After winning three successive Grade 1 races last season, including landing the Broadway Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in some style, many horse racing pundits were backing the Willie Mullins-trained Monkfish to win the prestigious Gold Cup in this exciting up-and-coming National Hunt racing season, which could have been a first victory in the mammoth contest for esteemed owner Rich Ricci.
However, Irish trainer Mullins recently revealed that the seven-year-old will now miss the entirety of the 2021-22 jumps campaign after suffering a tendon injury, which will be a bitter pill to swallow for the horse’s connections and a massive loss for the sport on the whole, as Monkfish is one of the most exciting horses out there at the minute.
The Gold Cup field has now been blown wide open in the absence of the fearsome seven-year-old. So, let’s take a look at some of the new hopefuls for the 2022 renewal of the prestigious race.
Minella Indo started last season well, winning the Grade 3 Memorial Chase at Wexford by a huge 25 lengths before landing a Grade 2 victory at Navan. However, his form took a bit of a dip, as he fell in the Grade 1 Savills Chase and later finished second last in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown. As a result, he headed to Cheltenham as a 9/1 chance for the Gold Cup, and his regular jockey Rachael Blackmore opted to ride the more favoured A Plus Tard. But that proved to be the wrong decision from the Irish rider, as Jack Kennedy led Minello Indo to glory at Prestbury Park, beating A Plus Tard by a length and a quarter. The Henry de Bromhead-trained horse is the early favourite with sites like Smarkets to defend his crown, but it will be no easy feat.
A Plus Tard
Speaking of A Plus Tard, the current Gold Cup ante-post betting market suggests that the contest is going to be a two-horse race between the de Bromhead duo. The seven-year-old was second to Castlegrace Paddy under the guidance of Blackmore in his first outing of last season, the Grade 2 Fortria Chase at Navan, but he won the Savills Chase by a half a length with Darragh O’Keeffe in the saddle and headed for Cheltenham as the second favourite for the meeting’s showpiece race behind two-time defending champion Al Boum Photo. It wasn’t the most fluent of runs from A Plus Tard, and despite going second, he always looked second best to Minella Indo. A better performance this year could see the Cheveley Park Stud-owned horse prevail though.
From the same owners as A Plus Tard, Envoi Allen is next in contention for the Gold Cup, and if he can find a bit of form in the early parts of the 2021-22 season then he could prove to be good value for money at current odds of around 12/1. Unbeaten in all 12 of his career outings under Gordon Elliott, including in two Cheltenham Festival outings, things didn’t go to plan for the horse when after he was moved to Mullins’ stable last March. Expected to sweep the rest of the field away in the Marsh Novices’ Chase, Envoi Allen agonisingly fell just four fences into the Grade 1 race before being pulled up by Blackmore in the Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown. Mullins will be hoping that he can get the horse back on the track straight away this season, especially with Monkfish out of contention.