Cheltenham - At The Races

15:30 Cheltenham 15 Mar 2019

Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5YO plus)

Winner £351,688 - 16 ran

4

3m 2f 70y

Good to Soft

View Course Guide

Weighed In

Matt Chapman
by Matt Chapman

It's a wide-open Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, with two rising stars - Clan des Obeaux and Presenting Percy - at the top of the market with very different profiles, a defending champion in Native River crying out for rain, and two Irish challengers in Kemboy and Bellshill that we are all not sure about.

Throw in a possibly revitalised Might Bite and a favourite of many in Thistlecrack and it's a bit of a mind-boggler!

So let's have a look at some of the leading protagonists...

Horse profiles

Al Boum Photo (FR)

Grade 1 winner for Willie Mullins and would have landed another big pot but for running out at the final fence in extraordinary circumstances under Paul Townend at Punchestown. Returned to beat stable companion Total Recall at Tramore this season and that was convincing. Stamina is a small question mark, but he's not got much mileage on the clock and clearly is a high-class seven-year-old capable of better. Not to be ignored lightly.

Video Form
24 Apr 2018:
1 Apr 2018:
4 Feb 2018:
26 Dec 2017:
26 Nov 2017:

Bellshill

Talented character and another for Willie Mullins. Needs to be held up for a late thrust, and on occasions has looked special, including when beating tough stick Djakadam in the Punchestown Gold Cup. Back to winning ways last time when denying Road To Respect in the Irish Gold Cup but that form is not good enough for me. If he won I would not be surprised - third in the RSA and a Grade 1 novice hurdle winner - but equally I couldn't tip him to do so.

Video Form
28 Dec 2018:
25 Apr 2018:
2 Apr 2018:
24 Feb 2018:
12 Feb 2017:

Clan Des Obeaux (FR)

Has only recently burst on the scene for 10-times champion trainer Paul Nicholls, landing his last two starts in scintillating style. There was a hint of things to come behind Bristol De Mai at Haydock earlier in the campaign, but he was decisive in defeating Thistlecrack in the King George and did what he had to when denying the inferior Terrefort at Ascot last time. Beaten in all four starts at Cheltenham but far from disgraced, albeit a slight worry if better on a flat track. A real improver and could be anything. That said, appears to need to be strangled off the pace and I'm not totally sure of his jumping.

Video Form
16 Feb 2019:

Elegant Escape (IRE)

Colin Tizzard's Elegant Escape is interesting as an eachway bet for an outsider. He stays all day, as his win in the Welsh National would suggest, and would have got Frodon in another furlong last time. He'll get outpaced...but will stay on.

Video Form
27 Dec 2018:
15 Oct 2017:

Frodon (FR)

It appears Paul Nicholls is going to bottle this with Frodon, who I suspect will end up in the Ryanair. That said, it makes no difference whether the Cotswold Chase winner runs or not as he won't stay and isn't good enough!

Video Form
17 Feb 2018:
23 Dec 2017:
25 Nov 2017:
13 Oct 2017:

Kemboy (FR)

Has had jumping issues in the past for Ireland's champion trainer Willie Mullins. However, has now won his last four races and is clearly an improving seven-year-old. Biggest moment of glory came last time out in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown, when he thrashed Monalee nearly eight lengths. Has a mixture of speed and stamina but still doesn't totally convince in the jumping stakes. Hard to fault at present, but has yet to shine in any race at Cheltenham.

Video Form
28 Dec 2018:
15 Nov 2018:
27 Apr 2018:
12 Apr 2018:
2 Apr 2018:

Might Bite (IRE)

Warm weather and the prospect of decent ground has seen a few quid come for Might Bite in recent days. Clearly a high-class performer, and stamina only gave way late when beaten by Native River in 2018. Prior to that had landed a King George and beat Bristol De Mai seven lengths in the Bowl at Aintree. Been hopeless in two runs this season at Haydock (fences apparently too big but a tame excuse) and Kempton in the King George. Had a wind operation and would be folly to ignore, for all his stamina will always be a cause for concern. Basically, a talented horse with quirks for champion Nicky Henderson.

