If you ask any jockey, trainer or owner which race they most want to win? Most will say the Grand National or the Gold Cup. In truth, it’s probably easier to claim racing’s blue riband event rather than Grand National, considering the unique demands of Aintree.
Native River took this twelve months ago and is a good starting point when trying to pick this year’s victor. Colin Tizzard’s gelding has only run twice since last season’s victory and has been disappointing on both occasions. Native River never really travelled in the King George but in his customary style he stayed on towards the finish. The step back up in trip and the Cheltenham hill will bring out improvement and he has a major chance of retaining his crown.
It was the Nicky Henderson trained Might Bite that came up short behind Native River last year. That run came off the back of a win in the King George but the same can’t be said this time around. He weakened badly late on that day and it was revealed later that he burst blood vessels. Nicky has been nursing him back to health since but with more question marks rather than positives, I’d be taking him on.
The Irish Banker?
Top of most punters lists is the popular Presenting Percy who we’ve only seen once this season thus far. That run came over hurdles in the Galmoy Hurdle, a race he also won en-route to winning at the festival last season. It’s slightly worrying that he hasn’t run over fences this season but he reportedly schooled well at Galway last weekend where the fences were turned to replicate Prestbury Park.
Pat Kelly’s stable star stayed on wel up the hill when winning the RSA last year and the extra step up in trip looks likley to suit him. Presenting Percy looks to provide a small yard with a big win and he’s my idea of the winner.
Paul Nicholls couldn’t have his Ditcheat string in better form leading up to the Cheltenham festival and Clan Des Obeaux looks to give him a 5th Gold Cup. The French bred gelding will be having his first taste of the festival. However, he has run on the rack twice before and slightly worryingly for his supporters he’s been beaten on both occasions. On the plus side he’s looked impressive on his two most recent starts landing the King George and the Denman Chase. This represents another step up in class and at the prices, I think he’s opposable.
Can Willie break his Gold Cup duck?
Surprisingly Willie Mullins has never won racing’s blue riband event although he did some controversially close with On His Own who just lost out to Lord Windermere in 2014. Kemboy is the master of Closuttons main hope this season following two wins from as many starts this season. He had been all the rage for the Ladbrokes Trophy until a cancelled ferry meant he had to stay in Ireland. He was very impressive when accounting for Monalee in the Grade 1 Savills over Christmas. The Supreme Racing Clubs seven-year-old gelding is on a real upward curve and should be feared by all.
Of the remainder, four lengths separated Anibale Fly and Road To Respect when the pair finished third and fourth respectively in the race last season. Both need to recapture their best form if they are to feature in a strong renewal of the race. An outsider that might be worth considering is Tout Est Permis who has won all three starts since joining Noel Meade. On his previous eight chase starts you wouldn’t even consider running Tout Est Permis in a race such as this but the manner of his victory in a Grade 2 at Thurles was very taking. If he can continue to progress then he may just nick a place.
Selection: Presenting Percy