Only three months to go and Cheltenham fever is already palpable. Most of the big guns for the key events have made their reappearances and the shape of each of the championship races has begun to be moulded.
The Blue Riband event at the festival is the Gold Cup and we have already seen this year’s 1-2 clash against each other when NATIVE RIVER and MIGHT BITE lined up in the recent Betfair Chase at Haydock. On that occasion both were thwarted by Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai, Native River running a fine race in second while Might Bite laboured disappointingly in fourth.
In the aftermath of the Haydock race connections of the Colin Tizzard trained Native River were happy enough but the Might Bite team were understandably more subdued. Nicky Henderson. Might Bite’s trainer, consulted jumping guru Yogi Breisner to help analyse what may have been the issue at Haydock but the consensus was that the horse had simply failed to get into a rhythm and the plan is to take him to Kempton where he’ll defend his crown in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.
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That race is also the plan for Native River, a thorough stayer whose edge over his rivals will be keener the further the race and the stiffer the test.
The current favourite for the Gold Cup is last year’s RSA chase winner PRESENTING PERCY. He is already a dual Cheltenham winner having won this year’s RSA Chase and the previous year’s Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle. Having only raced over fences five times he is relatively inexperienced and has yet to run this season but everything he has done thus far indicates that he will be a major player next March. His general profile suggests that soft ground will see him to best advantage but it should not be forgotten that his impressive Pertemps Final win came on good ground. He next runs at Leopardstown over Christmas in the Savills Chase. To bet on the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup visit casinoonline.casino for casino bonus 2019 in the UK. Remember to bet responsibly.
Last year’s Gold Cup fourth, ROAD TO RESPECT, started his 2018/19 campaign in grand style when taking the JN Wine’s Champion Chase at Down Royal in October. Supplemented for the race he rewarded the endeavour of connections by beating Woodland Opera well. That form is a little short of Gold Cup winning quality but isn’t far away and it was a fine reappearance. One year older and stronger, Noel Meade’s charge, who will be eight come March, could be on course for another Cheltenham festival win, following his win in the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase in 2017.
Of the outsiders two worth noting are BELLSHILL and SHATTERED LOVE. Willie Mullins trains Bellshill and this fellow has won four of his seven chasing starts. He is ideally suited by a test of stamina and looked like he may well have won the Irish Grand National back in May but for a wayward jump at the last. His only other defeat when completing (he fell in his other start) came when third to Might Bite in the 2017 RSA Chase. His win from Djakadam in the Punchestown Gold Cup represents form that would put him right in contention in a Cheltenham Gold Cup and at 25/1 he is no forlorn hope at this stage.
Shattered Love is trained by Gordon Elliott, who trained Don Cossack to win the Gold Cup. She still has to improve quite a bit to be up to Gold Cup standard but, one of the younger contenders, is still open to progress. In 10 chase starts she has only once finished out of the first two,when fifth of 11 in the Champion Novices’ Chase at Punchestown. That run can be forgiven as it came on the back of two tough races at Cheltenham, where she was a highly impressive winner of the JLT Novices’ Chase, and Fairyhouse. She is an interesting contender from a top yard and if she were to line up in the Gold Cup (the Ryanair is a possible alternative for her) then she wouldn’t be one to rule out.