Video Form
9 Feb 2017:

Native River (IRE)

Defending champion. Stamina is key to the Colin Tizzard runner, and he gutsed it out to deny Might Bite in 2018 after a protracted battle. This term he's been far from disgraced under conditions that were never going to suit, finishing second to Bristol De Mai at Haydock and third to Clan Des Obeaux in the King George when he was always under pressure. Rain is probably key, but if it comes down to a slug-fest he's the one to have on your side and Richard Johnson was built for the ride.

Video Form
27 Dec 2016:

Presenting Percy (GB)

Going for a hat-trick of Festival successes, having been brilliant in the Pertemps Final in 2017 over hurdles, and equally so over fences when annihilating Monalee in the RSA. Trained by Pat Kelly, who clearly can train but doesn't seem to be able to talk so we can't ask him about his gelding's Gold Cup preparation. Has only had one run this season, and that was over hurdles, so is trying to become the first horse since Easter Hero 90 years ago to land the main event without a run over fences that season. Has won up to 3m5f so stamina not an issue, but quite simply hard to know what to expect following his current preparation.

Video Form
17 Feb 2018:
25 Jan 2018:
3 Dec 2017:
19 Nov 2017:
30 Oct 2017:

Road To Respect (IRE)

Has long been considered by some a Gold Cup horse, but not good enough in my book even under the excellent Sean Flanagan. Noel Meade's hope has been beaten by Kemboy and Bellshill in recent starts, and needs to brush up his jumping. For me his fourth behind Native River in the 2018 Gold Cup is as good as he is.

Video Form
28 Dec 2018:
3 Nov 2018:
25 Apr 2018:
28 Dec 2017:
4 Nov 2017:

Thistlecrack

Brilliant hurdler who hacked up by seven lengths in the 2016 World Hurdle. However, chasing career has not been as good despite glimmers of retaining old star quality. Famously denied by the super tough Many Clouds at Cheltenham in 2017, and had done very little since then for Colin Tizzard until chasing home Clan Des Obeaux in the King George at Kempton. Hard to know what to make of that form with a number of big guns disappointing. But it was a step in the right direction and obviously at his best he's quality.

MATT’S VERDICT

Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup

All in all, it's a tough Gold Cup. Many questions will be answered. But last year I tipped up NATIVE RIVER each-way and luckily got it right. This time around I'm doing exactly the same thing. Yeeehaaa!

Previous Winners
Year Going Ran Winner Draw Age Weight OR Form Last run Trainer (Distance) Jockey SP Time
2018 Soft 15 Native River 8 11 10 - 21113-1 34 days C Tizzard (83 miles) R Johnson 5/1 7:02.90
2017 Good 13 Sizing John 7 11 10 - 23-3211 33 days Mrs J Harrington R M Power 7/1 6:36.30
2016 Good 9 Don Cossack 9 11 10 - 1-111F1 64 days G Elliott B J Cooper 9/4 6:34.80
2015 Soft 16 Coneygree 8 11 10 - 113-111 34 days M Bradstock (45 miles) N De Boinville 7/1 6:42.70
2014 Good 13 Lord Windermere 8 11 10 - 231-876 33 days J H Culloty D N Russell 20/1 6:44.50
2013 Soft 9 Bobs Worth 8 11 10 - 11321-1 104 days N Henderson (51 miles) B J Geraghty 11/4 7:04.90
2012 Good 14 Synchronised 9 11 10 - 13-P731 79 days Jonjo O'Neill (1 miles) A P McCoy 8/1 6:36.20
2011 Good 13 Long Run 6 11 10 - 1113-31 62 days N Henderson (51 miles) Mr S Waley-Cohen 7/2 6:29.50
2010 Good 11 Imperial Commander 9 11 10 - 161-P25 83 days N Twiston-Davies (1 miles) P Brennan 7/1 6:43.80
2009 Good to Soft 16 Kauto Star 9 11 10 - 122-1U1 77 days P Nicholls (69 miles) R Walsh 7/4 6:44.95