What can we expect from Tornado Flyer in the Cheltenham Gold Cup?
It was a result that no one could have predicted. In a field full of stars, few anticipated that the 28/1 shot Tornado Flyer would overcome them all and claim victory in the King George VI Chase. But that is exactly what happened, as the outsider claimed a famous victory for trainer Willie Mullins, with his nephew Danny Mullins in the saddle.
Having overcome the likes of Chantry House, Asterion Forlonge, Clan Des Obeaux and Frodon to seal that win at Kempton, it’s understandable that there are a lot of whispers in the air regarding Tornado Flyer’s chances at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival. The Gold Cup is the obvious choice for Mullins’ new star, and it will be interesting to see how he copes in the cauldron that is the Cheltenham Festival’s blue riband event.
It’s difficult to know what to expect. For a start, Tornado Flyer will be coming up against an even more star-studded line-up in the Gold Cup than in the King George. Defending champion Minella Indo will be there hoping to defend his crown, as will another Henry de Bromhead horse in the shape of A Plus Tard, who is the pre-race favourite in the horse racing odds on skybet.com. Then there is his stablemate, the two-time champion Al Boum Photo, eager to regain his title. All in all, it’s going to take a mammoth effort to get the better of those horses.
There is also the reality of Tornado Flyer’s record prior to that unexpected triumph at Kempton, which makes for grim reading in truth. You have to go all the way back to December 2019 to find his last victory before that, when he triumphed in a Novice Chase at Navan. The question is whether or not the King George win was a flash in the pan or a sign that greater performances are still to come.
Despite being surprised by Tornado Flyer’s victory, Mullins said he and his stables had implemented a different regime for the horse to try and improve his performances. That seems to have paid dividends so far, but the true test will be whether he can place in, or even perhaps win, the Gold Cup.
“I was totally surprised,” Mullins said. “I thought he might run a good race, but I couldn’t see him in the first four. Danny gave him a very cute ride and he was awesome on him. Every season he promises to run a race like that, but every season he tapers off. This year we changed the way we do things with him at home and it’s obviously working.”
Of course, Tornado Flyer participated in the Ryanair Chase last season, and put up a decent fight, finishing third in the end, although he was a long way behind stablemate Allaho, who came out on top. He is yet to win a race at the Cheltenham Festival, but it could well prove that it’s all building up to a strong performance in the Gold Cup.
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