Leading jockey Harry Skelton gives his expert opinion on who will win National Hunt racing’s ultimate prize, the Gold Cup, at this year’s Cheltenham Festival
For any jockey the Gold Cup is the race you dream about winning, it’s the pinnacle of the game. The Grand National is obviously a more famous race around the world, but there is nothing bigger than the Gold Cup for National Hunt horses.
I haven’t been lucky enough to ride in it yet, but I hope to sooner rather than later. Kauto Star winning his second Gold Cup is my strongest memory of the race – that was the first time any horse had ever regained the trophy.
When I was at Paul Nicholls’, around all those incredible horses, it was a time I will never forget. I was spoilt and I’m sure Paul would say the same thing. Denman was a true warrior, he’d lie down and die for you.
People try to compare horses from those days to the ones around at the moment, which I just don’t think is fair. I very much doubt we’ll ever see another horse like Kauto Star.
Looking at this year’s race and I think Presenting Percy is the one they all have to beat. He’s been to the Festival twice and won both times very impressively.
I know we haven’t seen him very much this season, but he’s obviously very well-handled by his trainer and he’s certainly got the right man on his back in Davy Russell.
I wouldn’t be worried about him having just one run over hurdles, we’ve seen enough over the past couple of seasons. It might actually play into his hands. You need to be fit and fresh coming in to Cheltenham.
Native River is a hugely likeable horse; he jumps, he travels, he stays. If you were looking for a really nice ride and to be guaranteed of a place in the first four, you’d choose him.
He was a great winner last year, but Presenting Percy might just have a little bit more up his sleeve.
Clan Des Obeaux has been a massive improver over the past few months. He has always been highly regarded, having run in the Triumph Hurdle only three years ago.
King George winners do follow up in Gold Cups and he’s only going to get better. He travels very well in his races and gets the job done late on.
I can definitely see him running a massive race, although I’d be slightly worried about this sort of track. Cheltenham is very up and down, and the fences come quick enough. It will be a new test for him anyway.
I was very impressed with Bellshill last time, he jumps like a buck. Ruby Walsh is likely to ride him and if one of the top three failed, I’m sure he could pick up a place.
While it’s one of the most unpredictable races of the National Hunt calendar, research from previous races suggests this year’s Gold Cup will be won by an eight or nine-year-old, who won on their last start and was among the top three in the betting.
The closest match from the confirmed runners is:
Discover which horses and jockeys have won the most recent renewals of the most prestigious steeplechase in racing since the classic partnership of Kauto Star and Ruby Walsh in 2009.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup dates back to 1924, when Red Splash was ridden home by Dick Rees, one of only 7 Welsh jockeys to have crossed the line first. Of the 89 runnings of the Gold Cup, over 50% of the winning riders have come from Ireland, and more than half the victorious horses were aged either 8 or 9.
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