Thistlecrack’s absence means this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup is one of the most open contests in some time. Not only that, but it is also a great opportunity for one of the younger runners in the race to really establish itself as a new star in the sport.
Native River is a horse who fits the profile for success in this 3m2f contest, and arguably has the best form of the 14 runners declared for the race. He comes in on the back of victories in the Hennessy Gold Cup, where he beat a strong field at Newbury, and the Welsh Grand National just a month later, where he had to carry top weight in tough conditions to prevail for his trainer Colin Tizzard.
The seven-year-old, who is one of the youngest horses in this year’s Gold Cup, can be backed at 4/1 in the horse racing betting for the feature race at the Festival. He looks much better value than his stablemate Cue Card, who is the same price but will need to become the first horse since What A Myth in 1969 to prevail in this race at the age off 11.
The betting suggests Djakadam is one of the leading dangers to Native River, as the Irish runner could well go off the favourite on the day of the race given the recent support of last year’s runner-up. Mullins has never won this contest and he may have to wait another year, as the eight-year-old’s form this season has not been anywhere near good enough to suggest he can get the better of Tizzard’s chaser.
On The Fringe Can Land Hat-Trick of Foxhunters Chases
The Foxhunters Chase is regarded as the Gold Cup for amateur riders and On The Fringe is back this year looking for his third consecutive success in the race. Enda Bolger’s chaser is 12 years old now but still retains the same enthusiasm for racing as he has done throughout his career.
On The Fringe normally finds his best form at the back end of the season. Twelve months ago he led after the last fence under the hands of Nine Carberry to score at the Festival, while a month later he also recorded wins at Aintree in the Grand National meeting and at the Punchestown Festival.
The 12-year-old made a pleasing return to action last month at Leopardstown in a hunters’ chase over 3m where he was second to Foxrock. Jamie Codd rode the horse on that occasion and is likely to keep the ride at the Festival this year as the pregnant Carberry is out of action for the rest of the season. Codd is more than a worthy replacement as he has proved himself to be one of the best amateurs riding today. On the Fringe was heavily backed for the Foxhunter Chase last year and he is likely to be subject to a huge gamble – so take the 11/8 on offer right now.
If you want to stick Native River and On The Fringe into a double on the final day of the Festival this year, it works out at odds of around 10/1. If both horses win, you will have finished the week off in style.