Cheltenham Gold Cup: Leading contenders for 2018
The Cheltenham Festival comes to a climax on the final day and here is our in-depth look at this year's Gold Cup odds.
National Hunt racing's blue riband event has been won by some legends of the track, all the way through from Arkle and Golden Miller to modern-day greats such as Best Mate and Kauto Star.
Every fan of horse racing betting likes to have an interest in the big event, so we've also put in our thoughts on which entries are genuine contenders, or just pretenders!
Trainer: Nicky Henderson
Form figures: 111-11
Has been prominent in the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting since establishing himself as last season's top novice with wins in the RSA Chase at Prestbury Park and another Grade 1 contest at Aintree.
Took a step up to the next level in his stride when claiming victory in Kempton's King George on Boxing Day, despite still showing some signs of quirkiness.
Some have questioned how close outsiders Double Bluff and Tea For Two got to him on the run-in that day, but jockey Nico De Boinville insisted: "I have no stamina concerns."
Chances: Might Bite was a joy to watch for most of the King George and will be hard to beat on better ground.
Trainer: Colin Tizzard
Form figures: 1113-1
Made rapid progress last season, winning the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Welsh Grand National before plugging on gamely when third in this contest.
Stamina was already assured from when finishing second to Minella Rocco in the four-mile National Hunt Chase at the 2016 Festival.
Has been laid out for another crack at the big one ever since, sidestepping some energy-sapping engagements over the winter, and jumped well when making a winning reappearance in the Denman Chase at Newbury.
Chances: Stays all day and sure to be one of the most popular each-way picks in the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting market.
Colin Tizzard says "the dream is still alive" for Gold Cup hope Native River, who is back in faster exercise pic.twitter.com/fJxyAxn738-- Racing UK (@Racing_UK) February 20, 2018
ROAD TO RESPECT
Trainer: Noel Meade
Form figures: 11-121
Overcame some jumping problems to run out a convincing winner in handicap company at last year's Cheltenham Festival and then edged out Yorkhill for a Grade 1 novice success at Fairyhouse.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned seven-year-old always looked the type to get stronger with age and has backed up that view this term.
Just touched off at elite level at Down Royal in November and then led on the run-in to land the Leopardstown Christmas Chase.
Chances: Still has a bit to find on official ratings but acts on this course and good ground.
Noel Meade has eyes on even bigger prizes after Road to Respect claimed the Leopardstown Christmas Chase pic.twitter.com/gXymAtVzDR-- RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) December 28, 2017
Trainer: Jessica Harrington
Form figures: 21-741
Was suffering from a back problem when letting down many horse racing betting tips at Down Royal on his seasonal reappearance and a bad mistake two out ruined his chances in the Irish Gold Cup.
However, got back on track when rallying gamely to get the better of Presenting Percy in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park.
That was more like last April's 14-length demolition of 27 rivals in the Irish Grand National, when a significant gamble made him one of the year's most popular horse racing results.
Chances: Get ready for some wild scenes of celebration if this unexposed type fulfils his huge potential on the big day.
Trainer: Tony Martin
Form figures: 2-591F
Another McManus-owned entry who could have the bookies running for cover if he makes the Gold Cup final starting line-up.
Was always highly regarded by shrewd handler Martin during his younger days but then fell just short of elite level when switched to chasing.
However, repaid those who kept the faith when landing a valuable handicap under a big weight at Leopardstown over Christmas and was still in touch when taking a tumble two out in the Irish Gold Cup.
Chances: That was a heavy fall at Leopardstown and there's no margin for such errors over Cheltenham's unforgiving fences.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Form figures: 05-111
Gave his all-conquering trainer a first victory in what used to be the Hennessy Gold Cup when landing some hefty horse betting wagers at Newbury.
#Newbury: it's Total Recall just from Whisper (3-00); first Irish winner since 1980-- Cornelius Lysaght (@CorneliusRacing) December 2, 2017
Only carried 10st 8lb, so will have much more to do if he is to also provide Mullins with a maiden Gold Cup triumph off level weights against the best around.
However, there was plenty to like about his attitude when outbattling Whisper that day and in a previous Munster National success at Limerick, while a hurdles win at Leopardstown kept him ticking over nicely.
Chances: The Mullins magic must be factored into all relevant horse racing odds but Total Recall has plenty to prove in our book.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Form figures: 111/1F
Looked poised to land the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown when making smooth progress to lead approaching the final fence, only to come down at that obstacle.
Even so, that effort showed he has put injury problems behind him and still retains the ability of his days as a smart novice hurdler.
Three years ago, he bagged a festival double when obliging in the Martin Pipe race at Cheltenham before going on to beat Thistlecrack at Punchestown.
Chances: Reported none the worse for his recent slip and has been a positive mover in the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting.
Trainer: Joseph O'Brien
Form figures: F1P-P1
Came with a late rattle to spring a 33/1 surprise in the Irish Gold Cup and everything suggests the longer trip at Cheltenham will play to his strengths.
Would have been placed in the National Hunt Chase over four miles at last year's Festival but for being pulled up after going wrong on the run-in.
Chances: Nearly lost his life at Cheltenham 12 months ago, so victory would cap a fairytale comeback from that injury.
Trainer: Brian Ellison
Form figures: 1P-311
Considered more of a Grand National candidate at the start of the season, but two cracking wins have persuaded connections to take in this contest en route to Aintree.
Made all to beat Cloudy Dream by seven lengths at Liverpool in December and then powered up the Cheltenham hill for another convincing victory in the Cotswold Chase.
"He's just got better every year," beamed Yorkshire trainer Ellison. "He wants good ground, I think he'll be better on it as he's not short of speed, and he's the best I've ever trained."
Chances: Jodami was the last Gold Cup winner sent down from the north and Definitly Red has a similarly progressive profile.
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