The last day of the Festival is home a real showpiece event.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most talked about race of them all. It’s the one race every trainer, jockey and owner of every horse wants to win. Ran over 3 miles 2 furlongs it’s a pure test of jumping and stamina. And for that you need a horse that can jump well at pace and most importantly get up that famous Cheltenham hill.
We’ve had a decent record in this race in recent years, so we’ve gone through the runners and riders and here’s what we think:
Might Bite 9/2
Nicky Henderson’s charge has been the long-time favourite for the race and rightly so, he is the in-form chaser of the season who hasn’t put a foot wrong. His King George win on Boxing day confirmed his status as the newest superstar in the 3-mile division. His profile fits that of a Gold Cup winner, his trainer and jockey have both won the coveted prize, so he ticks a lot of the boxes.
His win in last years RSA was brilliantly bizarre, having looked an easy winner after putting in a huge performance he then veered violently to his right and virtually pulled himself up. He managed to somehow rally and get back up for the narrowest of victories, it was one of the most bizarre situations I’ve ever seen and not the first times he’s done it. He did the same sort of thing in a hurdle race in his younger days, he does seem to have put these quirks behind him and it might not be something that happens again. However, given this extreme test of stamina on the forecast heavy ground it would be a big worry, Nico will be trying to produce him as late as possible so as not to let him have a look around when he hits the front but for this test you need a horse that puts his head down and just keeps galloping.
Native River 5/1
The former Hennessy winner native River comes here with a very live chance after he finished third in last years renewal on good ground. That was a superb effort seeing as connections state he goes best on soft.
He ran a cracker on the day and if it was run on soft ground he could have very well won. Colin Tizzard will be very pleased that he gets his ground this year especially after his brilliant comeback run at Newbury last month. That run came on the back of an eleven-month absence which is the one big negative for Native River, it’s a very difficult task to have that kind of enforced absence and then go and win a Gold Cup.
This might sound strange to some, but his comeback looked so impressive that it is hard to know if he can come on again after it. The mythical bounce factor is a worry, it wouldn’t shock me to see him run a little flat.
Killultagh Vic 8/1
Killultagh Vic comes here like so many of this year’s runners off the back of an unusual campaign. Having been out injured for 714 days after a near fall and a miraculous recovery from Ruby Walsh he reappeared in a hurdle race at Punchestown and despite not jumping great, he did win well. He then took to the larger obstacles in the Irish Gold Cup and ran a stormer looking every bit the winner coming to the last, only to crash out spectacularly. He is a horse full of potential and was Ruby Walsh’s choice before he unfortunately got injured after a fall in the RSA. This is a negative as Walsh is obviously a master in the saddle. I feel he could be a potential superstar in the pack, but he needs a little more experience and this might come to soon in his jumping career.
Definitly Red 11/1
Another who’s chance has been greatly enhanced by the forecast weather, he really ticks the stamina box here. When others have cried off he will keep on going up that unforgiving hill, his jumping is decent if not spectacular but should be just fine in the slow ground. He’s put up two very good performances this season already at Aintree and Cheltenham and comes here full of confidence. With Danny Cook on board he looks primed to put up a career best performance for trainer Brian Ellison.
Deserves a mention having won the Irish Gold Cup already this season after overcoming a life-threatening injury. It would be a brilliant story for all concerned if he could pull it off and he does have bags of stamina but might lack the class to do so.
Road To Respect 14/1
Is one of the unlucky ones due to the weather, he would be a leading contender if the ground had been quicker having been impressive all season, but the ground is a negative.
One of my favourite horses in training American is an outstanding jumper of fences. Quick, nimble and accurate over his obstacles Harry Fry’s horse is a dark horse for the race. A brilliant jockey on board in Noel Fehily will help with Americans inexperience in this tough race. He will get his preferred ground and if he can get his own way upfront he could be hard to catch.
Definitly Red supporters will think they have him covered on their race in January but that was Americans first proper run of the season having pulled up very early before that. He jumped and travelled brilliantly before getting tired due to a lack of a run. Hopefully that’s got him right for this and we’ll have a little each way bet on him.
Our Duke 5/1
After all the ramblings and notions, we’ve ended up with last year’s winning trainer Jessica Harrington’s only runner in the race Our Duke. When Robbie Power declared early he was going to ride Sizing John you would be forgiven for thinking that meant Our Duke had no chance.
Things have changed a lot since then with Sizing John out of the race and Our Duke getting the softer ground he needs to show his best. Puppy Power is now back on board and Our Duke has suddenly found himself being one of the fancied runners especially after Presenting Percy bolted up in brilliant fashion in the RSA. His campaign hasn’t been text book stuff with an early season set back followed by a shuddering error two out in the Irish Gold Cup which ended his chances, then strangely ran over a shorter trip only four weeks ago in a virtual match with Presenting Percy. Doesn’t sound like great prep, however if you look at his error in the Irish Gold Cup it would have ended most horse’s races but the way he recovered and ran on was very eye-catching. His beating of Percy now looks outstanding having given him seven pounds and run at a distance that would have suited Percy more. He’s a big horse who thrives on racing and stamina is his thing, an Irish Grand National winner if his jumping holds up it will be a threat to see him tackle the hill. His stamina on this ground will be key and he is our main selection in this year’s race.
Our Duke 5/1
American 25/1 each way