A-Z Guide: Cheltenham Gold Cup
By Conor Creamer
Last Updated: 16/03/18 3:54pm
The Cheltenham Gold Cup headlines day four of another action-packed afternoon at the Cheltenham Festival.
The fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival features the meeting's blue-ribbon event in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The race has been the stage to many epic battles between some of racing's greats, and this year's renewal is shaping up to be just as thrilling.
Here's our runner-by-runner guide to the Gold Cup…
Jockey: Noel Fehily - Trainer: Harry Fry
American boasts talent but he is renowned for being a delicate horse which you wouldn't liken to the necessary profile to win this race. He was a faller when well fancied for the Ladbrokes Trophy earlier this season and then finished second behind Definitely Red at Cheltenham in a Grade Two last time out. He needs to improve to be involved.
2. Anibale Fly
Jockey: Barry Geraghty - Trainer: Tony Martin
Anibale Fly was the winner of a lucrative handicap chase at Fairyhouse over Christmas which catapulted his name among the candidates for this year's Gold Cup. However, he took a crashing fall in the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown last time out and he has to be a risk given the emphasis on jumping.
Jockey: David Mullins - Trainer: Willie Mullins
Bachasson has been performing exceptionally well among easier company in his two chase starts this season. With both of those races on heavy, the seven-year-old has shown a liking to the softer underfoot conditions and is clearly a horse on the improve. The level of opposition he has faced has to be criticised but he arrives at Cheltenham very much an unknown quantity. Place claims.
4. Definitely Red
Jockey: Danny Cook - Trainer: Brian Ellison
Definitely Red won the Cotsworlds Chase at Cheltenham in January in the manner of a horse who relishes a stamina-sapping test. Brian Ellison's nine-year-old has been quietly backed for a tilt at this year's renewal, and it is easy to see why. He will enjoy the hustle and bustle of the Gold Cup and must be a candidate considering the condition of the ground. Whether he has the class to win a championship race is questionable but given the going, he's worthy of his chance.
Jockey: Patrick Mullins - Trainer: Willie Mullins
Djakadam is no stranger to the Gold Cup having contested the race for the past three years where he has finished no worse than fourth. Now at the age of nine, you could argue the horse is reaching his peak as a staying chaser but it is notoriously hard for a horse whose previously run in the Gold Cup without winning to then return and get their head in front. He hasn't been his best this season in three outings but if returning to his best he cannot be discounted.
6. Double Shuffle
Jockey: Adrien Heskin
Trainer: Tom George
Double Shuffle came within a length of Might Bite in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day which, based on face value, is tremendous form but I question whether that was the winner at his best that day. Double Shuffle has been contesting big-field handicap chases throughout most of his career and it's doubtful he boasts the relevant class to win this.
Jockey: Derek O'Connor - Trainer: Joseph O'Brien
The fact that Edwulf will arrive at Cheltenham in his bid to win the Gold Cup is an achievement alone. Twelve months ago the horse came close to losing his life after collapsing in the National Hunt Chase before Cheltenham vets worked wonders to save him. Edwulf won the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last month and should not be discounted in his quest for a famous double on ground he should enjoy for one of the sport's most talented trainers.
8. Killultagh Vic
Jockey: Ruby Walsh - Trainer: Willie Mullins
Killultagh Vic returned from injury in fine style at Punchestown in December when looking all over the winner in the Irish Gold Cup behind Edwulf. The nine-year-old travelled well in that race before falling at the last when threatening to win. Jumping can be his weak point but he should enjoy the trip and possesses a real touch of class. He's one for the short-list.
9. Might Bite
Jockey: Nico de Boinville - Trainer: Nicky Henderson
Might Bite has looked exceptional over the past 18 months and arrives at this year's renewal as the rightful favourite. His victory in last year's RSA at the festival was the most thrilling performance of the week that showcased his immense talent, but his obvious awkwardness. He has looked to continue that class this season and won the Grade One King George last time out at Kempton where he looked in complete control. If he can show maturity in seeing out the trip on heavy ground then he's the one to beat for a trainer in red-hot form.
