The Cheltenham Gold Cup will always be an eagerly-awaited showpiece but, with next Friday’s race looking wide open, this year’s renewal could be a vintage one.

The first three in the market are close to inseparable and right now it would be tough to predict just which horse will go off favourite, far less what might be the winner.

The reigning champion Native River is 9/2 with Betfred to retain his crown.

Colin Tizzard’s dour stayer hasn’t won in two runs this season but has run credibly in conditions that were not ideal for him. His trainer remains very confident he’ll shine again at Cheltenham and, with the rain arriving and the prospect of soft going, it will require a herculean effort to force the champion into submission.

The leading contender on this season’s form is Clan Des Obeaux.


Paul Nicholls’ charge won the King George in fine style (Native River third) from Thistlecrack at Christmas and has supplemented that with another success in the Denman Chase at Newbury. He is 4/1 to give the in-form Ditcheat handler his first Blue Ribband success since the mighty Kauto Star a decade ago.

The enigma in the line-up is leading Irish hope Presenting Percy, the current 7/2 Gold Cup favourite with Betfred.

His emphatic RSA Chase win last March was the second Festival win for Pat Kelly’s charge but Presenting Percy hasn’t raced over fences since. He won his only start this term in a graded hurdles race at Gowran Park but his road to Cheltenham demands an historic performance if he’s to be crowned King of the Cotswolds.

Willie Mullins’ has come agonisingly close to getting this elusive prize on his CV in the past and the Closutton maestro could fire four darts at the board now.

Bellshill, 12/1 to win, is much-improved this term and has always been thought of a contender for this prize by his illustrious connections. He has though failed to really convince that Cheltenham is his track and was nine-lengths behind stablemate Kemboy at Christmas.

The latter joins the exciting Al Boum Photo in giving Team Mullins a strong hand in the Gold Cup.

Last year’s runner-up Might Bite has endured a torrid season but trainer Nicky Henderson reports he has turned a corner and, at 12/1 with Betfred, he has proved himself a fine spring performer in the past.

King George second Thistlecrack is a second bow the Tizzard string and is finally set to contest a race that has long been his destiny, though he is now 11-years-young and perhaps on the wind down.

Also adding a second contender to the mix could be Nicholls in the shape of Frodon, winner of the Cotswold Chase on Trials Day and a real lover of Cheltenham.

He’s priced at 16/1 for Gold Cup glory and would bring the house down should he carry Bryony Frost up the hill for a landmark Cheltenham Festival moment at the end of what is shaping up to be vintage Gold Cup.

Odds subject to change.