2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup: The Contenders

2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup: The Contenders  We’re now just two months away from the 2019 Cheltenham Festival and excitement is growing in the horse racing community. The highlight of the Festival is, as it always has been, the Magners Gold Cup – which takes place on the fourth and final day of the meeting.

Native River and Might Bite went to war in the 2018 renewal, with the former just about coming out on top after a superb round of jumping. Both horses will feature in 2019 but it may be worth looking elsewhere in the betting. Here are a few of the leading fancies.

Presenting Percy

Trained by Pat Kelly, Presenting Percy already has two Cheltenham Festival wins under his belt. The ante-post Gold Cup favourite emerged victorious on his seasonal reappearance at Gowran Park and many fans believe he is the horse to beat ahead of March’s meeting.

The manner of his RSA Chase success in 2018 was outstanding and plenty of punters will be expecting to see Presenting Percy in the winner’s enclosure on Gold Cup day. With trusted jockey Davy Russell onboard, Presenting Percy could be set to claim the biggest prize in National Hunt racing.

Thistlecrack

Like Presenting Percy, Thistlecrack has course and distance winning experience – write him off at your peril. He hasn’t quite lived up to the hype since making the switch to fences but Thistlecrack is still a dangerous contender. If he improves on his jumping, he will be right in the mix as they approach the final few fences.

You’d be hard pressed to find a horse with a bigger engine – his speed and stride between fences is something else. Colin Tizzard seemed happy enough with his efforts after finishing less than two lengths behind Clan Des Obeaux in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

Kemboy

If you’re looking purely at form, Kemboy is the horse to back. Trained by Willie Mullins, the 7-year-old made light work of his rivals at Leopardstown in December – beating fellow Gold Cup contender Road To Respect by close to eight lengths. On that performance, it is hard to look past Kemboy.

However, Mullins’ poor record in the Gold Cup may tempt punters to look elsewhere. He is yet to win the Festival showpiece, with his trained runners finishing second. Cheltenham betting odds have Kemboy at 6/1 but does he have what it takes to win at Prestbury Park?

Clan Des Obeaux

It would be fair to claim that Clan Des Obeaux’s Boxing Day win at Kempton Park sent shockwaves across the racing world. Harry Cobden gave him a superb ride to earn Paul Nicholls a 10th King George VI Chase success – connections were overjoyed after another solid showing in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park.

The big question is this: can Clan Des Obeaux do it on the biggest stage of all? Winning at the Cheltenham Festival is no easy feat and even the best horses can wobble at Prestbury Park. He’s in this one on merit and must have a lively chance on that Boxing Day effort.

Three Tips for Visiting the Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival is regarded as the pinnacle of jumps racing and is the highlight of the National Hunt calendar. It is one of the most discussed sporting events of the year and it regularly produces plenty of drama and excitement for punters. The four-day extravaganza is enjoyed by many fans on the television but nothing can compare to witnessing these top-class competitors in the flesh. We pick out three pieces of advice which could come in useful ahead of a trip to Gloucestershire.

Book Early

It may seem an obvious thing to point out but it is generally advised to have your plans finalised up to twelve months in advance. With 100,000 spectators descending on the racecourse over the course of four days, everything becomes booked up extremely quickly. Early bird tickets are always available to purchase up to five months in advance but don’t forget to confirm accommodation, train tickets and dining options with plenty of time to spare as this will help avoid disappointment. It’s one of the most-visited sporting events in the UK and with only fleeting glimpses of the crowd on TV, it can be very easy to underestimate the number of punters heading to Prestbury Park each day. A new record attendance was set in 2018 and the festival continues to attract swathes of visitors who will also require somewhere to eat, drink and sleep.

Three Tips for Visiting the Cheltenham Festival

Source: Cheltenham Racecourse via Twitter

Do Your Research Beforehand

Visiting the Cheltenham Festival is a hugely enjoyable experience but it could potentially be soured by heavy losses or a sequence of bad bets. Whilst it is possible to conduct some research from the Grandstand, it is always easier to arrive at the track already armed with plenty of knowledge. If you’ve carried out your research beforehand, it allows you to relax, take in the scenery and socialise without having to meticulously study the form guide every thirty minutes. Sites such as Betfair have countdown blogs for the Cheltenham Horse Racing Festival, which offer analysis of all of the major races across the four days whilst recent form and statistics are also readily available online. With a large crowd in attendance, 4G can sometimes be in short supply so it isn’t always advisable to simply hang your hopes on a quick pre-race browse on your mobile.

 

Three Tips for Visiting the Cheltenham Festival

 

Source: Sporting Agenda via Twitter

Take a Coat

The Cheltenham Festival is held in the middle of March and although temperatures are usually on the rise at that time of year, it can often be deceptively chilly at Prestbury Park. The track is located in a valley and as a result, there is usually a constant chilly breeze present throughout the four days. Although the crocuses and snowdrops suggest brighter temperatures are just around the corner, cold weather is not uncommon during the festival and 2013 was a particularly frosty year for the course. Don’t underestimate the British weather and ensure that you pack warm clothes for your visit to the track. The experience is always enhanced by dressing appropriately for the season and Cheltenham is generally viewed as one of the coldest in the country.

The roar of the crowd as the tape goes up ahead of the opening race is fairly unforgettable and visiting the Cheltenham Festival is a truly memorable experience. If you are hoping for a stress-free and near-perfect trip to Gloucestershire, it is important to ensure that you have every aspect of your visit booked in advance and to make sure that you don’t forget those all-important winter warmers.

Many Clouds

Many Clouds  Many Clouds won 12 of his 27 races under National Hunt Rules, including nine of his 18 steeplechases, and earned £928,000 in total prize money. However, the son of dual-purpose sire Cloudings will be forever immortalised as the winner of the Grand National in 2015.

A first winner of the world famous steeplechase for trainer Oliver Sherwood, but the second successive winner for jockey Leighton Aspell, after Pineau De Re in 2014, and a third winner for owner Trevor Hemmings, after Hedgehunter in 2005 and Ballabriggs in 2011, Many Clouds was attempting the National fences for the first time. Nevertheless, he had already proved himself a classy staying chaser, winning the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Betbright Cup prior to finishing sixth, behind Coneygree, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup en route to Aintree.

In the Grand National, he raced prominently throughout and, having been left in the lead by the fall of The Druids Nephew at the fifth last, galloped on relentlessly to win by 1¾ lengths from Saint Are, with Monberg Dude a further 6 lengths away in third. In so doing, Many Cloud, who carried 11st 9lb to victory, put up the best weight-carrying performance since Red Rum in 1974.

Less than two years after his Grand National triumph, in the Betbright Trial Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham, Many Clouds lowered the colours of King George VI winner and Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite, Thistlecrack, for the first time over fences. Tragically, having won by a head, Many Clouds collapsed after the finishing line and, despite immediate attention from racecourse veterinary staff, died.

A subsequent post mortem, conducted by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) with the permission of owner Trevor Hemmings and trainer Oliver Sherwood, revealed the cause of death as severe pulmonary haemorrhage. Sherwood said afterwards, “He was beaten at the last and fought back in the last 50 yards to get up and win. It’s sad for Trevor and the team at Rhonehurst. I’ve been in the game 32 years now and horses like him don’t come along very often.”