While the Cheltenham Gold Cup has been shorn of some big names this year, it remains a fascinating sporting and betting spectacle.
Likely favourite will be twice previous runner-up Djakadam for the now in-form Walsh-Mullins combination. The going should suit, and this race is arguably weaker than those previous editions. He has a strong claim.
Cue Card feels like he’s been running here since decimalisation. Twice a festival winner, he may have made that three in last year’s Gold Cup but for tipping up three fences out. As an 11 year old he would be older than any winner since 1969, but he still looked near his best last time at Ascot
Native River completes the three at the top of the market. This horse is on a roll, and has the look of a Gold Cup winner. Stamina is his long suit, and the drying conditions probably dictate that jockey Richard Johnson takes an aggressive approach right from the flag-fall.
Sizing John could be the springer in the market now that the sun has shone, although it may not have been the strongest Irish Gold Cup that he won.
Lively outsiders include the error-prone Minella Rocco. It’s recent form figures FU could be seen as foreboding, but it beat Native River at last year’s festival. Also, Saphir du Rheu has latent ability that could put the lie to his huge odds.
Djakadam has the stable momentum and is a worthy favourite, but Native River should be able to dictate the tactics and could be hard to pass if getting the pace fractions right.
Recommendation: Native River (Cheltenham Gold Cup), 9/2, generally available
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