Cheltenham Gold Cup 2018 – preview and tips

There’s 6 weeks to go until racing’s blue riband event, Cheltenham Festival 2018 but what is the state of play regarding the Gold Cup, the highlight of the week for many?

The Irish Gold Cup – arguably the signature of the new Dublin Racing Festival – should shine a lot of light over the Irish staying picture, and answer a couple of crucial questions.

Firstly, has Our Duke recovered from the bad scope which played such a big part in the JN Wine Chase? After a dreadful round of jumping and a run that appeared far too bad to be true (and probably was), he was found to have been suffering from an infection and hasn’t been seen since? At his best – a 14 length winner of the Irish Grand National – he appears to be a perfect Gold Cup horse, robust and powerful and relentless under pressure. The form of his Grade 1 win at Leopardstown has worked out very well (the next two are Grade 1 winners) and he’s got giant potential even at the age of eight.

However, his jumping has always been a weakness – how much will it have improved by Sunday, and then the Festival – and can he get away with it in the heat of the moment?

Killutagh Vic, for a long while, was known as the last horse to beat Thistlecrack, and he seemed set for big things over fences after two deeply impressive performances, the second of which was a remarkable comeback after all but falling over 2m5f at Leopardstown. We know that proved to be his undoing – the tendon injury he suffered took him out for a long time – but we saw a lot of zest from him over hurdles at Punchestown.

How he goes in the Irish Gold Cup will tell us a lot – will he bounce? Does he still have the old zest he showed at Punchestown?

The presence of Outlander and Djakadam will mean we could have two excellent yardsticks to rate the race through. Outlander ran a decent race when third in the Christmas Chase but doesn’t have the best Cheltenham Festival record. Djakadam’s record is far superior but he was woeful in the Christmas Chase when pulled up.

Minella Rocco was second last year and was back on track with his fourth in the Lexus, suggesting he could go well in the Irish Gold Cup. Many might see him as value for that contest and the Gold Cup too.

So too, was Sizing John, apparently found to be abnormal in his bloods and then not. So who knows what shape the defending champion will turn up at Prestbury Park? If back to his best, he looks to be the one to beat and perhaps potential value.

Might Bite produced a controlled performance to run to his ability when many others didn’t and took the King George, looking more straightforward than he did when he took apart the RSA Chase field and after nearly throwing the race away. Some still have stamina concerns for Nicky Henderson’s charge, although his waywardness appeared to have been a distraction and if he is a more tractable ride then the favourite will take the beating.

Check the end of the article for my tip but there are plenty of top Cheltenham Festival 2018 tips available at

Native River’s exceptional campaign last year ended with a third in this very race, and he has not been seen since; He’s set to reappear in the Denman Chase, and could well be benefitted by the light season with the focus solely on the Gold Cup.

Coney Island went down by a neck to Our Duke last year, and was taking on his reappearance in a Ascot graduation chase that did appear to collapse around him. However, the fine form of his Leopardstown second has worked out brilliantly, but he also isn’t running in the Irish Gold Cup (Anibale Fly prefered), perhaps to head to the Ascot Chase, which suggests the Ryanair is an option.

Definitely Red was really impressive in the Costwold Chase, but that was his second win on testing ground this winter and such a surface would be a great benefit. That said, his eight length win over American was a serious performance and he isn’t reliant upon testing ground although it might prove to be an advantage.

In summary, I take Sizing John to return to his best and retain his crown. Clearly he can win this and a price of 7/1 which is available generally represents value.

Ante-post tip:

Sizing John – 1 point win at 7/1