Go Native for the Gold Cup
There seems to be an even greater level of anticipation and expectation ahead of the Cheltenham Festival this year. I think this might be down to the fact that for a few agonising days in early February, when stables were on lockdown following the outbreak of equine flu, there was chatter that the UK’s flagship jump racing festival might be at risk. Thankfully those concerns now seem a distant memory as we enter the final hours before the four-day event at Prestbury Park that culminates with the Gold Cup on Friday.
This year’s renewal promises to be one of the most competitive we’ve seen for a few years. With no clear favourite and a field full of quality, several owners will be biting their nails come Friday afternoon. The horses that finished 1-4 in this race last year all return alongside some promising upstarts, not least the current favourite Presenting Percy.
It’s the name on everyone’s lips and there is no doubt that Pat Kelly’s pride and joy has an abundance of talent. The fact that the starting favourite hasn’t raced over fences for a full year though is astonishing and if Presenting Percy does live up to his billing it will be a first for a Gold Cup winner. The trainer had every right to be cautious. Obviously they decided that the preparation races he initially had planned didn’t suit ground-wise, but for a young and improving horse it’s not ideal.
Strong Hand for Tizzard
A step up in class, some in-form opponents and the starting price are enough for me to look elsewhere. Clan Des Obeaux may seem an obvious choice and the Nicholls yard is in fine form. I’ve just got a feeling however that Colin Tizzard might do it again and prove he has the – apologies in advance – Golden touch.
He has a strong hand in this year’s race with Welsh National winner Elegant Escape, King George hero Thistlecrack and the winner of last year’s race Native River. I actually think all three could go close but my money will be on Native River to become the first horse since Best Mate to win back-to-back Gold Cups. A few days ago, I wouldn’t have said that with such conviction. With rain easing the ground and a change in the going though, I think an each-way bet on Native River is where the smart money will be come Friday.
50/1 on Native River
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