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2018 Gold Cup star-rating guide – Who will triumph in Cheltenham’s showpiece event?




PLEASE NOTE: New Customers can get Might Bite at an enhanced 70/1 to win the Gold Cup. Max Stake £1. Winnings paid in free bets. Full T&Cs Apply. 18+|Gamble Aware.

Our expert takes a look at the field set to line up in this years’ Gold Cup and rates each runners’ chances of succeeding at the Cheltenham Festival out of five stars.


There may be 28 races during the Cheltenham Festival, but there’s no doubting the most prestigious and historic of the lot is the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Stars have been born, legacies commentated and history has been rewritten in this fantastic staying chase and we look set for a memorable renewal on the final day of the 2018 Festival.

During the regular season, various trials races have been staged across Britain and Ireland. While some have seen their Gold Cup dreams dashed, several potential champion have come forward and the ante-post market looks packed with quality.

Our expert has put together this star-rating guide for the Gold Cup – taking a look at each contenders in detail and rated their chances of triumphing at the Cheltenham Festival out of five stars.

2018 Gold Cup Star-Rating Guide


DEFINITLY RED – 12/1 Ladbrokes

It seems a heck of a long time since Danny Cook pulled Definitly Red up in last year’s Grand National. Brian Ellison will have been very pleased with the way his charge was traveling, but a faller caused Definitly Red to swerve off line and, fearing an injury, Cook decided to called time on their Aintree adventure.

A distant third place finish on his reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase was followed by two Grade Two victories in the Many Clouds Chase and the Cotswold Chase. Definitly Red led them along at a sedate pace in the Many Clouds and turned it into a real test of stamina. It was a much truer race at Cheltenham, but the fact that runner-up American and Bristol De Mai have decided to swerve the Gold Cup has to count against him. 

Brian Ellison’s charge is in the form of his life and handled the Cheltenham track well in the Cotswold, but the Gold Cup will be a giant leap forward and Definitly Red could struggle.

DEFINITLY RED RATING ⭐ 3 ⭐

DJAKADAM – 33/1 BetVictor

As Djakadam surged onto the lead, Ruby Walsh may have thought he had one hand on the Gold Cup last year. A shuddering error two from home opened the door for Sizing John and the two-time runner-up had to settle for more Cheltenham disappointment. Willie Mullins will have been heartened and encouraged by his final run of the campaign at Punchestown, but sadly, the nine-year-old has endured an underwhelming year.

A resounding defeat at the hands of Sizing John in the John Durkan was followed by a poor performance in the Christmas Chase, where he was pulled up well before home. He failed to mount a winning assault in the Irish Gold Cup, yet his jumping was much more convincing as he finished third and he has plenty of history in Cheltenham’s showpiece event. Plus, his current odds are very attractive.

DJAKADAM RATING ⭐ 3 ⭐

Edwulf (centre, red cap) produced a miraculous display to win the Irish Gold Cup.


EDWULF – 16/1 Coral

It's been a rollercoaster 12 months for Edwulf. Joseph O’Brien thought he has lost his star stayer when he collapsed in the National Hunt Chase and the young trainer was delighted to see his charge make a full recovery. Retirement plans were soon thrown out the window and Edwulf made a low-key return in the Christmas Chase, where he failed to finish the course. Five weeks later, Edwulf’s miracle recovery was complete as the 25/1 shot powered home to win the Irish Gold Cup.

Although Edwulf holds entry into both the Gold Cup and the Grand National, O’Brien will be very mindful of his star’s wellbeing before committing him to any specific date. If Edwulf can repeat the performance he produced at Leopardstown, he could challenge for the places – that’s if he even makes it to National Hunt racing’s premier chase.

