The National Hunt season is officially underway and the biggest trainers, owners and jockeys will already have one eye on the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.
Widely regarded as the pinnacle event of the racing campaign over fences, the four-day event in Gloucester will attract close to 200,000 spectators – with a large number of those travelling for Gold Cup day on the final day of the meeting.
Earlier this year, Sizing John produced a memorable effort to win the prestigious race for trainer Jessica Harrington and he will be back to defend his title in 2018. As of October 23rd, he is one of the current market leaders at 11/2 in Betsafe’s horse racing odds and plenty of punters will fancy Sizing John to romp home again. Unfortunately, it is going to be much tougher this time around.
Thistlecrack, arguably the finest racehorse in training right now, looks set to compete in the Festival’s showpiece after missing out through injury in 2017. Trainer Colin Tizzard will be confident that the former World Hurdle winner can continue his transition over the larger obstacles and his second to 2015 Grand National hero Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase will leave ante-post punters feeling assured.
Cheltenham Gold Cup fav THISTLECRACK is to make his seasonal reappearance over hurdling at Newbury.
Is he better over hurdles than fences? pic.twitter.com/mQWxYNnaUP
— My Racing Tips (@myracingtips) October 13, 2017
Might Bite is expected to fly the flag for Nicky Henderson’s yard and it would take a brave man to back against him if schooled correctly this season. An intriguing character, Might Bite has a tendency to relax and lose focus – and racing fans will recall his antics in the final couple of furlongs at the Festival this year. Currently valued at 10/1, he has the talent to be a world beater but concentration is key.
Douvan is another interesting one. He’s not necessarily a Gold Cup contender per se, but Willie Mullins may follow Harrington and school the Rich Ricci-owned thoroughbred to stay for an extended trip. Prior to his disappointing performance at the Festival this year, Douvan was widely regarded as invincible. Now, there is talk of a shakeup in the Mullins yard and his future is tough to predict.
But back to Sizing John. The seven-year-old followed up his Cheltenham triumph with a superb effort to secure the Punchestown Gold Cup at the end of April and Harrington reckons he is in top
form right now. He must be one of the most versatile horses in the industry; making the step up in distance was the best thing for him – losing to Douvan over shorter trips wasn’t much fun if truth be told.
There are others, too. The charismatic Yorkhill, Sizing John’s stablemate Our Duke and this year’s runner-up Minella Rocco could all challenge for Gold Cup glory. Sizing John has been there and done it at the Festival but that won’t matter too much. Desire and determination is key to success in this game and Sizing John has the heart, stamina and speed to retain his Gold Cup crown. Winning the race for the second successive year will be tough but if anyone can do it, it is Sizing John.
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