The Cheltenham Gold Cup betting favourite Presenting Percy would be one of the strangest Cheltenham Festival winners of all-time.
He is vying for favouritism for the Gold Cup off the back of only one run, over hurdles, at Gowran Park. Trainer Pat Kelly is often described as a genius, and he’d want to be to pull this off.
Twice a winner at the Cheltenham Festival, in the Pertemps Final and the RSA Chase, his pedigree is one of a Gold Cup winner. His preparation, however, is not.
Clan Des Obeaux (4/1 888 Sport), Native River (6/1 William Hill) and Kemboy (10/1 William Hill) are just three horses in a very open Gold Cup who will look to take advantage of any weaknesses in his arsenal.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a Grade 1 chase run on the New Course at Cheltenham, over a distance of 3 miles 2½ furlongs. It’s seen by many as the World Cup final in National Hunt Horse Racing and during its running there are 22 grueling fences to be jumped. The 2019 renewal is sponsored by Magners and winning connections take home a cool £351,688.
15.30 Friday, March 15 - LIVE ON: ITV Racing, RTE Racing, Racing TV
With his preparation, it is no surprise that Presenting Percy will have some Cheltenham trends fanatics against him, albeit Native River’s win last season off the back of only one prep run will allay some of those fears.
Nine of the last 10 winners last ran in a Grade 1 or Grade 2 chase, which Presenting Percy has obviously not, on his side however is that all of the last 15 winners of this race had Cheltenham experience, and Pat Kelly’s charge has that in abundance.
Battling for the top of the market with Presenting Percy is Clan Des Obeaux (4/1 888Sport), and it’s easy to see why punters are latching onto him.
Often referred to as a “talking horse”, he has improved this beyond all recognition to win the King George VI Chase and the Denman Chase last time out in the manner of a very good prospect.
Native River (6/1 William Hill) bids to become the first horse since Best Mate in 2003 to win back to back Cheltenham Gold Cup’s and on form this season, I struggle to see it happening. Were the rain to fall however, he would be a completely different proposition once again.
Trainer Colin Tizzard also runs the popular Thistlecrack (14/1 888Sport) & Elegant Escape (20/1 BetHard). This is a race that has eluded the all-conquering Willie Mullins stable and he fires four darts at it in the form of Kemboy (9/1 888Sport), Bellshill (14/1 William Hill), Al Boum Photo (16/1 William Hill) and Invitation Only (25/1 BetHard).
Trainer Nicky Henderson, who looks to have a very strong team for this year’s festival, relies on last year’s second Might Bite (14/1 888 Sport) who has looked woefully out of sorts in his two runs this campaign.
Another with a strong Cheltenham Festival battalion is Gordon Elliott, who relies on Shattered Love (25/1 BetHard) in Friday’s showpiece.
>> Willie Mullins, trainer of Kemboy, Bellshill, Al Boum Photo & Invitation Only
"The main two will be Kemboy and Bellshill, but we will also run Invitation Only, who does need to improve, and Al Boum Photo, who I don't think we've seen the best of yet.
"For Kemboy, it depends on what the ground is going to be like. The ground in Leopardstown when he put in a huge performance to win the Savills Chase was very, very good.
"If it comes up like that on the fourth day of Cheltenham, which it can, he must have a good chance. We saw how he skipped over those fences at Leopardstown. Hopefully he’ll be able to do the same at Cheltenham. I think the extra trip will be good for him as well.
"It was a very brave ride from David Mullins at Christmas and it paid off. Maybe it was just the trip that improved him so much, and a different way of riding him. I haven’t made any jockey arrangements yet. But they are a very good combination.
"Bellshill has lots of stamina and jumps particularly well. Cheltenham has not been his luckiest place, maybe this is the year he’s going to change all that. I think he is now the horse we thought he would be.
"It’s all coming together for him. We can see him improving, and I think there’s more improvement to come. With the ground, he’s always gone on soft to heavy, but we took a chance running him on good ground the other day because I felt I had too. He’s by King’s Theatre though, and they love good ground. Even though he’s a big, heavy type of horse he handled it very, very well, and came out of that run at Leopardstown very well."
"She came home with sore shins after her last run in the Savills Chase at Christmas. The ground was quick enough. Touchwood, she has a couple of bits of work to do, but all being well she’ll run in the Gold Cup.
"She hasn't run further than 3m before and when you go into those unknown trips, it is worry with every horse, but if she turned up in the same form as she was in the John Durkan Chase, where she was second to Min, I think she'd have a great each-way chance. She's a good mare and I think she can finish in the first four or five.
"She's last year's JLT Novices' Chase winner so it's definitely a positive that she’s been over there, travelled and done it all, before. She’s not Don Cossack, but she’s got a nice weight in the Grand National too, so we’ll be keeping an eye on that as well."
"They’d a fantastic strip of ground round the inside for the Gold Cup, which hadn’t been touched since the previous April. Native River and he went around on that the whole way. They never came off it till they jumped the last fence, and then the run-in was the wettest part of the track.
"You’ve got to cross Tuesday's and Wednesday's hurdle track, Tuesday's and Wednesday's chase course, Thursday's hurdle and chase course, and the course where all the three hurdles races before the Gold Cup that day had been run, which is quite a long strip.
"He landed in front after the second-last and you think he’s going to go away, like he does, but he didn’t. To me he jumped the last fence and sunk. They'd been on remarkably good ground the whole way, two strides after that, bang.
"I might have made a mistake in not running him since the King George VI Chase - and I’ve done it again, but because I had no option but to stop and start again this time - so maybe he just got tired, but I think maybe he just hit that ground, having travelled on some beautiful ground all the way, and you know what the other horse is like on it.
