The Cheltenham Gold Cup is one of the most prestigious prizes on offer in the sport of horse racing and the battle to win the crown in 2019 should be an enthralling race.
Native River will attempt to become the first horse since Best Mate to win the cup in back-to-back years, although there will be fierce competition to prevent Colin Tizzard’s charge making history.
The Irish-bred horse has not been successful on the track since his triumph last March, although he is more than capable of raising the level of his performance.
Presenting Percy is the bookmakers’ favourite for the crown, although rising star Clan Des Obeaux is certainly one to watch after his triumph at the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park.
We’ll now look at the main contenders for the title in Cheltenham Festival’s signature event.
The Irish-bred horse returned for a second crack at the Gold Cup last season after finishing in third place in 2017. Tizzard’s charge was beaten out by the pace of Sizing John and lost out on second by a short head to Minella Rocco on the line. Native River raced only once before his return to the Festival, delivering a fine performance at the Denman Chase which gave him momentum.
He was considered a slight outsider at 5/1 for the crown behind Might Bite. However, the chestnut gelding was able to control the meet from start to finish, with Richard Johnson timing his surge away from his rival to perfection to close out the win by four-and-a-half lengths.
Native River returned to action in November at Haydock Park among familiar names in the Betfair Chase. Despite his success, Might Bite was still named the favourite for the event. Both horses were beaten in the contest as Tizzard’s charge struggled for rhythm and lost out to Bristol De Mai by four lengths.
At Kempton Park, the nine-year-old put forward a solid run, but he was unable to keep pace with Clan Des Obeaux, who emerged out of the field to claim the crown. Native River is a consistent competitor and it would be no surprise to see him within striking distance on the Cheltenham straight.
The bay gelding is the bookmakers’ favourite for the event and given his history at Cheltenham, Paul Kelly’s charge has an excellent opportunity to claim the crown. Presenting Percy made his first appearance at the Festival in 2017 in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle.
As an 11/1 outsider for the race, he put forward a fine performance in a talented field to win the race, finishing three-and-a-half lengths ahead of his nearest rival. In the following campaign, Presenting Percy was able to establish a solid reputation, adding victories at the Porterstown Handicap Chase and John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle to his collection.
Kelly put his charge into the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase, where the bay gelding was named the favourite. He duly delivered on expectations with an outstanding display, powering away from the rest of the field down the stretch. Presenting Percy finished seven lengths ahead of Monalee to notch his second victory at the Festival.
Since then he has been in action only once, successfully defending the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle title at Gowran Park. Presenting Percy was on form, timing his surge to perfection to defeat Baupame. However, the Gold Cup will be a step up in quality and the bay gelding will have to be flawless.
The seven-year-old is one of the most exciting horses entering the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Paul Nicholls’ charge had a solid if unspectacular career before entering Kempton Park and securing the King George VI Chase crown. His only appearance in the Festival in 2016 resulted in a sixth-place finish in the Triumph Hurdle, finishing behind winner Ivanovich Gorbatov as well as Apple’s Jade and Footpad.
He made a breakthrough last season in the Graduation Chase at Haydock Park, defeating Vintage Clouds by seven lengths with a fine run. Clan Des Obeaux was unable to build on his display, losing out in the December Gold Cup to Guitar Pete as he faded down the stretch. The French-bred horse was off the pace again in the Betway Bowl Chase as Might Bite ran away with a comfortable victory.
He remained in the elite company for the start of the new term at the Betfair Chase, although on this occasion Nicholls’ charge finished fourth well behind the winner Bristol De Mai. As a result of his performances Clan Des Obeaux was a 12/1 outsider for the King George VI Chase. However, he stunned the rest of the field with Harry Cobden in the saddle, surging into the lead before closing out the triumph ahead of Thistlecrack. Nicholls’ charge is certainly the one to watch at the Gold Cup to see whether he is indeed a rising star or a flash in the pan.
Willie Mullins’ charge has form on his side entering the Gold Cup, although he does not have a great history at Cheltenham Festival. The French-bred horse finished fifth in his first race in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle two years ago. He returned last season for the JLT Novices’ Chase, but was once again off the pace, placing down in fourth. Kemboy struggled once again as he fell at the first fence of the Irish Grand National, failing to make an impact on the major stage.
The seven-year-old managed to end his campaign on a high note with emphatic victories at the Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Chase and EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase. Those performances gave Mullins’ charge momentum and he began the new term with a triumph at the Clonmel Oil Chase.
With Paul Townend in the saddle, Kemboy made a couple of early errors, but recovered to defeat Alpha Des Obeaux by three lengths. He maintained his winning run at the Savills Chase, notching his fourth victory on the bounce, defeating Monalee by a comfortable margin. Kemboy has impressed this term, but does not have a major victory under his belt. As a result, it would be a surprise to see him in the winners’ enclosure.
Native River has the history at the event and he has decent value to notch a second Gold Cup. Presenting Percy has the talent and form under his belt, although he has not competed against the same elite competitors this term. The same could be said of Kemboy despite his run of form, reeling off four-straight wins.
Clan Des Obeaux has the most impressive victory of the campaign and he could be on course for a breakout term. Might Bite failed to rise to the occasion after winning the King George VI Chase, but Clan Des Obeaux will be able to build on his triumph to claim the crown at odds of +800 at Bet365.
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