10. Minella Rocco
Jockey: Mark Walsh - Trainer: Jonjo O'Neill
Minello Rocco was fourth in last year's Gold Cup when doing all of his best work at the end of the race. He's a horse who is full of stamina and is sure to make his challenge as late as possible but does he possess the necessary tactical speed to be involved? I'm not so sure.
11. Native River
Jockey: Richard Johnson - Trainer: Colin Tizzard
Third in last season's Gold Cup, it's no surprise to see Native River among the favourites to go two places better 12 months on. His seasonal reappearance when cruising to victory to win the Denman Chase at Newbury last month by 12-lengths proved Colin Tizzard's eight-year-old still retains all of his class. The ground has come right for the horse for this year's race but I worry how much his last start has taken out of him, and can he still improve upon that outing here? He's in with a chance.
12. Our Duke
Jockey: Robbie Power - Trainer: Jessica Harrington
In winning last year's Irish National, Our Duke laid down a marker as one of the division's best staying chasers. However, this season he's failed to live up to such billing. He underwent a wind operation after finishing seventh on his reappearance in November and then came within a respectable 16-lengths of Edwulf at Leopardstown last month. He returned to winning ways when beating impressive RSA winner Presenting Percy at Gowran Park recently - form which has been franked - but he comes into this race with a point to prove. He should relish the race conditions granted his jumping is up to scratch.
Jockey: Jack Kennedy - Trainer: Grodon Elliott
Outlander has shown most of his best form at Leopardstown and has yet to prove he is as good at Cheltenham. His second-place finish behind Edwulf in the Irish Gold Cup is very solid form but there's a significant doubt as to whether he can transfer those performances away from his favoured track. Outlander finished tailed-off in last year's race and will need to improve to be involved here.
14. Road To Respect
Jockey: Sean Flanagan - Trainer: Noel Meade
Road To Respect arrives at the Gold Cup somewhat under the radar. Noel Meade's seven-year-old is an improving horse who showed a tremendous attitude to win the Leopardstown Christmas Chase ahead of a number of today's rivals. Meade has rightly given the horse an extended break prior to the Gold Cup and will arrive with leading claims. The ground shouldn't be an issue, nor should his ability to stay, and given the record of horses attempting to win the first for the first time, Road To Respect is hard to rule out.
15. Saphir Du Rheu
Jockey: Sam Twiston-Davies - Trainer Paul Nicholls
Saphir Du Rheu has long been well-regarded by Paul Nicholls but seems to lack the class required to win a championship staying chase. He ran a respectable fifth in the race last year but will need a career-best to be in with a winning chance here after being well-beaten by Native River last time.
16. Shantou Flyer
Jockey: James Bowen - Trainer: Richard Hobson
Shantou Flyer boasts good form around Cheltenham and produced a great effort to finish second in the Ultima Handicap Chase on Tuesday. However, his level of form is well below the standard required to win a Gold Cup and he looks out of his depth.
17. Tea For Two
Jockey: Lizzie Kelly - Trainer: Nick Williams
Tea For Two is another candidate who will need to show improved to be in with a chance of winning this year's Gold Cup. He finished third behind Might Bite in the King George and seems to find his best performances on more flatter tracks. He has been to Cheltenham three times in his career but has yet to complete a race and will cause a shock should he go close to winning this.
18. Total Recall
Jockey: Paul Townend - Trainer: Willie Mullins
Total Recall is unbeaten in three starts over fences and hurdles this season and warrants respect in this year's race as he gears towards a tilt at the Grand National next month. He was an impressive winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury earlier this season and is sure to love the heavy ground and stamina-sapping test. If he can get into a rhythm with his jumping then it'd come as no surprise to see him give Willie Mullins his first victory in Cheltenham 's blue-ribbon event.
It is notoriously hard for horses to return to the Gold Cup having previously run in the race and failed to win. On that basis, ROAD TO RESPECT could be the one to show most improvement for trainer Noel Meade who has kept his seven-year-old fresh for a tilt at this crown. He should enjoy the test the race possesses and is capable of giving Ireland a third consecutive win. Might Bite has the class to chase him home and is a worthy favourite despite not being the most straight-forward and the ground being a negative. Mullins' Killultagh Vic should be in the places granted his jumping holds together.
1. ROAD TO RESPECT
2. MIGHT BITE
3. KILLULTAGH VIC