Cheltenham Festival: Native River To Defend Gold Cup Crown In 2019?

 Feb 12 2019

With 12 Grade One races held over four days at Prestbury Park, fans can watch the best horses do battle in some of the most prestigious events on the calendar – none more prestigious than the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

This is the race that everyone wants to win. The Festival’s showpiece event, the Gold Cup is held on the fourth and final day of the meeting and is the ultimate test of speed, strength and stamina. Native River came out on top in a real battle with Might Bite in 2018 and there will be plenty of punters piling on the Colin Tizzard runner once again ahead of this year’s renewal.

It looked like Might Bite was going to get the better of him but Native River stayed on much better up the Cheltenham hill – just as connections had predicted. With Champion Jockey Richard Johnson on board, Native River is primed to lay down a bold bid to retain his crown. He hasn’t had the best campaign thus far, but Tizzard has claimed that he is nearing towards his brilliant best in time for Cheltenham.

Might Bite has failed to inspire confidence since finishing last in November’s Betfair Chase at Haydock Park and the Nicky Henderson runner has slipped down the betting. At the time of writing, Presenting Percy tops the Gold Cup odds ahead of the Cheltenham Festival and punters will be keeping a close eye on Pat Kelly’s stable star.

Priced at around 7/2 for Gold Cup glory, Presenting Percy is a two-time Festival winner but there are doubts over his preparations. Yet to have a run over fences this year, Presenting Percy showed his class when winning the Galmoy Hurdle, but punters may refrain until they see him over fences. Victory in the Red Mills Chase will cement his status as the horse to beat, especially if he beats fellow Gold Cup entries.

Native River has been there and done it all before. Now nine years old, the 2018 Gold Cup winner has an impressive record over fences and Tizzard will be quietly confident of leading him to a second successive victory in the race. Winning the Denman Chase will give punters a confidence boost – he will need to be at his best, though, against King George VI Chase winner and fellow Gold Cup fancy Clan Des Obeaux.

Think of this scenario: three fences left to jump and both Native River and Presenting Percy are beginning to pile on the pressure. Who are you backing to prevail? Native River is bold and brave and that experience of getting up the Cheltenham hill in a one-on-one slog could give him the edge. The 2018 Gold Cup was a display of foot-perfect jumping from two stars of the sport and we could see a similar pattern this year.

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