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Cheltenham Gold Cup 2023 predictions: Braveman can upset the favourite
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Enda McElhinney
Racing Post
Paul Nicholls has a Gold Cup contender in Bravemansgame
Paul Nicholls has a Gold Cup contender in Bravemansgame

- This year's Cheltenham Festival takes place from March 14-17 
- The feature race on the fourth and final day is the Gold Cup
- Recommended bets: 
- Bravemansgame @ 7/1 
- Hewick @ 20/1 to win and each-way

The centrepiece of the Cheltenham Festival is the Gold Cup, the most sought-after prize in National Hunt racing.

Ireland has dominated the race of late and the raiding party have strong claims of a fifth successive win with Galopin Des Champs currently the favourite at 6/4 with LiveScore Bet. 

He could be upstaged, however, by Britain's King George winner — with connections of BRAVEMANSGAME starting to sound confident.

Galopin Des Champs the one the others fear

For years it was the race Willie Mullins could not get his hands on, near misses and misery the only diet that he was fed on in the Gold Cup. 

Then Al Boum Photo changed the narrative in 2019 and won again in 2020. Since then, the Festival's all-time leading trainer has added a Queen Mother Champion Chase to complete his set of the Championship races.

He has market leader Galopin Des Champs heading to the Cotswolds as the one to beat this year and, on balance, he deserves the accolade.

He has looked unstoppable over fences and would surely be unbeaten had he not slithered after the final fence in the Tuners Novices' Chase here last spring and come down.

This season, Galopin Des Champs looks a more conservative performer, gone are the exuberant jumps of lasts season, the sort of energy-sapping moves that might ultimately prove fatal over the three-and-a-quarter-miles of a Gold Cup.

Last month's Irish Gold Cup win at Leopardstown over three miles put down stamina-queries for plenty of onlookers, but he will still be going into the unknown come March 17. 

He is a worthy favourite but, at the prices, perhaps not the best value in the Gold Cup.

Bravemansgame can end Nicholls' wait for Gold

When Kauto Star regained the Gold Cup crown in 2009 and made it three successive wins for trainer Paul Nicholls in the race, few would have predicted he would find himself in 2023 still waiting for the next Blue Riband winner, such was his established power at that time. 

Yet, here he is.

It is 24 years since the Ditcheat maestro first landed this prize and his most recent King George winner looks a big player, much more so than previous Boxing Day winners Silviniaco Conti and Clan Des Obeaux for the champion trainer.

Nicholls has been at great pains recently to emphasise that he has no track worries about Bravemansgame, who was third in the Ballymore here two seasons' ago behind Bob Olinger but is now "the finished article", according to his trainer.

His Christmas win at Kempton was, like Galopin Des Champs after him at Leopardstown, a good pointer in terms of stamina but hardly conclusive. 

He did, though, have to travel wide through the race and so his run can be upgraded on that basis.

He was not stopping at the line and having now proved himself to be Britain's best staying chaser on that evidence, his partner Harry Cobden shares Nicholls' enthusiasm that he can produce the best run of his career to deny the Irish more Gold Cup glory on St Patrick's Day. 

The dynamic Ditcheat duo may just be proved spot on.

Hewick no false dawn for the Shark

For some each-way value, it is worth considering Shark Hanlon's Hewick at 20/1 with LiveScore Bet.

Shark Hanlon has a lively outsider in Hewick for the Gold Cup
Shark Hanlon has a lively outsider in Hewick for the Gold Cup

He is, of course, the horse that was bought for the princely sum of £800 and, on his most recent start, he won the American Grand National in the autumn and collected prize-money in excess of £110,000.

He won over 3m4f at Sandown last season in a Grade 3 handicap (first prize £90,000) and added the Galway Plate in the summer, putting €161,999 into the coffers that afternoon.

He was set to follow that up by carrying top-weight to success in the Kerry National at Listowel in September only to unseat Jordan Gainford at the final jump.

His rating of 167 says he has got something to find with a few of his Gold Cup rivals but he is a certain player and when others have cried enough over this stamina-sapping test, Hewick should be warming to his mission. 

Of those at big prices, he makes decent appeal for a trainer that knows what he is doing and firmly believes his improving eight-year-old belongs in this company.

Racing Post selection: Bravemansgame
Each-way contender: Hewick

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