With the Cheltenham Festival just around the corner, all eyes will be on the highlight of the festival, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Native River won the race in 2018 and will be looking to successfully defend his title, but he will face stiff competition from this year’s favourite Presenting Percy. Can Native River stun the favourite and ride home to victory once again?
Since winning the Gold Cup, Native River has taken to the track twice, firstly at Haydock, where he finished in second place behind Bristol De Mai in November’s Lancashire Chase before racing in the King George VI Chase at Kempton racecourse on Boxing Day where he finished in third place behind Clan Des Obeaux and Thistlecrack.
If the Irish thoroughbred is to realistically defend his title, then his trainer and jockey will be hoping that the going on the day is soft. His previous race record shows that he produces his best results when the going is soft and anything other than will give Presenting Percy a bigger advantage.
While Native River has competed twice in the new season, both occasions being at the end of 2018, his rival for the Gold Cup, Presenting Percy, has competing just once in the new season, at the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park in Ireland. He set off as the 9/4 favourite and duly delivered on his status as the favourite, finishing ahead of Willie Mullins’ Bapaume by 1 ¼ lengths.
Presenting Percy was tipped to race at the Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown but did not feature as the ground, which was good, yielding in places, was considered unsuitable for the horse to race on as they wanted slower ground. Given his result at Gowran Park, it was perhaps a wise decision not to race the horse at Leopardstown and instead wait for a better opportunity to get him race fit.
With that first race under his belt, Presenting Percy has begun his preparations for the Gold Cup, which is bad news for Native River. While Native River might have experienced winning the festival’s biggest race, punters and bookies clearly believe that his rival has a fantastic chance of claiming the Gold Cup for himself, assuming that the conditions are right for him.
On Paddy Power, you will see that Presenting Percy is the favourite at 5/2 to race to glory in the Gold Cup, while the defending champion Native River is the second favourite at 5/1. Of course, Cheltenham betting doesn’t represent what will actually happen, but it can provide us with a good insight into what is expected at the race in March.
If Presenting Percy can continue to train well and assuming the ground is soft, he will take some beating, but if anyone can do it, it’s Native River. When Native River raced to victory at last year’s Gold Cup race, he set off as the second favourite and at a price of 5/1. Is this an omen that he is set to triumph once again?