|Monday 19th July 2021|
Monkfish Looks Primed for Gold Cup Challenge
Monkfish saw a run of seven straight victories that ended at the Punchestown Festival when he was beaten at the Champion Novice Chase at the end of the 2020/21 National Hunt campaign. Willie Mullins' charge delighted his trainer, owner, and spectators with the quality of his displays throughout the term, which included a victory at Cheltenham Festival.
However, Monkfish was off the pace in his final outing of the season after making an early mistake, and, although he made a recovery, he was powerless to catch his stable-mate Colreevy, who claimed a comfortable victory. Despite the setback, Monkfish will certainly be considered among the leading contenders in the betting tips for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Mullins believes that the bay gelding has the ability to take the step up in class and beat the elite horses on the circuit.
Monkfish has a 100% record at Cheltenham Festival, winning his first race at Cheltenham Festival in 2020 in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle. On that occasion, the Irish thoroughbred had to operate at the peak of his powers throughout the meet and just managed to beat out Latest Exhibition on the line by a neck to close out the crown.
At the 2021 festival, Monkfish was set to win the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase. He was the overwhelming favourite for the contest and delivered on expectations with a fine run down the stretch. It was not a perfect performance with Paul Townend in the saddle, but his speed in the closing stages allowed him to secure the win by six-and-a-half lengths ahead of Fiddlerontheroof, despite a scare at the final fence.
Mullins will be hopeful that his combination with Townend yields another Gold Cup winner following his outstanding achievement with Al Boum Photo, who won back-to-back titles in 2019 and 2020. Monkfish does share similar attributes to the great horse, boasting an imperious record.
Before his triumph at Cheltenham in 2021, he had made the seamless transition from hurdles to the chase in the winter of 2020. He won his Beginners' Chase at Fairyhouse in comfortable fashion before facing off against his old foe Latest Exhibition twice in succession at Leopardstown.
In the Neville Hotels Novice Chase, he laid down a marker with a brilliant surge towards the end of the contest to beat out his rival by three lengths. The two horses collided once more in December in the Flogas Novice Chase. Monkfish made a statement in the race, producing a flawless effort to canter over the line 11 lengths clear of the field.
Monkfish has the outstanding credentials to make a run for the Gold Cup, although a lot will be determined by his performances at the start of the new campaign. He will be facing sterner opponents, including Minella Indo, A Plus Tard, Envoi Allen, and potentially even the great Al Boum Photo.
Mullins will be preparing him with a series of tough races over the winter to ensure that his charge is ready to take on the ultimate prize. Monkfish could well be his next gem to enter the most prestigious of winners' circles at Cheltenham next March.