Pros and Cons of Backing Five Cheltenham Gold Cup Contenders
“Cheltenham Gold Cup” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06
A fascinating renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup is, as ever, the highlight of the four-day National Hunt horse racing Festival that takes place in England come Friday, March 16.
The honor roll of jumping greats that landed the blue riband chase event of the sport includes Kauto Star, Best Mate, Desert Orchid, L’Escargot and Arkle. But who will add their name to that list this year and scoop one of the richest prizes in horse racing?
A Gold Cup wager is a must for bettors but what are the pros and cons of these five candidates in the 2018 running? We analyze that below.
Long-time ante-post favorite Might Bite (4/1) won the RSA Chase at last year’s Festival despite idling out in front and virtually stopping halfway up the run-in. Trainer Nicky Henderson, who has previous Gold Cup success courtesy of Long Run (2011) and Bobs Worth (2013), has minded his talented but quirky nine-year-old.
A win in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day is the reason Might Bite heads the Cheltenham betting 2018, but the form may be questionable with big price runners filling the places behind him. He has three Grade 1 victories under his belt though.
Third in last year’s Gold Cup, Native River (11/2) had a tough campaign in which Colin Tizzard sent him successfully after the Hennessy at Newbury and Welsh Grand National. It’s been a much less demanding season for the eight-year-old this term, however.
12 months ago, at the Denman Chase (also at Newbury), Native River looked as good as ever. He is prominent in the Gold Cup betting because, unlike some other rivals, he’s simply done nothing wrong.
Nothing much has really gone to plan with 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John (6/1) this season, yet he is trading at a similar price that he went off at 12 months ago. He came into last year’s renewal unexposed over the extended 3m 2f trip (around 5,330m) and under the radar, but has something to prove this time around.
Owned by the late Alan and Ann Potts and trained by Jessica Harrington, Sizing John was originally supposed to go after the £1,000,000 Jockey Club bonus for winning the Stayers Chase Triple Crown. Connections didn’t like conditions for the Betfair Chase at Haydock, however, and kept him at home, where the eight-year-old won the John Durkan at Punchestown before flopping when sent off favourite in the Christmas Chase (formerly the Lexus) at Leopardstown.
Harrington is also represented in the Gold Cup field by 2017 Irish Grand National winner Our Duke (9/1) but, like stablemate Sizing John, preparations have not followed the script. Since that famous Fairyhouse victory last Easter, the eight-year-old has won just one of his three starts.
Twice a beaten favourite this season, Our Duke disappointed on reappearance and at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival in the Irish Gold Cup. He did return to winning ways last time out, but not over a trip for stayers.
Road To Respect
And so to the young pretender. Trained by Noel Meade and owned by Gigginstown House Stud, Road To Respect (10/1) won the Cheltenham Festival Stable Plate 12 months ago at 14/1 and three of his four subsequent starts. Those include the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown.
That Grade 1 success has the owners – headed by Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary – dreaming of a third Cheltenham Gold Cup. Whether this seven-year-old is truly ready to follow in the footsteps of Don Cossack (2016) and War Of Attrition (2006) remains to be seen.