We’re taking a look at the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup runners ahead of the feature event on the final day of this year’s Festival.
A sweet 16 contenders are set to go to post for what promises to be yet another thrilling renewal of steeplechasing’s blue riband event.
All of our Cheltenham Festival tips can be found here, but this is the bwin News Cheltenham Gold Cup preview:
AL BOUM PHOTO
Kept on well when scoring at Tramore on New Year’s Day but has plenty to prove here after looking held in third when falling at the penultimate fence in last year’s RSA Chase.
Plugged on gamely when a distant third in this contest 12 months ago and put in another admirable effort to finish fourth in the Grand National, so likely to be ridden with a place in mind again.
Hasn’t sparkled in three previous trips to the Festival but landed last year’s Punchestown Gold Cup and the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown recently, so can’t be ruled out in any Cheltenham Gold Cup tips.
Willie Mullins said: “Bellshill put in a huge performance, I thought, the last day – and he’s improving. Cheltenham hasn’t been his luckiest place. Maybe this is the year that he’s going to change that.”
BRISTOL DE MAI
Would be a major player if this race was run at his beloved Haydock but hasn’t been as effective on the undulating Prestbury Park circuit in previous visits here.
CLAN DES OBEAUX
Came of age when beating Thistlecrack and Native River in the King George at Kempton and hacked up in the rerouted Denman Chase at Ascot to keep his confidence high.
Paul Nicholls commented: “From the day he won his first three-year-old hurdle, we knew he was going to be a proper chaser.
“Is he good enough to win a Gold Cup? Who knows? He is probably the best I’ve ever had him, but he will need to be.”
This likeable sort has 14 wins on his CV but suffered a shock defeat when 1/6 for a Kelso match last month and was 39 lengths back in sixth in this race last term, so appears in above his head at this level.
Ran well when a 50/1 second to Might Bite in the 2017 King George but out of his depth on all other evidence.
Was beaten 14 lengths by Presenting Percy when third in the RSA Chase last season but will figure in some each-way Cheltenham Gold Cup tips on the strength of December’s soft-ground success in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “He is a young horse going in the right direction. If he can hold his position at the top of the hill then we know he won’t stop, because he will keep galloping all the way to the line.”
Earned a crack at elite level by beating a big field in the prestigious Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran Park but needs to find more improvement to figure.
Signed off last season with a valuable handicap win at Punchestown and has continued to progress, judged on victories in the Clonmel Oil Chase and a Grade One contest at Leopardstown over the Festive period.
Mullins reported: “I felt he’d done enough at Christmas and we’d just get him ready for this race. He goes there with a good chance.”
Looked a superstar in the making when winning the RSA Chase and King George in 2017 and lost nothing in defeat when outbattled by Native River here 12 months ago, but has been out with the washing on two starts this term.
Nicky Henderson stated: “We think we are in better shape than we were – he is as good as we can get him, we think. Soft ground is an issue, though.”
Colin Tizzard’s bold jumper is as tough as they come and seems able to gallop on at a strong pace forever, so will be well supported to become the first back-to-back Gold Cup winner since Best Mate.
Joe Tizzard said: “This race has been the plan all season, it is the first time he is going to get his perfect conditions and he comes here in great nick.
“People keep telling me it is difficult for horses to win back-to-back Gold Cups, but there is nothing showing us at home to suggest this horse is any worse than last year.”
Unbeaten at Cheltenham after powering home in the 2017 Pertemps Final and storming clear to take last year’s RSA Chase by seven lengths, now must justify the decision to be campaigned with this race in mind all season.
Owner Philip Reynolds said: “He’s a horse that goes out and gives you everything he’s got. He puts it on the line every day he goes out, and I think people admire that.”
Has been a grand servant for the Tizzard team, with a Stayers’ Hurdle and a King George the highlights among 13 career victories, and few would begrudge him another bold showing here.
Joe Tizzard added: “I know Thistlecrack is 11 and he is not getting any younger, but he has not got loads of miles on the clock and on his day he is a fair horse.
“It is great to get him there after missing the race the last two seasons. He deserves to run in the Gold Cup.”
Kept on well when third in the Welsh Grand National but may find the pace too hot taking on the best around off level weights.
Created a big impression when landing the JLT Novices’ Chase by seven lengths last season but struggled behind Kemboy at Leopardstown recently and would have stamina doubts even if back to his best.
VERDICT: Native River will be a tough nut to crack in these conditions, but if PRESENTING PERCY can creep into contention under a patient ride, we reckon he has the late burst of speed to pick off the defending champion.
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