Can Delta Work win the Cheltenham Gold Cup after Irish victory
Although the Irish Gold Cup is correctly regarded as a prestigious race in its own right, the Grade 1 chase at Leopardstown is also viewed as one the major trials for Cheltenham Cup. The 2020 renewal of the Irish equivalent staged on Sunday provided several talking points for the March festival with Delta Work emerging as a viable contender after narrowly beating favourite Kemboy into second place.
When finishing third in the RSA Chase last season, doubts were expressed about the ability of Delta Work to win a Gold Cup. A winner of Pertemps Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, he had won his first three races over fences prior that loss in the RSA, but he later silenced a few experts when winning at Punchestown.
After a rusty opening race this term when he could only finish fourth behind Road To Respect, Delta Work then outstayed his rivals to win the Savills Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Among the beaten horses that day was Kemboy who impressed in his final two contests last term, but off-racecourse issues ensured that he lacked sharpness in that event when finishing fourth.
Both horses met again in a fairly strong field on Sunday, but Delta Work confirmed placings with Kemboy and third-placed horse Presenting Percy. For the winner, his odds have considerably shortened to about 6/1 for the March Gold Cup but he did have to work for his victory.
As for Kemboy, he was an early casualty last March and may have seriously challenged ultimate winner Al Boum Photo in that Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, he appears to lack the sharpness of last season especially his winning performance at Aintree.
The Willie Mullins gelding was often slow when jumping his fences on Sunday and there were also a few mistakes which did not help. Extra schooling at home may now be the key to improving his chances in just a few weeks.
Yet the question remains as to whether Delta Work or Kemboy can win the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Sunday’s evidence. Fellow Irish horse Al Boum Photo is still the horse to beat and is a proven course and distance winner. He also comfortably won his prep race at Tramore on New Year’s Day as per last season and will be difficult to beat in March.