With the National Hunt racing season now underway in the UK and Ireland, all thoughts naturally begin to turn to the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, and the premier steeplechase race of the four-day meeting — the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Gold Cup Day in 2019 is on Friday 15 March, and the winner of the 3m 2½f race will enter a pantheon of champion chasers whose names live on in history, alongside icons of jumps racing such as Arkle, Desert Orchid, Best Mate, Denman and Kauto Star.
As well as drawing a field of the very best chasers, the Gold Cup is one of the most keenly contested betting races in the jumps calendar (the Grand National aside), and those bookmakers offering ante-poste markets are already beginning to set the early odds.
The surprise early ante-post favourite in the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup Bets with a number of leading online sports books is Presenting Percy. Patrick Kelly’s 7-year-old gelding won the Grade 1 RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at this year’s Cheltenham Festival over 3m ½f and so there are no doubts about his being able to go the distance. You can currently get a best price of 5-1 on Presenting Percy stepping up to win the big one in 2019, although he is as short as 7-2 with some bookmakers.
Unsurprisingly, this year’s winner Native River is again amongst the fancies for next year’s Gold Cup. After triumphing in 2018 at 5-1, the best ante-post price you can get on the 8-year-old for next year’s race is 7-1; however, some bookies have Colin Tizzard’s gelding as short as 9-2 after a strong return to racing at Haydock in November, when he finished a solid second behind Bristol de Mai over 3m 1½f.
Might Bite is next in the ante-post betting at a best price of 9-1 (as low as 7-1 with some), although the 9-year-old’s less than impressive performance at Haydock (in the same race as Bristol de Mai and Native River) have led some observers to question whether last year’s Gold Cup runner up will be able to recapture his 2017 and 2018 form in time for next year’s festival.
After his impressive performance in winning at Haydock in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase in November, Bristol de Mai is currently being quoted at 14-1 to add a Gold Cup to his list of wins, although most bookies are less inclined to take the grey’s Haydock form forward, and so you can get as much as 20-1 with most online sportsbooks. Nevertheless, 2019 could prove to be a breakthrough year for the French-bred gelding, and an ante-post price of 20-1 offers some enticing value.
The only other chaser considered a serious contender at this very early stage of the National Hunt season is Jessica Harrington’s 2017 Gold Cup winner, Sizing John. Although ante-post prices range from 20-1 down to 12-1, the 8-year-old gelding hasn’t raced since December 2017 and so any bet on a second win in the prestige chase would likely be regarded as something of a leap of faith.
Other horses of note in the early ante-post betting include Willie Mullins’ Footpad and 2016’s most consistent chaser Thistlecrack (Colin Tizzard), both currently at a best price of 25-1.