last season: “Any horse capable of giving Defi Du Seuil the best part of 25 lengths start, as Topofthegame did at Exeter, and then getting within four lengths of him, must be a serious horse.”
The Ditcheat handler added: “He strikes me as an ideal Gold Cup horse. He travels beautifully, jumps and stays, and those are the qualities you need.”
Ladbrokes Trophy the early target
I agree entirely with those comments and Nicholls has won the Gold Cup four times courtesy of See More Business (1999), Denman (2008) and Kauto Star (2007 and 2009).
If he can get Topofthegame back on track, and keep him free from injury, then I think he has another serious contender on his hands.
The Ladbrokes Trophy is likely to be the earlier season target for Topofthegame and he is currently favourite in the ante post betting for that Newbury contest at a standout 9/1 with bet365.
A win in that would undoubtedly see his current odds of 16/1 with Paddy Power for the 2021 Gold Cup cut significantly, hence I think he is worth a long range each-way punt for the 3m 2f showpiece on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival next March.
Topofthegame is one horse that I am seriously looking forward to seeing back in action in the 2020/21 season and I will be following his career with the utmost interest.
I think he is a must for anyone’s horses-to-follow list.