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Cheltenham Gold Cup tips - Expert selections from the newspaper tipsters

Jonathan Vine in Friday 16 Mar 2018
A view from the Cheltenham Festival.

We've taken a look through various media publications in Britain and Ireland to bring you some of the expert tipsters' picks for this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

David "Newsboy" Yates (Lead Horse Racing Writer for the Mirror)


1 ROAD TO RESPECT (12/1 Betfair)

2 NATIVE RIVER (5/1 Paddy Power)

3 MIGHT BITE (9/2 Betfair)

Road to Respect has the going-places profile - and the Festival know-how - annexe steeplechasing’s greatest prize.

Much has happened since the Noel Meade-trainee carried Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary’s colours to victory in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase 12 months ago.

Road To Respect’s sights were upped to the top level at Fairyhouse a month later, and he beat the mercurial Yorkhill for a first Grade 1 win.

This season, the son of Gamut’s stock has continued to rise, starting with a Grade 3 score at Punchestown in October.

Sean Flanagan’s mount went under by half a length to Outlander in the Champion Chase at Down Royal the following month - but left the impression the return to a left-handed course would suit.

And so it proved when he captured a second Grade 1 prize with a length-and-a-quarter supremacy over Balko Des Flos in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase in December.

Road To Respect, kept fresh for his toughest test by the wise and popular Meade, was strong at the finish that day, so is expected to profit from this additional two and a half furlongs to give his owner a third Gold Cup, and a first for his trainer and jockey.

While Minella Rocco finished second to the absent Sizing John 12 months ago, it is third-placed Native River who is feared most.

Colin Tizzard returned the chestnut in Newbury’s Denman Chase last month, and the front-runner’s 12-length margin (Saphir Du Rheu last of three) was the perfect tune-up for today.

Likely favourite Might Bite has grown up this winter and is greatly respected, along with Northern challenger Definitly Red, Irish Gold Cup hero Edwulf, and Willie Mullins’ upwardly mobile Total Recall.

Chris Cook (The Guardian)

If you back MIGHT BITE (9/2 Betfair) for this Cheltenham Gold Cup, then of course you must fear the risk of him wandering around on the run-in like he did in last year’s RSA. In the end, however, the greater risk lies in backing something else and being beaten by Might Bite because this is a prodigiously talented steeplechaser who will take a great deal of stopping.

Had he been a more straightforward animal, he would have won two Grade Ones by about 30 lengths as a novice. He idled once he had the King George won but in this greatest test he has faced, we will see the extent of his talent.

Native River faces an enormous task, trying to make all the running on this surface. Equally, the size of this 18-runner field will probably count against those, like Edwulf, who are held up in rear. Killultagh Vic and Our Duke look the big dangers.

Matt Trounce (Ladbrokes and The Independent)

The highlight of the week is the Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.30) and this looks a cracking renewal with sixteen going to post. The one I like is OUR DUKE (11/2 William Hill) who aims to give his trainer, Jessica Harrington, back to back wins in the Gold Cup after she won it with Sizing John last year. 

Our Duke was one of the market leaders for the race over the close season but was disappointing on his first start of the season. Since then he has had treatment on his back and he looked back to his best when beating Presenting Percy last time. That form looks exceptional now after the second won the RSA Chase on Wednesday and he looks tailor made for a Gold Cup.

Simon Walker (Timeform)

NATIVE RIVER  (5/1 Paddy Power)

Not a vintage-looking renewal of the Gold Cup and, with underfoot conditions as testing as they are, Might Bite has been on the drift in recent days, concerns as to how well he’s going to see things out granted the stiffest test he’s faced so far. 

It’s certainly on the cards that others will want to turn it into a thorough test, too, Richard Johnson sure to be making the most of Native River’s stamina and jumping ability by pressing on a good way from home. In fact, it’s our belief that such tactics will enable Native River to improve on his third place from last year, purposely kept fresh this time round and no surprise if he manages to run the finish out of everything else, the excellent recent form of the Tizzard stable another positive pointer to his chance.   

Tony Calvin (Betfair)

I locked onto my Gold Cup fancy some time ago and, stop laughing at the back, I am still hopeful that a certain DJAKADAM (33/1 Coral) can finally get over the line at the fourth attempt in the Gold Cup at 15:30.

The handicapper is a non-believer, as he has dropped him to a mark of 162 after his last three runs, but no so long ago he was rated 170, which would make him the "form horse" in this race.

If you forgive him his recent efforts - and two of them don't take that much forgiving anyway - then you only have to go back to Punchestown last April to make him a massive runner here.

He ran Sizing John to a short-head there, and of course he has a great record of 224 in this race, exactly the sequence of placings The Fellow had before finally taking this prize.

I know the combination of the trip in heavy is not ideal, but he stays all right and handles the ground, and no way is he a 33/1 chance in a field that lacks a superstar. Well, as it stands, anyway,

Of the opposition, maybe Road To Respect appeals most (though last year's runner-up Minella Rocco has had a wind op and loves it here), but I stand to win a fair few quid if Djakadam obliges, so I don't have any need to go in again. But if you want a bet, then I really do think he is your man at the current prices.

