The dust has barely settled on the fifth and final classic of the season but, despite there being several high-profile flat races still to be run, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup as I perused the ante-post markets.
The likes of Golden Miller, Cottage Rake, Arkle, L’Escargot, Best Mate and Kauto Star have all won National Hunt Racing’s Blue Riband more than once and, when I looked at those names, it made me realise just what a job last year’s winner Sizing John has on his hands in his attempts to join that illustrious club of multiple winners. Especially, when you consider that greats like Imperial Commander, Long Run, Denman, Kicking King, Looks Like Trouble, See More Business, The Fellow, Jodami and even the fantastic Desert orchid failed in their attempts.
Therefore, it’s time to take a look at the major contenders for the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Sizing John 6/1
Jessica Harrington’s 7-year-old has already made his own piece of history by being the first horse to win the Irish Gold Cup, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Punchestown Gold Cup in the same season. He also won his first Cheltenham Gold Cup at the age of 7, the same as Arkle, L’Escargot, Best Mate and Kauto Star, though eight 7-year-olds have also only won it just once in that same period.
The last winning 10-year-old was Cool Dawn in 1998, though nine 10-year-olds have won the Gold Cup for the first and only time, including Desert Orchid. Definitely has the class, but history against him.
Has impeccable Cheltenham credentials after winning over hurdles and fences at the last two Cheltenham Festivals and, though he’s had jumping problems, Willie Mullins has a brilliant ability to peak them for Cheltenham. However, though Mullins will surely win a Cheltenham Gold Cup, and soon, he is yet to win the big one.
Might Bite 10/1
Talented but quirky is the best way to describe him after he nearly three last season’s RSA Chase away, and it will be interesting to see if can handle the pressure cooker atmosphere of the big events this season if horses pressure him for the lead. Bids to win for the first-time a 9-year-old, a feat accomplished by the likes of Don Cossack, Synchronised, Imperial Commander, See More Business and The fellow.
Our Duke 10/1
Put up an amazing performance to win last year’s Irish Grand National off a big-weight, and the last horse to who have carried a big-weight to victory in that race before was Commanche Court, who went on to finish second to Best Mate in a Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Native River 12/1
Tried to emulate horses like Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Synchronised and Master Oats last season by winning the Welsh National on route, but could only finish third. His trainer’s horses where not at their peak during the meeting though, and has each-way chances again at the very least.
Runner up to Coneygree in 2015, and again to Don Cossack in 2016, he looked sure to occupy that spot again before a late mistake led to him finishing only fourth last year. Nearly took his revenge on Sizing John at Punchestown but, though nobody would begrudge him a big one, he does have a habit of finding at least one too good at the top-level.
Minella Rocco 16/1
Ran on to be second last season without ever looking like winning, after winning the four-miler cosily the season before. May need the ground to ride soft to make his abundant stamina count, but prize may drift throughout the season as others will surely make their marks before him.
As ever, we can only hope all the leading protagonists make it to the big day. If they do, then an inform Sizing John could easily emulate greats of yesteryear by becoming the latest multiple winner of the race. However, at the prices, stablemate Our Duke looks the value-bet.