EDWULF RATING ⭐ 2.5 ⭐

KILLULTAGH VIC – 10/1 William Hill

Everyone remembers the incredible recovery Killultagh Vic made at Leopardstown in 2016, dragging himself up off the canvas to snatch a Grade Two victory from the jaws of defeat. The last 18 months have been riddled with injuries, but Willie Mullins declared his nine-year-old was fit to return in December.

After claiming a smart victory over the smaller obstacles, Mullins threw Killultagh Vic into the Irish Gold Cup. Paul Townend’s mount was traveling best of all turning for home, but a crashing fall at the second last left Willie and his team with their head in their hands. Thankfully, Killultagh Vic is expected to make a full recovery and take his place in the Gold Cup. It looks like he’s retained most of his old talent, but the time spent off the track is a worry and it’s hard to say how he will bounce back after that emphatic tumble at Leopardstown.

KILLULTAGH VIC RATING ⭐ 3 ⭐

Nico de Boinville celebrates after guiding Might Bite to victory in King George.


MIGHT BITE – 9/2 Paddy Power

Worryingly for his Cheltenham rivals, Might Bite didn’t have to be at his best to win the King George. Nicky Henderson’s charge clearly didn’t enjoy the softer ground and his jumping was very safe, but he still had enough class to comfortably see off Double Shuffle and Tea For Two. Might Bite has been given a nice break to recharge the batteries and the prospect of good spring ground will be extremely favourable.

Some will say Might Bite hasn’t beaten much over fences – both his Grade One victories came over Whisper and no Gold Cup rivals displayed their colours in the King George. Yet, you cannot deny the nine-year-old has looked much more composed this season and it’s unlikely we will see the dramatic swerve towards the stables that almost cost him the RSA.

He was fantastic for 90% of the RSA and showed incredible battling qualities to get his nose to the line first. Conditions should suit him down to the ground and Nicky Henderson will have him primed for Festival season. Might Bite is the leading candidate heading into Cheltenham.

MIGHT BITE RATING ⭐ 4.5 ⭐

MINELLA ROCCO – 20/1 Ladbrokes

Minella Rocco has been fairly anonymous since finishing fourth as the favourite in the Irish Daily Star Chase. Jonjo O’Neill’s chase finished a decent fourth in a the Christmas Chase, a result which sits between two failures in the BetVictor Handicap Chase and the Irish Gold Cup.

Minella Rocco’s form figures are similar to those he carried into last year’s Gold Cup, where he stormed home to finish closest to Sizing John. The 2016 National Hunt Chase winner comes alive in the spring and he clearly enjoys the challenge presented by Cheltenham. While some will be put off by his poor seasonal form, Minella Rocco is a challenger not to be overlooked.

MINELLA ROCCO RATING ⭐ 3.5 ⭐

Native River clearing the water jump on his way to winning the Denman Chase.


NATIVE RIVER – 9/2 Paddy Power

Native River’s achievements last season shouldn’t be underestimated. He came into the Gold Cup on the back of wins in the Ladbrokes Trophy, the Welsh National and the Denman Chase. Despite expending plenty of energy during those gruelling races, the eight-year-old had enough grit and determination to hold on to a spot in the places.

Tizzard rewarded his top stayer with an extended holiday, completely bypassing the first half of the campaign. Native River returned in the Denman Chase earlier this month and comfortably saw off Cloudy Dream from the front of the field. Richard Johnson has struck up a nice understanding with Native River and the duo will fancy their chances heading back to Cheltenham.

Colin Tizzard will need to get his tactics spot on if he wants to get his hands on the Gold Cup, but the rest he gave Native River should pay off during the spring and he will be a prime challenger for the second season running.

NATIVE RIVER RATING ⭐ 4 ⭐

OUR DUKE – 4/1 Paddy Power

A lot was expected of the runaway Irish Grand National winner as he went to post in the JNWine Champion Chase as the odds-on favourite. Harrington was dismayed to see Our Duke labour over the line last. A back problem was discovered, and he didn’t return to action until the Irish Gold Cup.

