The dominating story of the staying chasers market this season has been the rise, slight stutter and eventual temporary fall of Colin Tizzard’s enigmatic Thistlecrack. However, the gauntlet has been passed to his improving stable mate Native River and this season’s Hennessey winner now joint leads the market in the Blue Riband of steeple chasing, The Timico Gold Cup on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival. Comparisons are already been made with the legendary Denman, nicknamed The Tank in respect of his size, relish for jumping the bigger obstacles and devastating staying power. Whether Native River can emulate the Paul Nicholls trained legend is yet to be seen. However, he seems to have all the right credentials: he jumps fluently, stays all day and looks like the sort of horse who will come back for more if looking beaten at the business end.
We’ll take a more detailed look at Native River and several other contenders along with seeking the best betting value.
The improvement of Native River this season has been seismic to say the least. His Hennessey win last November was impressive when you think he had RSA Chase winner Blaklion 8 lengths and previous winner Smad Place 10 lengths behind respectively. I didn’t honestly think he would win the Welsh National carrying top weight in that legendary heavy going, so characteristic of the Chepstow course. That win was arguably the performance of the season. His rivalry to then Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack was fully confirmed with a victorious return to Newbury in the Betfair Denman Chase. He is a class act: jumps boldly when under pressure, measures his fences carefully when required but best of all is his endurance after the last fence, which is formidable: any horse who gets past him in a struggle to the line will have to be very very good indeed. Native River is a Gold Cup horse and the selection for me at 4/1 NRNB with Betfred and Paddy Power. Recently, he has seen some stiff opposition from his popular stable-mate Cue Card in the markets, who has been the subject of some steady support in the last few days.
Native River on his way to winning the 2016 Hennessey Gold Cup.
CUE CARD LOOKING TO AVENGE HIS THIRD LAST FENCE DEMISE
Cue Card would bring the house down on Prestbury Park if he were to deliver Gold Cup glory this time round. He got close last time. The tricky downhill third last fence was his downfall when he appeared to be making a serious challenge on Don Cossack, the eventual winner. Sadly, Don Cossack won’t be back to defend his title and with Thistlecrack also out of the equation, it’s no surprise punters are latching onto the 11 year old. And that’s where the doubt could lie. He’s getting older and the stats are a big concern: no horse older than 10 has won The Gold Cup since 1969 when What A Myth won it as a 12 year old. However, his form this season has been watertight. He stayed on well in The King George to get within 3 lengths of Thistlecrack: that was a good performance because no horse in either UK or Ireland would have beaten Thistlecrack on that day: he was irresistible. Cue Card’s follow-up at Ascot in the Betfair Ascot Chase was arguably his best run since the 2015 King George when he absolutely hammered a host of reasonably classy stayers including Bet Victor Gold Cup winner, Taquin Du Seuil. He’s going to run a big race for sure but I’m not convinced if he has the legs to get up that hill when Native River has so much versatility. Very little value to be had now on Cue Card as the money has been clearly laid down, so certainly worth waiting for value: Sporting Bet marginally best with 100/30 NRNB at the moment.
Cue Card would be a very popular winner of the Gold Cup but as an 11 year old, the stats don’t favour him.
Djakadam, Sizing John and Outlander all have claims on their best form but there are two each way options that definitely stand out for me. Don Poli is a class act that keeps ending up as the bridesmaid on the big days. Third behind Don Cossack in last year’s Gold Cup and he’s got within several lengths of Outlander and Sizing John at Leopardstown this year. He’s consistent, strong and he’s proved he can stay the Gold Cup distance. No, I wouldn’t consider him as a straight bet win but 20/1 with bet365 NRNB cannot be ignored as a decent each way proposition! Bristol De Mai can also be added to the each way notebook, with 25/1 about him with Betfair Sportsbook - Bet Here!
Its Native River for me. He’s got a similar CV to that of previous Gold Cup winners Bob’s Worth, Denman and Master Oats: tough dour stayers who don’t do anything too risky but do the required job of jumping and galloping relentlessly. That’s what you want in a Gold Cup horse.
- NATIVE RIVER: TO WIN 4/1 NRNB with Betfair Sportsbook - Bet Here!, Paddy Power - Bet Here!
- SAPHIR DU RHEU: TO WIN 66/1 NRNB with Stan James - Bet Here!
Good luck will all your bets in the 2017 Cheltenham Festival. Visit our dedicated Cheltenham Festival page here to keep up to date with the action!