The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the blue riband event of the Cheltenham Festival and with the 2018/19 campaign now up and running, all the leading contenders for the race in March are likely to appear over the next couple of months for their opening run of the season.
Here is a look at the five leading contenders for the latest renewal of the 3m2f steeplechase.
After winning the 2018 RSA Chase at the Festival, Presenting Percy goes into the new season as the leading novice from the 2017/18 National Hunt campaign. Patrick Kelly’s runner hit the front two fences from home at Cheltenham back in March, before surging clear of his rivals to prevail by seven lengths. The seven-year-old could return at Haydock later this month for the Grade One chase at the Lancashire track, while the King George VI Chase at Kempton could also be a target for the Irish runner.
Might Bite went into the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup as the favourite with the bookmakers on the back of his success at Kempton in the King George. However, he had to settle for second place in the most prestigious race of the year in National Hunt racing. Nicky Henderson’s chaser bounced back at Aintree just weeks later at the Grand National meeting, where he claimed the Aintree Bowl to cap off what had been an excellent season for him. Connections will fancy their horse’s chances of going one better at Cheltenham when he returns there next year.
Native River made virtually all of the running in the Gold Cup last season in a career-best performance. In what was just his second attempt at the feature race of the meeting, the former Welsh Grand National winner out-battled his rival Might Bite in the closing stages to score by four lengths. Native River can be backed at 6/1 in the horse racing betting to defend his title in March where he's looking to become the first horse to do so since Best Mate managed the feat in 2004.
2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John was unable to defend his crown in the Gold Cup back in March as an injury ruled him out of 3m2f contest. Since stepping up in trip to 3m+ in February 2017, Jessica Harrington’s runner has won four of his five starts on the track. The eight-year-old is expected to make a return to action over the next few weeks and connections will be hoping he can make up for lost time in the leading Grade One chases either side of the Irish Sea.
It’s been almost 12 months now since Thistlecrack has been off the track through injury with his last appearance coming in the 2017 King George. Colin Tizzard’s chaser was expected to return at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall Chase, however, his trainer felt he wasn’t quite 100%, therefore, has opted to give him a few more weeks off before he prepares for a shot at the Gold Cup this season.
Enjoy all the early action from the 2018/19 National Hunt campaign as all roads to lead to Cheltenham for the Festival in March.
Jason Coote is the founder of many websites and known gambler in Great Britain.