This 12 months’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, essentially the most prestigious race within the Nationwide Hunt calendar, presents punters with a tough resolution: play issues secure or again the unknown?
There’s a case to be made for therefore lots of the horses competing on Friday, however the foundation for every argument is fashioned on much more hypothesis than ever.
Few horses have a Competition strike price to match Presenting Percy’s, who’s the Irish trainers’ flagbearer on this showpiece occasion. It has received on its two appearances on the Competition, first victory within the Pertemps Community Ultimate Handicap Hurdle in 2017 then a surprising win in final 12 months’s RSA.
It’s pedigree like this that makes it well-fancied within the betting, however there are severe issues about its preparation.
It’s coach, Patrick Kelly, has chosen to solely run it as soon as this season, a Grade 2 win at Gowran Park in January. The explanation? Properly, that’s anybody’s guess given Kelly doesn’t communicate to the media.
Kelly’s secrecy, Presenting Percy’s jockey Davy Russell admitted he doesn’t even know the place he trains, makes this a much less enticing proposition than it maybe ought to be. Kelly solely likes to enter his horses in races if there’s a real probability of one thing occurring, there is no such thing as a ‘oh nicely, let’s see, angle about him, nevertheless the truth that it has not jumped over fences in public because the Competition is regarding.
“Pat is happy with him,” revealed its proprietor, Phillip Reynolds, which is about as a lot perception its preparation as we’ve got.
A enterprise away from the unknown takes us to Paul Nicholls’ Clan Des Obeaux, who might give the Somerset-based coach a fifth win, taking him stage with Tom Dreaper on the all-time checklist of coach wins within the Gold Cup.
Eager for him to win is former Manchester United supervisor Sir Alex Ferguson, who has a stake within the its possession.
In distinction to Presenting Percy, Clan Des Obeaux has loved the perfect preparation of any horse with victory within the King George VI Chase adopted by a Grade 2 win at Ascot in February.
“Is he ok to win a Gold Cup? Who is aware of?” Nicholls stated. “He’s most likely the perfect I’ve ever had him, however he’ll should be.”
In the meantime, Colin Tizzard-trained Native River has been given quick odds to defend the Gold Cup for the primary time since Greatest Mate in 2004. The mushy floor final 12 months allowed it to match the favorite Would possibly Chunk, and whereas the bottom won’t be as heavy because it was 12 months in the past it’ll actually be classed as mushy and provides Native River nearly as good an opportunity as any of profitable.
“Folks hold telling me it’s tough for horses to win back-to-back Gold Cups,” stated Joe Tizzad, Colin’s son and assistant, “however there’s nothing displaying us at house to recommend this horse is any worse than final 12 months – and he’s going to get his circumstances.”
Native River joins Clan Des Obeaux as a secure choice, whereas Would possibly Chunk, Bellshill and Kempboy aspect with Presenting Percy as an unknown amount.
Would possibly Chunk was final 12 months’s favorite after profitable the 2017 King George, however the mushy floor didn’t swimsuit it and it misplaced out to Native River by 4 lengths. The earlier preparation was excellent, which is a stark distinction to how issues have gone this time. After ending fifth at Haydock in November and seventh within the King George, Would possibly Chunk was given wind surgical procedure in early January. “He’s nearly as good as we will get him,” guarantees Nicky Henderson, though that assertion appears just a little hopeful.
Willie Mullins’ overflowing trophy cupboard is lacking only one ultimate piece: the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Irish coach has saddled the runner-up on six events, most lately Djakadam in 2015 and 2016, and brings a robust hand with 4 credible entries.
Bellshill or Kemboy stand as his finest probability forward of Al Boum Photograph and Invitation Solely. Bellshill may stand a barely higher probability than stablemate Kemboy given Ruby Walsh has chosen the previous as his journey.
Gold Cup’s are notoriously open affairs, that’s to be anticipated while you pile collectively the perfect within the sport in a single occasion, nevertheless, this one simply seems like there’s an unprecedented variety of potential winners to select from.
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