"We have done lots of things with Might Bite this year. We have recauterised his palate. I haven't got reason to think that he needed redoing, but we have and it just probably helps tighten him up - that has happened since Kempton at Christmas. I’m not surprised he’s 20/1 in the Gold Cup betting this year on what he’s done this year, but he doesn’t know what price he is."
"Native River has been there and done it so arguably he does have the better chance. But Thistlecrack and Elegant Escape, on their given day, have a great chance in the race.
"Five fences from the finish in the King George, you thought [Native River] was going to be pulled up, but then he stayed on really strongly and, if the race had been another couple of furlongs, he could have been right up with them at the finishing line.
"Elegant Escape is a younger horse and he is still improving with every start. His last run was his highest-rated performance. Thistlecrack ran well in the King George and got close to [the winner] Clan Des Obeaux. I think he has as much of a chance as anything else in the race. He is 11 years old, but he has been lightly raced in recent seasons."
It’s difficult to find a stranger preparation than the one Presenting Percy has undertaken. He does, however, boast seriously strong Cheltenham Festival form. A very comfortable winner of the 2017 Pertemps Handicap, he then went on to stroll away with a strong renewal of the RSA Novices’ Chase in 2018.
He beat the likes of Monalee and Elegant Escape that day with ease, whilst looking like he was holding Al Boum Photo who fell 2 out. He was also very impressive in that one run this season. Nothing really went right for Pat Kelly’s charge in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park, yet he still won.
Nothing was able to give him a lead for as long as Davy Russell would’ve wanted, he looked to be idling up the run-in and kept going despite being on his own on the outside for a lot of the race.
Trainer Paul Nicholls, who is known to talk up a horse, has recently said that he feels Clan Des Obeaux can be as good as the great Kauto Star - and on this season’s form it’s easy to see why.
He was fantastic when seeing off the re-opposing Thistlecrack in the King George and showed a new level of maturity in the Denman Chase last time at Newbury.
He has however, raced four times at Cheltenham and is yet to win there. His best form seems to come at flat tracks and that is a worry for one so short in the betting. He’s definitely talented enough, but there are risks involved for one so short in the Gold Cup betting.
Native River obviously has his chance, after a decent trial run when finishing third in the King George at Kempton, a racecourse that was never going to suit him.
I’m just always wary of a horse coming back after winning a Gold Cup, as they rarely seem to be the same animals after it. I’d love to see him win it, but at 6/1 with William Hill, I’m happy to overlook him for now at least.
Were the rain to finally arrive, he’d obviously be a completely different proposition.
I firmly believe Al Boum Photo is the horse with the most improvement left in him.
One big issue with is his propensity to make an absolute howler at one, showed by the fact that he failed to complete in three of his six runs last season.
He obviously must be forgiven for that fateful day when jockey Paul Townend elected to miss the last fence, taking out Finians Oscar in the Champion Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival!
Al Boum Photo has shown how talented he can be when he puts it all together, like when comfortably winning the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase last season, or when despite errors he got so close to Monalee in the Flogas Novice Chase, and on his reappearance this season when easily dismissing Total Recall (he had to give him 10lb), Invitation Only and Alpha Des Obeaux in the Savills Chase at Tramore.
Al Boum Photo was going to be placed in the RSA last season when falling at the second last. He met that fence all wrong and gave Ruby Walsh no chance. With the way race worked out, I think he would’ve finished strongly and ran on for second as Monalee clearly didn’t stay the 3 miles at Prestbury Park.
I don’t think anything would have beaten Presenting Percy on the day, but Al Boum Photo has the improvement left in him and might give the front two a fright at least in the Gold Cup.
After all, he was only six last season and achieved a very high level of form. 14/1 with BetHard might just prove to be too big.
It’s crazy to think that Willie Mullins, who’s won every big race from Gowran Park to Japan, still hasn’t won this Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Contender number one this year Bellshill won a depleted Irish Gold Cup under an inspired Ruby Walsh and will have his say on proceedings if it falls his way. That race, due to the firm ground, rather fell apart so it is hard to properly gauge what he actually achieved that day.
Kemboy has been improving at a rapid rate this season, culminating in a very impressive win in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
That is known as one of the proper trials for the Gold Cup and he definitely has his chance. The fear will be the ground, as he really thrived on good ground at Christmas.
Like Bellshill, I’m not sure what he achieved that day as the race looked to fall apart somewhat and Monalee, who doesn’t stay this trip, was 2nd.
It’s hard to see how Invitation Only will be good enough to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup, but he did see out this trip well to see off Alpha Des Obeaux in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park. Three more chances for Willie Mullins, but Al Boum Photo might just have the more scope for improvement.
There can be no doubting the fact that Might Bite can win a Cheltenham Gold Cup, it’s just he has been so poor this season.
He boasts serious Cheltenham Festival form with an RSA win and a Cheltenham Gold Cup 2nd in 2018 when the soft ground rather caught him out on the day.
This season however, he has been well beaten twice in the Betfair Chase and the aforementioned King George and it’s hard to see him coming back to this level.
Nicky Henderson has performed miracles before with the likes of Sprinter Sacre, so it could well happen!
1. Al Boum Photo
2. Clan Des Obeaux
3. Presenting Percy
Be the first to receive the latest welcome offers, free bets, tips and strategy
DISCLAIMER: Online Wagering is illegal in some Jurisdictions. It is your responsibility to check your local regulations before playing online. GDC Trading Ltd takes no responsibility for your actions.
© 2011-2019 GDC Trading Limited. All Rights Reserved. Gambling.com is a registered trademark of GDC Trading Limited.
Be the first to receive the latest welcome offers, free bets, tips and strategy
Check your email to activate your subscription and start receiving our new exclusive offers.