Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has revealed that his big Cheltenham Gold Cup hope Topofthegame will miss the whole of the 2019/20 season after picking up a leg injury.
The strapping seven-year-old signalled himself out as a leading contender for chasing’s blue riband contest when stylishly beating Santini by 3/4 of a length in the Grade 1 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival back in March.
He was as low at 8/1 in the ante post betting for the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup and his initial target had been the valuable Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury for which he was favourite.
Nicholls told his Betfair blog: “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 when his long term target will again be the Cheltenham Cup.”
It’s a bitter blow for Nicholls who had recently enthused how Topofthegame had flourished over the summer months. The Ditcheat handler still has two potential candidates for the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup in the shape of Clans Des Obeaux and Cyrname, who are currently 20/1 and 33/1 respectively with Paddy Power in the ante post betting.
Irish handler Willie Mullins trains the front two at the top of the betting for the race in the shape of Kemboy, an 11/2 chance with Betfred, and last year’s winner Al Boum Photo who is a best priced 8/1 with William Hill to retain his crown.
John Durkan pencilled in for Presenting Percy
Connections of Presenting Percy are hoping that he can get his career back on track in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown in December, en route to another crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Trained in Ireland by Pat Kelly, the eight-year-old looked to have the world at his feet when running out an impressive winner 2018 RSA Chase.
It was a second success at the Cheltenham Festival for Presenting Percy having won the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle under a big weight the year before.
However, after winning on his return in the grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran park he ran no race whatsoever when sent off the 100/30 favourite for last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Presenting Percy trailed in a 33 length eight of 16 to Al Boum Photo and was subsequently found to be lame.
Owner Philip reynolds told the Racing Post: “We’ve been taking it slowly with him.We couldn’t figure out where it happened at Cheltenham but he definitely came home lame and was sore afterwards. He hasn’t come close to doing enough to know where he’s at, or whether he’s the same or not, but it’s a case of so far, so good.
“All being well he might start back in the John Durkan on December 8. I’d like to know he’s the horse we thought he was before we start talking about where he might go.”
He added: “If he never does anything else for me, he owes me nothing. I’m sure he owes the punters a few quid from last season in the Gold Cup and hopefully we’ll all recoup that with time. He’s still young enough if he’s good enough.”
Stunning in RSA
Presenting Percy put up one of the best performances in the RSA I have witnessed when jumping like a stag and cruising clear to beat Monalee by seven lengths.
He had Al Boum Photo well held when that one come to grief three from home and the form of the race looks really strong.
It would be great to see him back to his brilliant best, and if Kelly cam work his magic then current odds of 20/1 with Paddy Power for the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup could look huge come next March should all go to plan.
Fry excited about If The Cap Fits
If The Cap Fits, who is currently 12/1 with William Hill for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, has thrived during the summer break and is looking better than ever according to his handler Harry Fry.
The Dorset handler is relishing the forthcoming season with the lightly-raced seven-year-old who has won five of his eight starts over the obstacles and enjoyed his finest hour when landing the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle at the Aintree Grand National meeting back in April. That success earned the Paul and Clare Rooney owned son of Milan an official rating of 160, 9lb lower than Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park who powered to glory in the Stayers’ Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Fry told At The Races: “He’s been with Paul and Clare Rooney’s racing manager Jason Maguire and has come back looking a picture. He’s in good order with himself and we’re looking forward to campaigning him in the top staying hurdles.
“He’s only had the one run at three miles and he was successful at the highest level at Aintree. There’s a pretty impressive staying hurdle champion and someone has to serve it up to him.
“He’s a seven-year-old and he could start back either at Wetherby in the West Yorkshire Hurdle or go back to Ascot for the Coral Hurdle which he won last year prior to having a crack at the Long Walk before Christmas.”
If The Cap Fits could clash with last year’s winner Paisley Park in the Long Walk Hurdle, in what could be the first of many fascinating duels between the pair.
I think there is still an unfinished look to him and it would be no surprise to see him bridge the gap in the ratings as the 2019/20 season progresses.