It may be several months away but as the dust settles on another Flat season our attentions are drawn towards the new National Hunt season, and its pinnacle – the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Here at 888sport we take a look at some of the possible candidates for next March.

PRESENTING PERCY (Pat Kelly)

Presenting Percy was installed as the early favourite for the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup after running away with the RSA Novices’ Chase at The Festival.

The former Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle winner, ridden by Davy Russell, was sent off the 5-2 favourite that day and sprinted up the hill to beat Monalee by seven lengths.

Trained in Galway by Pat Kelly, the seven-year-old has been taking a well-earned break over the summer at his owner’s farm in County Westmeath.

Presenting Percy has twice gone to the Cheltenham Festival and been successful on both occasions and looks to be Ireland’s best prospect of winning the Gold Cup next March at this stage.

He finished the 2017/18 season as the top-rated staying novice on a mark of 165.

 

FOOTPAD (Willie Mullins)

After winning the Arkle Novices’ Chase by an impressive 14 lengths, Mullins indicated Footpad "could be a future Gold Cup horse".

The brilliant six-year-old went through his novice season unbeaten in five races and will be challenging for top honours again this season.

In his debut over fences at Navan last November he put in a scintillating display of jumping to score by 11 lengths.

In the Arkle Trophy Footpad blundered at the sixth, which left him a fair way back, but under a patient ride from Ruby Walsh, he effortlessly made up the lost ground and went on to win by a wide margin.

Footpad then topped off a splendid season by making all to win the Grade One Ryanair Chase at Punchestown by 12 lengths.

Whether the Gold Cup is on the horizon this year remains to be seen but he is definitely worth a speculative punt.

 

MIGHT BITE (Nicky Henderson)

Nicky Henderson has said he will adopt a more attacking policy with Might Bite this season.

Last seen winning the Betway Bowl at Aintree, Might Bite had previously finished second to Native River in the Gold Cup.

Henderson recently said: "The Betfair Chase at Haydock is the likely starting point for Might Bite and we might as well have a go at the Jockey Club Triple Crown and the £1million bonus.

We were tempted with it last season but the King George was our main goal, however this year we might as well give it a shot and see where we end up."

 

ROAD TO RESPECT (Noel Meade)

Connections of the Cheltenham Gold Cup fourth Road To Respect are saying that he is a much stronger horse now as he prepares for a season focused on another tilt at the blue-riband event next March.

The Noel Meade-trained chaser finished 12 and a half lengths behind Native River in the Gold Cup Cheltenham before rounding off last season with a third place in the Punchestown Gold Cup.

Meade’s retained rider, Sean Flanagan said: "We're looking at going back to Leopardstown with Road To Respect and then I'd imagine the Gold Cup will be his target.

"I had one sit on him and he's a much stronger horse this season. He's in great form and everything is coming together with him now.

Last season soft ground played into the winner's hands, but the second horse wanted better ground too. 

Our horse ran a respectable race and it'll be great to go back again."

Road To Respect, who missed the Irish Daily Star Chase at Punchestown last Wednesday due to the fast ground, will now reappear in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal on November 3rd.

 

NATIVE RIVER (Colin Tizzard)

The Triple Crown will be the target for Native River this season, starting with the Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 24th.

The King George VI and the Gold Cup make up the other two legs of the treble that carries a £1million bonus should any horse win all three events.

"Native River will go straight to Haydock. He's galloping away and looks an absolute picture," assistant trainer Joe Tizzard told At The Races last week.

"The Million is the sort of plan. Those horses, the routes get mapped out for them - Haydock, then the King George and the Gold Cup. That's three obvious targets, and they're spaced out lovely."

Native River emerged as a leading staying chaser from 2016-17 season winning the Hennessy Gold Cup, Denman Chase and Welsh National before finishing third in the Gold Cup.

He then went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup last season in a thrilling dual with Might Bite.

 

SIZING JOHN (Jessica Harrington)

Sizing John will have Cheltenham ambitions once again this season and we should be seeing him lead up to Christmas by all accounts.

The 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero has not been seen since a poor run in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase last December and was unable to defend his Cheltenham crown because of a pelvic injury.

Jessica Harrington revealed the tote.com Fortria Chase at Navan on November 11th could be his first port of call, before going to Leopardstown for the Christmas Chase on December 27th.

Alternatively his seasonal debut may kick off in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown, which he won last season.

“He’s very good and I’m very happy with him,” said Harrington.

“We could look at the Fortria or Christmas with him or maybe the Durkan and miss Christmas, I don’t know. We’ll see.”

 

*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*

About the Author
By
Steve Mullington

Steven is a sports and horseracing enthusiast and is a member of the Horseracing Writers and Photographers Association (HWPA) in the United Kingdom.

He is a regular visitor to Paris Longchamp for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and a lifelong fan of the Aintree Grand National, a subject he writes about 52 weeks of the year. Last year he reached the impressive milestone of attending the last 25 renewals of the Grand National.