Cheltenham Festival 2019: Gold Cup Preview
The feature event of the week, the Gold Cup certainly is a competitive renewal this year. I suppose the logical place to start is with the favourite Presenting Percy, a horse who has won twice at The Festival but comes here with a win over hurdles and a racecourse schooling session at Galway recently. He certainly won’t be carrying my money, all the trends regarding preparations are against him and he won’t have experienced a race as demanding as the Gold Cup. I do think he will stay, as he absolutely bolted up in the RSA last year and has won a handicap over three miles five furlongs, but I do not think he has the profile of a Gold Cup winner. I would be expecting at least double figure odds for a horse that has not run over fences this season and could only beat Baupame 1 & ¾ lengths in a weak Grade 2 hurdle.
Clan Des Obeaux comes into this as a rapid improver having won a strong looking renewal of the King George on Boxing Day and then won as he pleased at Ascot in the Denman Chase. However, course form is always important at Cheltenham and his previous four visits have all resulted in defeat, albeit over shorter trips either giving away masses of weight in handicap chases or in juvenile hurdle races. I think if this was a flat track he would represent really good value around 4/1 however I have concerns that he is too flashy to win a Gold Cup, rather than being an out and out stayer that you traditionally see win this race. Also, he does seem to be better going around a right-handed track.
Native River won last year’s renewal but as the stats suggest, it is very hard to win a Gold Cup for a second time. Only the brilliant Kauto Star and Best Mate have managed it in recent history. Last year’s race was a severe test on both Native River and runner up Might Bite, who will re-oppose him again but neither of them have set the world alight this season. Might Bite in particular has been disappointing and when deciding whether to back him at Cheltenham, there will always be that RSA run in my mind where he tried his best to throw the race, especially as he attempted the same trick as a novice hurdler.
Just going through the rest of the contenders by process of elimination, Bellshill is a best price 14/1 at the time of writing this but his previous runs at Cheltenham have been nothing short of awful, his best effort was a remote 3rd to Might Bite in that RSA and is another horse who seems to improve dramatically for going right handed. Thistlecrack is now 10 years old and statistics show that 10-year-olds do not win championship races at The Festival, a brilliant horse who in my opinion should run in the Stayers Hurdle. Road To Respect has been running to a good level but I have severe doubts about him staying 3m2f and is held on all known form by other horses ahead of him in the market. Elegant Escape and Anibale Fly need a longer trip and surely have Grand National targets in mind. For what it’s worth, I do not think Frodon will stay in the Gold Cup and neither would Shattered Love. Both have lots to find on official ratings to even sneak a place here. Al Boum Photo could be of interest but needs to see the step up in trip eek out some extra improvement especially as he looks held by Presenting Percy on his novice chase form.
The one I have decided to back here is Kemboy, this horse absolutely bolted up over Christmas at Leopardstown, thanks partly to a smart ride from David Mullins, but also because this trip seems to have improved him. Kemboy has tried three miles or further three times in his career, this has yielded two victories and a first fence fall in last year’s Irish Grand National. He will have to show improvement again here but he has beaten Bellshill and Road To Respect fair and square and in his two previous runs at Cheltenham he has ran over 2m 4f where he has stayed on nicely. A round of better jumping, Ruby Walsh on board and being unexposed at this trip could all lead to Willie Mullins winning his first Gold Cup, an each way bet at 10/1 is what I would advise.
Selection – Kemboy @ 10/1 each way with Betfair