Many of the contenders for the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup appeared in two separate races during the Christmas period with ante-post favourite Silviniaco Conti justifying his odds with a smooth front running success in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day while Road To Riches emphasised his claims for glory by claiming the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in Ireland just two days later.
For the Paul Nicholls trained Silviniaco Conti, it was a second winning performance in the prestigious Kempton race and jockey Noel Fehily allowed the horse to lead most of the way as his challengers gradually weakened under the constantly increasing pace. The gelding has a proven ability to stay the three mile trip while the likes of Champagne Fever and Al Ferof have questionable stamina with second placed horse Dynaste more likely to be aimed at the shorter Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.
Silviniaco Conti is entitled to be ranked as favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but having failed to win in three previous attempts at the course, there is a question mark as to whether he is suited to the undulations at Prestbury Park and his ability to sustain a challenge up the famous Cheltenham finishing hill is also open to debate.
Meanwhile over in Ireland, 2013 Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth and current champion Lord Windermere were well beaten in the Lexus Chase. Both horses were unsuited by the prevailing heavy ground and they usually reserve their best performances for Cheltenham while race winner Road to Riches continues to improve as a chaser. The Noel Meade trained horse has never been viewed as a potential Gold Cup horse especially after finishing eighth of nine runners in his only race in England at Aintree but his stamina has been evidence this season with several fine performances.
Road to Riches appears capable of racing in any ground conditions and possess the ability to accelerate at the culmination of a gruelling three mile contest. Yet it would be premature to dismiss the Gold Cup chances of the beaten horses as the Willie Mullins trained On His Own and Boston Bob will be fitter for the race. On His Own finished a close second in the Cheltenham race in 2014 and will be a contender in March while Boston Bob usually needs a couple of races to sharpen his fitness.
He was an unlucky loser of the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in 2013 when falling when leading at the last fence.
There are still several weeks to the beginning of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival and both Silviniaco Conti and Road To Riches have already demonstrated their well-being this Christmas. Yet several of the beaten horses in the Lexus Chase in Ireland should not be dismissed for Gold Cup glory as is the case with other potential challengers such as Many Clouds who could still cause a surprise in March.