The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a Grade 1 race run over a distance of 3 miles 2½ furlongs in which the competitors jump twenty two fences in total. It is open to five year olds and above.
The race is the absolute pinnacle of the National Hunt calendar, Aintree Grand National aside, and is referred to as the “Blue-Riband” of jumps racing.
The Gold Cup is richly sought after by owner, trainer and jockey alike and is generally contested by all the best horses in training in that particular season from both sides of the Irish Sea.
The race was first run as a steeple chase in 1924 and the popularity of the race was lifted by a five year-old called Golden Miller who went on to win the Gold Cup five times in succession for his owner Dorothy Paget.
In 1983 one of the most amazing finishes to the Gold Cup was witnessed when trainer Michael Dickinson had the first five horses home, Bregawn won the race from Captain John, Wayward Lad, Silver Buck and Ashley House.
In the modern era winners of the Gold Cup have become, or already were, household names. Desert Orchid, Dawn Run, Best Mate and Kauto Star were all successful and all had their legions of fans and followers.
This year 16 runners go to post.
Gold Cup: Runner-By-Runner Guide
Al Boum Photo (Willie Mullins)
Won the Ryanair Gold Cup Novices' Chase at Fairyhouse by a length from Shattered Love in April 2018.
Was travelling like the winner, before taking the wrong course, in the Champion Novices' Chase (won by The Storyteller) at Punchestown on his final start of that season.
Returned with a win at Tramore on his seasonal debut. Acts on heavy going and there should be more to come.
Anibale Fly (Tony Martin)
Had a wonderful season last year, finishing third in the Gold Cup and fourth in the Grand National.
Has been in good form again this season and will be suited by the conditions underfoot. Could easily be an each-way player and should be considered in the Cheltenham betting.
Bellshill (Ruby Walsh)
Won both the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse and the Punchestown Gold Cup (by ¾ length from Djakadam) last season and recently won the Irish Gold Cup by a short-head from Road To Respect.
Stays all day and is also the choice of Ruby Walsh which is sometimes a tip in itself.
Bristol De Mai (Nigel Twiston-Davies)
Beat Native River, Clan Des Obeaux, Might Bite and Thistlecrack in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November but came a cropper against them in the King George at Kempton.
Finished seventh in this two years ago but will have more favourable conditions this time around.
Clan Des Obeaux (Paul Nicholls)
Has improved out of all recognition this season after his fourth placing in the Betfair Chase.
Officially rated equal to last year’s winner Native River, Clan Des Obeaux probably brings to the table the most solid British chase form on offer so far this season. His trainer is seeking a fifth win in the race.
Definitly Red (Brian Ellison)
He was sent off a well fancied 8/1 chance to win last year's Gold Cup but only managed to finish sixth, beaten 39 lengths by Native River.
The suspicion is that he is just a little shy of the top level and was beaten in a two-runner race at Kelso last time which certainly does not enhance his changes.
Double Shuffle (Tom George)
Without a win since December 2016 and is pitched in at the deep end again here.
Will probably run his usual game race and is no forlorn hope for a place, but for win purposes he is pretty low in the pecking order here.
Elegant Escape (Colin Tizzard)
A thorough stayer who will relish the ground on Friday.
The seven-year-old has had a wonderful season, finishing second in the Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly the Hennessy), capturing the Welsh National and running Frodon close in the Cotswold Chase on Trials Day.
Considered by many as an interesting dark horse in this.
Invitation Only (Willie Mullins)
The longest priced of Willie Mullins's four runners but he could easily be in the mix based on his performance when winning the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park in January.
Whether he can follow that up here though remains to be seen.
Kemboy (Willie Mullins)
Kemboy is rising through the ranks and has won his last four chases, beating some of the best horses in Ireland has when winning the Grade One Savills Chase at Leopardstown in December.
He looks like a thorough stayer and is definitely one of the better ones in the Mullins quartet.
Might Bite (Nicky Henderson)
Gave us a fantastic dual with Native River in last year’s Gold Cup but has not really been the same horse since.
It was reported that he bled in the King George and he has had a small palate procedure since. Connections will be hoping he can bounce back to form now.
Native River (Colin Tizzard)
Won both starts in 2017/18, namely Denman Chase at Newbury and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, where he dug deep to beat Might Bite 4½ lengths.
Not quite at his best when placed in the Betfair Chase and the King George this season, but will be in his absolute element with the conditions he encounters on Friday afternoon.
Presenting Percy (Pat Kelly)
The current “Scarlet Pimpernel” of National Hunt and comes into this race without a chase run to his name this season.
His preparation may be unconventional but he clearly is a very talented horse and bids to win at The Festival for a third consecutive year.
Thistlecrack (Colin Tizzard)
Had the world at his hooves at one time before injuries curtailed what looked like being the start of something special.
Appears to be recapturing his old form, finishing third in the Betfair Chase and second in the King George and you would feel this would be his last stab at Gold Cup glory.
Yala Enki (Venetia Williams)
Smart handicap chaser who finished third to Elegant Escape in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in December.
Holds very similar credentials to his former stable-star Mon Mome, who plodded on for a place in this race back in 2010.
Shattered Love (Gordon Elliott)
A classy mare on her day, she won the JLT Novices' Chase at The Festival last year and has had a wind operation since disappointing behind Kemboy at Leopardstown.
Definitely interesting given her trainers record at this meeting.
Conclusion: The Cheltenham Gold Cup winner is...
It’s a wide open affair this year and there are plenty of runners to make a case for, but I am going to plump for Al Boum Photo to bring home the spoils for Willie Mullins and finally take that Gold Cup monkey off his back.
888sport suggests: Al Boum Photo (e/w).
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*