The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the leading national hunt race anywhere in the world and we are set for a fantastic renewal in March in what is the feature race of the four-day Cheltenham Festival.
Last year, Native River made virtually all of the running to prevail for trainer Colin Tizzard and establish himself as one of the leading horses in the 3m plus division. Here is a look at who will be in contention to win the prestigious Gold Cup in 2019.
Since going chasing in November 2016, Might Bite has won seven of his 12 races with major successes coming in the King George VI Chase, Aintree Bowl and RSA Chase. He went into the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup as the 4/1 favourite and, although he ran incredibly well to match Native River in a duel from very early into the contest, he had to settle for second place behind his rival who just found a little extra in the closing stages. Might Bite was not at his best on his opening run this season at Haydock, however; he is 7/2 in the King George betting to bounce back on Boxing Day and get his Gold Cup bid back on track going into the second half of the season.
Native River is bidding to become the first horse to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the second successive year since 2004 when Best Mate prevailed for the third consecutive time. Even the great Kauto Star, Denman and Bobs Worth have all failed to retain their crown since then in what is a difficult feat. Tizzard’s runner has always enjoyed a stamina test as he is a former winner of the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow, while he was second in the National Hunt Chase which is run over 4m at the Cheltenham Festival. The victory in the Blue Riband event of the Festival last season though proves he also has the class to come out on top over 3m2f. Connections will have been pleased with the start he made in his seasonal reappearance at Haydock where he finished second. They will expect their horse to improve as the campaign progresses and be at his best for the Festival for his bid to win the Gold Cup for the second year running.
Bristol De Mai
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Arguably the most impressive horse so far in the 2018/19 national hunt season has been Bristol De Mai who got the better of a small but strong quality field at Haydock to claim the opening leg of the Chase Triple Crown and, as a result, keep his hopes alive of a £1 million bonus this season. The talented grey jumped superbly at the Lancashire track and was able to break away from the congested pack after the second-last fence where he scored by four lengths. Unfortunately, Bristol De Mai missed the Gold Cup back in March but, if he continues to improve through the season, he will go into the Blue Riband event of the Festival as a major player.
The 2019 Cheltenham Festival begins on the 12th March with the feature race of the week taking place on the 15th March.