The Scout (Daily Express)

MIGHT BITE (9/2 Betfair) can add the Gold Cup to his win in the King George at Kempton. He landed a course success here last year in the RSA Chase and looked better than ever at Kempton on Boxing Day despite idling in the home straight. Has a likeable attitude to racing that will stand him in good stead in this competitive renewal of the main race of the week.

Double Shuffle was just behind the selection in the King George and the horse’s trainer, Tom George, struck in the first race of the meeting with Summerville Boy. Has stamina to prove. Definitly Red wasn’t always foot perfect when winning here on heavy ground in January and could take a hand in the finish. Native River is a dour stayer and was third in this race last year after making a lot of the running. Sure to run his race.

Sam Turner (The Daily Mail)

The Gold Cup claims of ROAD TO RESPECT (12/1 Betfair) took on added significance with the result of the Ryanair Chase on Thursday afternoon — and he is taken to continue Ireland's domination.   

For a trainer of his class, Noel Meade arguably hasn't enjoyed a Cheltenham record which mirrors his capabilities, but his seven-year-old crushed a decent field of handicappers at this meeting 12 months ago and has swiftly graduated into a high-class chaser.

A Grade One defeat of Yorkhill at Punchestown in the spring confirmed Meade's star chaser possessed the substance to bridge the gap between handicaps and Graded races and he reinforced that view with an impressive success in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase.

His chief victim that day was Balko Des Flos, a smooth and ready winner of Thursday's Ryanair Chase, and victory was achieved despite a serious stumble in the back straight.

That setback may have halted many a horse’s challenge, but Road To Respect was soon back on the bridle before powering clear of his rivals.

Admittedly, there is a slight concern that a fiercely competitive 18-runner Gold Cup may be a step too far at this stage of a career which is still taking shape, but a big field of battlehardened handicappers were readily dispensed 12 months ago, so it could be a chance worth taking. 

Native River and Might Bite appear likely to vie for favouritism and preference is for the latter, despite an X-rated display in last year’s RSA Chase when he lost concentration late on, but rescued a perilous situation courtesy of his undoubted talent. As admirable and reliable as Native River is, he wouldn’t boast the raw ability of Might Bite, whose powers may only be submerged by a downpour.

Last year’s third, Native River is also trying to defy a major stat to win a Gold Cup as he is yet to win a Grade One chase which all previous winners this century had managed. One horse which would relish a gruelling examination would be Our Duke, who snugly beat RSA winner Presenting Percy at Gowran last time.

Although last year’s Irish Grand National winner suffered an injury setback on his comeback, his latest run confirmed the fire and enthusiasm remains and he is a huge threat if he can produce a clean round of jumping.

Niall Cronin (Boylesports and Irish Independent)

Colin Tizzard’s horses have been running as well as could be expected and NATIVE RIVER (5/1 Paddy Power) can be picked to win the Gold Cup at the second time of asking.

Might Bite adds so much of the intrigue associated with the race and whether or not he’ll stay in the straight line or reproduce his old antics. There are question marks over all of the Mullins runners with Djakadam looking to have had his best chance in previous years.

Bachaasson and Total Recall might be a bit on the small side and Killultagh Vic doesn’t have the experience required to jump his way to Gold Cup.

Native River’s campaign wasn’t planned to work like this. His first and only run so far this season came in the Denman Chase at Newbury last month but while his late reappearance was as a result of a setback.

Saphir Du Rheu was a remote third on the same occasion so hopefully Richard Johnson will be able to boss the race from the front on a horse that we know likes the trip and the ground.

Michael Verney (The Irish Independent)

THERE will be no shortage of Irish challengers with half of the field making the trip to contest the blue riband and Harrington has an outstanding chance of winning back-to-back Gold Cups with Our Duke.

The absence of defending champion Sizing John is disappointing but last year’s Irish Grand National hero Our Duke jumped back into the picture when proving too good for Presenting Percy – which cantered to RSA Chase glory two days ago – at Gowran Park,

Killultagh Vic looked a certain winner of the Irish Gold Cup before crashing out at the last and leads a strong Mullins quartet as the Closutton maestro bids break his duck.

Ladbrokes Trophy winner Total Recall is a progressive sort and not without a chance, O’Brien’s Edwulf produced a career-best at Leopardstown and Road To Respect could improve further but the prize is likely to be wrestled back by the home team.

Henderson’s MIGHT BITE (9/2 Betfair) hasn’t been seen since claiming the King George in decent fashion on St Stephen’s Day and while there are question marks about him idling in front, the nine-year-old is far less likely to be sent for home until the time is right.

He drifted massively right 12 months ago in the RSA with the race at his mercy before rallying to win by a nose when joined by Whisper but hasn’t blotted his copybook this season and his trainer insists they have “a battle plan” for today’s contest.

Last year’s third Native River is a dour stayer and could go one better while Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red is a live outsider, but if Might Bite keeps a straight course, he will be hard beaten with Ruby Walsh saying he is “potentially one of the greatest horses we’ve ever seen”.

Verdict: Might Bite to devour the field.

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Cheltenham Gold Cup tips - Expert selections from the newspaper tipsters

We've taken a look through various media publications in Britain and Ireland to bring you some of the expert tipsters' picks for this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

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