Robbie Powers’ mount clattered pretty much every fence around Leopardstown but was staying on strongly as he passed the post fourth. He dropped back in trip and conceded weight to dangerous novice Presenting Percy in the Red Mills Chase, displaying speed and class in abundance to claim a much-needed victory. More progress is expected between now and Cheltenham, but Our Duke is progressing nicely and should put himself in the frame.

OUR DUKE RATING ⭐ 4 ⭐


OUTLANDER 
– 33/1 Coral

Outlander has always been talented, but inconsistency has often held him back. It looked like this season would be the same old story, as Gordon Elliott’s charge finished near the rear of the field in the Irish Daily Star, but he produced a fantastic display to claim a surprise victory in the JNWine Champion Chase a few weeks later.

Jack Kennedy’s mount hated the heavy ground at Haydock, but responded by running two good races back-to-back. First, crossing the line third in the Christmas Chase, before battling with Edwulf all the way to the line at the Dublin Racing Festival. The chances of Outlander stringing together three strong performances is unlikely, but he brings solid form into the Gold Cup and his current odds are extremely attractive.

OUTLANDER RATING ⭐ 3.5 ⭐

ROAD TO RESPECT – 14/1 BetVictor

Since winning the Brown Advisory Plate at the Festival last year, Road To Respect has gone from strength-to-strength. He ended last season with a smart victory over Yorkhill at Fairyhouse and returned to action with a bang at Punchestown, storming clear to win the Irish Daily Star. Outlander produced an excellent display to defeat him in the JNWine Champion Chase, but Sean Flanagan’s mount was far from disgraced in second.

Despite his excellent form and obvious improvement, Road To Respect carried a lengthy price into the Christmas Chase. As rivals fell away around him, Meade’s charge produced a composed display to outlast two Gigginstown stablemates and claim a second career Grade One. He brings the best form with him across the pond and has winning memories around Cheltenham.

The soft ground may have gone against him, but Road To Respect has enough class to cope. He remains the ideal each-way candidate and the best bet in this year’s Gold Cup.

ROAD TO RESPECT RATING ⭐ 5 ⭐

Road To Respect leaping the last en-route to winning the Brown Advisory Plate at Cheltenham last season.



TOTAL RECALL – 16/1 Ladbrokes

Weeks after arriving from Sandra Hughes’ yard, Total Recall began life in County Carlow with a strong winning performance in the Munster National. Mullins sent his recruit to Newbury for the first time in December and he was subsequently backed into favouritism for the Ladbrokes Trophy. Whisper looked to have the victory in the bag, but Paul Townend timed his late charge to perfection to claim a historic victory for a jubilant Willie Mullins.

After pulling hard for much of the race, Total Recall warmed up for the spring with an excellent victory over hurdles at the Dublin Racing Festival. Total Recall’s odds have dropped since Mullins confirmed he would take in the Gold Cup en-route to the Grand National. Yet, all his form this season has come in handicap company, he could only beat Whisper by a neck when gaining a stone at the weights and he’s never stepped beyond Grade Three company over fences, let alone featured in a race with the size and stature of the Gold Cup.

TOTAL RECALL RATING ⭐ 2.5 ⭐

Full Star Rating Guide


⭐ ROAD TO RESPECT – 5 ⭐
*
MIGHT BITE – 4.5
*
NATIVE RIVER – 4
OUR DUKE – 4
*
OUTLANDER – 3.5
MINELLA ROCCO – 3.5
*
KILLULTAGH VIC – 3
DJAKADAM – 3
DEFINITLY RED – 3
*
EDWULF – 2.5
CUE CARD – 2.5
TOTAL RECALL – 2.5

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2018 Gold Cup star-rating guide – Who will triumph in Cheltenham’s showpiece event?

Our expert takes a look at the field set to line up in this years’ Gold Cup and rates each runners’ chances of succeeding at the Cheltenham Festival out of five stars.

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