The Cheltenham Festival is the biggest meeting of the year in national hunt racing in the UK with the feature contest of the week being the Cheltenham Gold Cup which is a 3m2f chase and features the best rated horses in Europe.
This year’s betting for the Blue Riband event in the sport is headed by Might Bite who has already proven this season he is the horse to beat in this division at Cheltenham. Last season’s RSA Chase winner is unbeaten in the 2017/18 campaign and won the biggest race outside of the Festival, the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Nicky Henderson, who trains the horse, has been popular with punters to be the leading trainer at the meeting as he has some strong entries across the week, especially in the four Championship races. The former two-time winner of the Gold Cup will be hoping Might Bite can help him win the trophy for the most winners over the four days where he will face strong competition from Irish trainers Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott.
The last RSA Chase winner to score in the Gold Cup 12 months later was Lord Windermere in 2014. Might Bite has suffered just one defeat in his last seven starts over fences and that loss came at Kempton in 2016 when he fell at the last obstacle when in total control of the race.
Sizing John goes into this year’s contest as the defending champion after he came out on top in 2017 in his first attempt at the race. It has been a mixed year for Jessica Harrington’s runner as he opened his account with victory in the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase, however, on his latest run in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown, he was below his best and had to settle for seventh place.
Last season was a memorable campaign for the eight year old as he also captured the Irish Gold Cup and Punchestown Gold Cup. If he is able to defend his crown next month, he will become the first horse to do so since Best Mate in 2004.
One of the other main contenders for the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup is Native River who recently returned to score at Newbury after 330 days off the track. The former Welsh Grand National winner was third in the Gold Cup in 2017 where he finished just over two lengths behind Sizing John in what was a close finish up the hill in Gloucestershire. Connections will be hoping he can go two places better on his return to the Festival in the big race.
This year’s Cheltenham Festival begins on March 13 with the opening race of the meeting being the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.