At the 2018 Cheltenham Festival Native River managed to overcome the Gold Cup favourite, Might Bite, who was priced at 4/1. Native River ran at a starting price of 5/1, making him the third favourite to win. For jockey Richard Johnson, this wasn’t his first Gold Cup win, as 18 years previous, he won the race while riding Looks Like Trouble.
At the upcoming Cheltenham Festival, Native River runs as the second favourite, currently at a price of 6/1. He is ahead of the 2018 favourite Might Bite, who is currently priced at 8/1. The bookies’ favourite for the 2019 Gold Cup race is Presenting Percy, who the bookies have at 9/2.
Prior to his 2018 Gold Cup victory, Native River had previous form in the race, finishing third in 2017’s race. His third and first place finishes in the Gold Cup suggests that he can handle the pressures of the big race, which explains why he is one of the favourites for the race in 2019.
His most recent run was in the Lancashire Chase at Haydock in which the Irish horse finished in second place, behind Bristol De Mai. This was his first race since his victory in the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in March 2018. This race also saw Might Bite race, running as the favourite at evens, but again he came up short, finish in fifth place.
Finishing second after not racing for eight months is the sign of a true champion and will certainly provide jockey Richard Johnson and trainer Colin Tizzard with confidence that the Irish thoroughbred can win a second consecutive Gold Cup.
Presenting Percy will provide a stiff challenge for Native River, having won the 2018 RSA Insurance Novices’ Chace at the Cheltenham Festival. Although he hasn’t raced since his victory at Cheltenham, there are plans afoot for him to return to racing in the Grade 1 Savills Chase on December 28th at Leopardstown racecourse.
There will be three days of racing before Native River defends his Gold Cup title on the final day of the festival. Champion Day kicks off the festival on the Tuesday, before the Ladies Day and St Patrick’s Thursday racing. While there are several races that people will keep a keen eye out for, the Gold Cup is the highlight of the Cheltenham Festival on Gold Cup Day.
Expect Native River to run a few more races prior to the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup and should he continue to run impressively with further finishes in the top two or three places, then expect his odds to shorten as we near race day. Also keep an eye out for Might Bite’s and Presenting Percy’s race results as they currently present the biggest challenge to Native River’s chances of successfully defending the Gold Cup.
There are also several horses who are currently considered as outsiders who may be worth a look at, in particular, Bristol De Mai, who pipped Native River to first place in the Lancashire Chase at Haydock racecourse. His price is currently 20/1.