These are the five key contenders for the Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Gold Cup takes centre stage on the fourth and final day of the 2021 Cheltenham Fesitval – and what a race we have in store.

The star-studded Grade 1 event is the most prestigious and valuable jumps race in Britain – with prize money of £625,000 – and has been won by some of the greatest horses in the history of the sport.

Representing the ultimate challenge for the very best staying chasers, horses must jump a staggering 22 fences during the relentless three miles and two and a half furlongs – while conquering a punishing finish up the famous Cheltenham hill.

Looking to write his way into the history books to join the likes of Golden Miller, Mill House, Arkle, Best Mate and Kauto Star is Al Boum Photo.

Willie Mullins' nine-year-old is favourite to land this year's renewal and will be attempting to make it a hat-trick of wins for the first time since Best Mate in 2004 – but a number of intriguing dangers are expected to line up.

Here, we take a look at some of the main contenders for the standout race on the final day of the festival…

WellChild Gold Cup odds

5-2 Al Boum Photo

5-1 Champ

6-1 A Plus Tard

14-1 Frodon, Santini, Kemboy, Minella Indo

16-1 Native River

* 33-1 bar. Odds correct at time of publication

Who are the key contenders?

Al Boum Photo will be bidding for an historic third straight Gold Cup victory at this year's festival.

Willie Mullins' charge has landed the Gold Cup under Paul Townend in each of the past two seasons, with those two races run in contrasting fashion – a point which only bolsters his claims at the head of the market this time around.

Unsurprisingly, Mullins has stuck to the now tried-and-tested route of heading to Cheltenham off the back of a single low-key prep run, with the nine-year-old winning a third successive Savills New Year's Day Chase at Tramore earlier this year.

Champ won the RSA Chase in dramatic style at last season's festival, coming with a late charge to make up an eight-length deficit from the last.

Aptly-named after all-time great Tony McCoy, Champ has been an unreliable jumper in the past, but his recent performance showed enormous improvement.

Speaking of his recent outing in the Betfair Game Spirit Chase at Newbury last month, trainer Nicky Henderson said he was thrilled to see Champ enhance his Gold Cup credentials after finding only Sceau Royal too strong.

However, that race is a mile and quarter shorter than the Gold Cup – so well short of his optimum trip – but he could well still throw a spanner into the works.

A Plus Tard won the Christmas feature at Leopardstown, in which he proved his stamina for three miles with a relentless finish to overhaul Irish counterparts Kemboy and Melon.

As an emphatic stayer and having put in a huge performance in his prep run, the Henry De Bromhead-trained seven-year-old has to be taken very seriously.

Rachael Blackmore, who takes to the saddle for the race, partnered A Plus Tard to victory in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase in 2019 and when third in the Ryanair Chase last year.

To put simply, if he does stay the Gold Cup trip, then he certainly has a chance.

Frodon provided one of the most memorable moments of the 2019 festival when winning the Ryanair Chase under an enterprising ride from regular partner Bryony Frost.

Connections opted to duck a Gold Cup bid the following year, but such is the capacity of the nine-year-old to repeatedly confound expectations that he will contest it in 2021 after landing the King George at Christmas at odds of 25-1.

A six-time winner around Cheltenham, it's little surprise Frodon has his supporters, but given he is always seen to best effect when allowed to dictate from the front, it seems highly unlikely he will be allowed to do so in the best race of the season.

Minella Indo has not shown much in last two outings at Leopardstown – but does boast excellent festival form.

Second to Champ in last year's RSA Chase and winner of the Albert Bartlett over three miles at 50-1 two years ago, he most certainly has solid credentials in this year's renewal of the Gold Cup.

Henry De Bromhead's eight-year-old stayed very well at Leopardstown and looked like he needed every inch of it.

To paint a picture, there aren't many horses that can win a Grade 1 over two miles and be in the Gold Cup picture – Kauto Star would be one. Minella Indo too? Perhaps.

What are the quickest Gold Cup times?

These are the top three quickest runs in the Gold Cup over the last 20 renewals:

2011 Long Run (6:29.70)

2000 Looks Like Trouble (6:30.30)

2015 War Of Attrition (6:31.70)

Where have the winning runners come from?

Here are the countries where the winning trainers of the Gold Cup have been based:

GB 13 winners with an additional 25 placings from 191 runners

IRE 7 winners with an additional 14 placings from 77 runners

FR 0 winners with an additional 1 placing from 11 runners

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