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The Cheltenham Gold Cup: A Look at the Key Contenders

Posted on January 09, 2018 by Elliot Ramsden

Cheltenham-2018The 2018 Cheltenham Festival is drawing ever closer and horse racing fans from all over the world will be eagerly anticipating one of the biggest meetings on record. In 2017, avid racegoers travelled to Prestbury Park for the four-day event, with high numbers attending on Gold Cup Day – which takes place on the Friday.

Widely regarded as one of National Hunt racing’s most prestigious accolades, the Gold Cup is the race that everybody wants to win. Whether you are an experienced jockey or a young, up-and-coming trainer, Cheltenham’s ultimate prize is extremely lucrative and punters will be finding it tough to pick a winner this year. The 2018 renewal is looking very competitive indeed.

Sizing John, trained by Jessica Harrington, took the famous race by the scruff of the neck in 2017 to romp home for a well-received victory. But it could be all change in the winner’s enclosure this time around, a few Gold Cup debutants are surely in with an excellent chance of glory. We previewed some of the ante-post market leaders ahead of March’s big race…

Sizing John

Sizing John was well beaten in the competitive Christmas Chase at Leopardstown last month and he has now relinquished his spot at the head of the betting. Finishing almost 30 lengths behind fellow Gold Cup candidate Road to Respect is hardly ideal for his 2018 preparations but you’d have to put that defeat down to the yielding ground.

He remains as versatile as ever over various distances, winning over 20 furlongs as well as the much longer 26 furlong Gold Cup in 2017. It would be foolish to write Sizing John off just yet given how he flourished at Cheltenham last year.

Current odds: 7/1

Road to Respect

Already a Festival winner, Road to Respect can build on his Leopardstown success with a big effort in March. Is all of the hype surrounding this horse legitimate? Only time will tell. If he can emulate that Christmas Chase performance, he will certainly be in the mix. 26 furlongs may be on the longer side for him – he’s never gone that far before.

 

Punters have jumped on board since that win in Ireland and he is now on the short side at around 10/1. Only one six-year-old has won this race in the last 50 years and it will take something special for Road To Respect to change that record here.

Current odds: 10/1

Blaklion

Write Blaklion off at your peril. Nigel Twiston-Davies has a real diamond on his hands and although it looks like he will be aimed at another Grand National run, he is capable of going well in the Gold Cup. Since finishing fourth in the Aintree showpiece last year, Blaklion has finished second to Bristol de Mai in the Charlie Hall Chase and won the Becher Chase.

Racing fans with good memories will recall his impressive victory in the 2016 RSA Chase at the Festival and a return to Cheltenham could reap rewards. Still valued out at 25/1, his odds will shorten if Twiston-Davies hints at a Prestbury Park return.

Current odds: 25/1

Outlander

Weather permitting, Outlander could go for the Gold Cup. He loves heavy ground and could go close if the rain falls throughout the Festival meeting. He was a faller in the JLT Novices’ Chase back in 2016 when travelling strongly and may be backed to bounce back and claim a famous Festival triumph in the Gold Cup.

As with most Gigginstown horses, predicting the jockey is difficult but Jack Kennedy may get the ride. With his usual rider on board, Outlander can assert himself on the biggest stage of all with the right conditions.

Current odds: 33/1

Thistlecrack

Beaten into fourth in the King George at Kempton Park last month, Thistlecrack needed the run and trainer Colin Tizzard believes that he should come on stronger for that. He was not himself in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and punters will be expecting big things in the coming months.

 

Expect Thistlecrack to feature in various Oddschecker previews and tipster articles between now and March – and with good reason. If Tizzard’s stable superstar gets back to his brilliant best, 12/1 is an outstanding price.

Current odds: 12/1

Our Duke

Our Duke has performed admirably in Ireland but is yet to showcase his talent on the other side of the Irish Sea. Also trained by Jessica Harrington, this seven-year-old has the qualities to succeed in the Gold Cup but may find it a little too quick. He will be up against top class opposition here and he could struggle.

We know that Our Duke should stay; his win in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse was simply sensational. He will be entered but may be targeted at the Punchestown Festival instead – only time will tell.

Current odds: 14/1

Coney Island

At just six years old, Coney Island has already done some superb things on a racecourse and he could be destined for Gold Cup glory in 2018. He romped past the well-fancied Adrien Du Pont to claim victory at Ascot just before Christmas and plenty of punters have nibbled at his price in the last few weeks.

Coney Island has the qualities to succeed at the highest level and his jumping should put him in contention. Winning the Gold Cup at such a young age is very difficult indeed but he has the skillset needed to go on and defeat his rivals.

Current odds: 10/1

Native River

The forgotten horse. According to reports, Native River is set to be aimed at the Grand National but Colin Tizzard may be thinking about a change in approach. Beaten by less than three lengths in the 2017 Gold Cup, Native River can go even closer this year – although he has yet to make his seasonal reappearance.

Tizzard is keeping his cards very close to his chest and punters have been keeping an eye on Native River’s price. Still standing at 12/1, he is tempting but it may be worth steering clear until we hear concrete news of his path to the Festival.

Current odds: 12/1

Disko

Another major contender from the Gigginstown stable, Disko is well worth an each-way bet before his odds tumble. Beaten into third place by Yorkhill in the JLT last year, that form suggests that the Gold Cup may be a stretch too far but whilst the Willie Mullins horse has struggled, Disko has revelled.

Beaten by only a few, top class horses, he has the potential to mature into an elite player at this level. He may be one for the future but with this Gold Cup up for grabs, he could step up and take his place at racing’s top table before his time.

Current odds: 20/1

Might Bite

Last but certainly not least, we have ante-post leader Might Bite. A worthy winner of the King George at Kempton, Nicky Henderson knows that he is probably the class horse in the field. Tenacious and fearless on course, his jumping is unpredictable but when he gets it right, he is almost unstoppable.

Perhaps a little short at 7/2 given his lack of experience at Gold Cup level, Might Bite is the one to beat. There is better value in the market but he is arguably the best horse in National Hunt racing at the present moment and he could do a Coneygree and lead from start to finish.

Current odds: 7/2

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