2016 Cheltenham Festival news: Great Field cut for Coral Cup glory
David Metcalf | February 29, 2016
Great Field storms to head of Coral Cup betting
Great Field is 12/1 joint favourite (from 20s) with the sponsors for the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday, March 16th, after making an impressive winning debut at Leopardstown for champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins.
A multiple winner in France, the five-year-old was having his first start since being purchased by leading owner JP McManus and was sent off the well-backed 5/2 favourite.
After racing keenly on the heels of the leaders in the early stages, jockey Barry Geraghty allowed the five-year-old to take up the running at the fourth and bowl along at the head of affairs.
Great Field was clear and travelling powerfully at halfway, and only had to be shaken up on the run-in to stretch clear and score easily by 4 1/2 lengths.
It was a most taking performance which suggested the gelding needed keeping firmly onside and would be a major player at the Festival.
As well as the Coral Cup, Great Field also hold entries in the County Hurdle (10/1 co-favourite from 16s) and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle (12/1 from 16s) which are both staged on Friday, March 18th.
Mullins said: “He looked like a nice recruit to us. We couldn’t get him out earlier as he had a setback or two. He’s entered in the handicaps at Cheltenham and we’ll see what he gets into.”
Champion Bumper hope Aspen Colorado fails to impress
Aspen Colorado has been pushed out to 12/1 (from 10s) by Coral for the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival after making it two out of two under rules with workmanlike success at Leopardstown.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained gelding had looked an exciting prospect when winning at the track last month and was the 2/7 favourite to follow-up under jockey Sarah O’Brien.
Things seemed to be going smoothly as Aspen Colorado travelled sweetly behind the pacesetters, but after taking up the running rounding the home turn made hard work of getting the job done.
Newcomer Brelade closed all the way to the line, and O’Brien has to get quite vigorous on Aspen Colorado to prevail by 1/2 a length.
In the end the four-year-old won with a bit to spare, but it was not the impressive performance that many had expected and Aspen Colorado will need to step up significantly on it if he is to be a major player in the Champion Bumper on Wednesday, March 16th.
Zubayr secures Triumph ticket with impressive debut success
Zubayr is all the rage for the Triumph Hurdle after making an impressive winning debut over the obstacles in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton.
The gelding was an expensive purchase after two starts on the level in France, but went some way to justifying the price tag when providing trainer Paul Nicholls with his fourth winner in the Grade 2 contest.
After being held-up well off the pace in a race run at a searching gallop, Zubayr made stealthy headway into second two from home and after being shaken-up to lead at the last drew readily clear on the run-in to score by 3 3/4 lengths.
Nicholls, who landed the Adonis in 2011 with subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Zarkandar, said: “He’s just a mirror of Zarkandar that horse, and at least we know where we’re going now and that’s straight to Cheltenham.
“To be honest three weeks ago I would not have run him, as he was that backwards in his coat. The first time we schooled him on the grass was yesterday and he has just come alive over the last three weeks.
“We will go to the Triumph Hurdle now and are thrilled with him.”
Having been 16/1 with Coral before Saturday’s success, the 8/1 and 7/1 available after the race was quickly snapped up and Zubayr is now a solid 5/1 second favourite for the Triumph on Friday, March 18th.
Be sure to visit Coral’s Cheltenham page for all the latest news and tips in the build-up and during the Festival.