Pandorama can give Meade due reward in Gold

Chaser in classic mould can crown unforgettable week for Irish by defeating three past winners of blue riband

The race should certainly match its billing, as a showdown between the old guard and a young pretender – but not necessarily in the way everyone expects. The Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup today brings together three horses who have between them won the last four runnings, and a new star in Long Run. But their contrasting profiles are also represented, at much better odds, by two others in the field: the old rogue Tidal Bay and a rising force in Pandorama.

Most punters have long given up on Tidal Bay. It would generally be considered the height of credulity to be taken in by his strong finish against Imperial Commander, last year's Gold Cup winner, at Haydock in November. The theory goes that Imperial Commander had committed a long way out, and was simply idling on the run-in as Tidal Bay, having made his usual protests as the screw was turned, finally deigned to pass a few beaten horses. Tidal Bay ran an almost identical race on his only start since, at Cheltenham in January, all but tailed off before charging after the winner late on.

Maddening as he is, the demands of this race are ideally tailored to his idiosyncrasies. He has always adored the hill here, and especially the hectic tempo of Festival races – beaten only a neck as a novice hurdler, and then returning over fences the following season to win the Arkle by 13 lengths.

His strike rate since is singularly unimpressive, but he has largely been confined to small fields and showed the engine is still intact when reverting to hurdles for a decisive success – off a strong pace – in the Cleeve Hurdle last season. That was also the first time he was ridden by Brian Hughes, a blossoming talent who seems increasingly attuned to Tidal Bay's quirks.

At 20-1, Tidal Bay looks a viable each-way bet for those prepared to tolerate his fits and starts. Regardless of the consensus about the Haydock race, he had sprinted past Imperial Commander barely strides after the post.

Most of us would be reluctant, however, to risk a win bet on a horse who leaves all the fortitude to his backers. Pandorama provides a very wholesome contrast. He is tough, reliable and progressive, and has won all bar two of his career starts, pardonably outpaced by Mikael d'Haguenet over hurdles, when that horse was in unstoppable form; and soon pulled up on his first visit to these shores, at Newbury last autumn, having made an early mistake and then been hampered.

That disappointment left him at a crossroads, but he emphatically took the right turn on his only subsequent start, thrashing seasoned Grade One operators in the Lexus Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting. Apart from at Newbury, his only previous start at three miles had been at the same fixture last season, when he rallied to beat the subsequent RSA Chase winner Weapon's Amnesty.

Here we have a staying chaser in the classic Gold Cup mould, big-hearted and bold, who has only just started out in his optimal discipline. True, he missed out on valuable experience when a setback ruled him out of the Hennessy Gold Cup last month – won by Kempes, who was probably held when unseating two out in the Lexus. But the notorious Festival vicissitudes of Pandorama's trainer, Noel Meade, have sometimes been traced to the use of too much fuel in the first half of the season. Coming here with a fresh horse could well help one of the best men in the game redress all those years of heartache. It would be no less an injustice were Paul Carberry to retire without winning a Gold Cup.

The weather forecast offers reassurance with regard to the one big reservation about Pandorama. Rain is expected this morning and, given that Meade has otherwise proposed withdrawing the horse, that is just as well. If it turns really soft, Pandorama would become an outstanding bet at 12-1.

It would be fantastic to see Kauto Star win his third Gold Cup, and excuses have been found for his submission at Kempton last time. But it is contentious to claim that he only needs to be forgiven one disappointing run. The alternative view, that he has now looked past his peak three times running, would seem readily sustained by the passing of the years.

His stablemate Denman is surely approaching the brow of the hill, despite running with characteristic honesty under a huge weight on his only start of the season. He has since undergone a wind operation, and at 11 it is hard to picture him producing the career best he may yet need today.

That is thanks to the presence of Long Run, who confirmed himself top-class when deposing Kauto Star at Kempton. But while other explanations have been quite plausibly proposed, defeat in both previous visits implies that he is less effective on this track. His gifted amateur partner may find that the horse simply requires too much organising at his fences, for too long, to have enough left for the hill.

And what of the one who sets the gold standard? Imperial Commander's absence since November presents no problem to a horse with such a good record fresh. But not a single horse that completed behind him last year has won a race since, and all the hype about Kauto Star and Denman may have given a dangerous sheen to his performance. His stable is not in especially convincing form.

The opposite is true of Pandorama, who can crown an incredible, indelible week for the Irish.

Charity bet

During the Festival, top Flat trainers give their views from the other side of the fence on jump racing's showcase occasion. Totesport is providing a free £100 stake, with any winnings going to their chosen charity.

Richard Hannon Reigning champion trainer

In the Gold Cup I'll put the money on Long Run, who was so very impressive when winning the King George at Kempton.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
film
Sport
football
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker