Timeform bring you their comprehensive runner-by-runner guide to Friday's Cheltenham Gold Cup on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival, and pick out their 1-2-3...
"Supremely tough and genuine bold-jumping front runner who should bounce back to his best now defending his crown..."
Timeform on Native River
1. Al Boum Photo (Willie Mullins/Paul Townend)
Won Ryanair Gold Cup Novices' Chase at Fairyhouse (by length from Shattered Love) in 2017/18, and looked in control when rider took wrong course late on in Champion Novices' Chase won by The Storyteller at Punchestown final start that season. As good as ever when winning listed event at Tramore (by six lengths from Total Recall) last time and may do better still over fences. Should stay.
2. Anibale Fly (Tony Martin/Barry Geraghty)
Won Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown (handicap, by seven lengths from Ucello Conti) last season before good effort when eight and a half lengths third to Native River in this race. Not quite at best when fourth to Tiger Roll in Grand National following month. Below par on reappearance, but back on track when second to Monalee in 2½m Red Mills Chase at Gowran last time. Coming to the boil nicely and place claims once more now back up in trip.
3. Bellshill (Willie Mullins/Ruby Walsh)
2017 RSA Chase third who won Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse and Punchestown Gold Cup (by three quarters of a length from dual Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam) in 2017/18. Easy to back and shaped as if better for the run when nine lengths fourth to Kemboy in Savills Chase, and duly stepped up when winning four-runner Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown (by short head from Road To Respect, jumping superbly and responding well when coming under maximum pressure) last time.
4. Bristol de Mai (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Daryl Jacob)
Won Betfair Chase at Haydock (for second successive year, by four lengths from Native River) in November. Unable to dominate when falling at the ninth in King George VI Chase won by Clan des Obeaux at Kempton last time. Has won on good ground, but in his element on heavy (sketchy jumping often improves) and may struggle to better his seventh in the 2017 renewal of this race.
5. Clan des Obeaux (Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden)
Four very smart efforts last term (second season over fences) but has taken form to a new level on last two starts, improving upon eight and three quarter lengths fourth to Bristol de Mai in Betfair Chase when winning King George VI Chase at Kempton (by one and a half lengths from Thistlecrack) in December. Straightforward task--but followed up in style--when beating proven Grade 1 winner Terrefort by 11 lengths in Denman Chase at Ascot last time, jumping very well and quickening clear from last. Stays 3¼m and adaptable in regards to ground conditions, so rates a leading contender.
6. Definitly Red (Brian Ellison/Danny Cook)
Won Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November and Many Clouds Chase at Aintree (by four and a half lengths from Double Shuffle) in December. Suffered upset when two lengths behind Captain Redbeard in minor event at Kelso last time, unsuited by emphasis on speed. Generally reliable but merely plugged on when sixth in this race last year, and will do well to better that here.
7. Double Shuffle (Tom George/Jonathan Burke)
Very smart handicap chaser who produced career-best effort when length second to Might Bite in King George VI Chase at Kempton in 2017/18. Good length second to Walt in Grade 3 Chase (Handicap) at Kempton last time best effort this season, but much better on flat, right-handed tracks and hard to fancy here.
8. Elegant Escape (Colin Tizzard/Tom O'Brien)
Last year's RSA Chase third who won listed event at Sandown in November and Welsh Grand National at Chepstow (carried big weight, by one and a quarter lengths from Ramses de Teillee) in December. Good three quarter-length second to Frodon in Cotswold Chase here last time, unsuited by way race developed. Thorough stayer who has a similar profile to stablemate Native River the year he won. Usually races prominently/responds generously to pressure. Lively outsider.
9. Invitation Only (Willie Mullins/Mr Patrick Mullins)
Shaped as if better for the run when third at Tramore on reappearance and took big step forward when winning 18-runner Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran (from mark of 152, by one and a quarter lengths from Alpha des Obeaux). JLT run last term can be ignored (yet to be asked for effort when all but came down four out and pulled up) and no surprise to see a bold effort from this strong traveller.
10. Kemboy (Willie Mullins/David Mullins)
Progressive seven-year-old who won Clonmel Oil Chase (by three lengths from Alpha des Obeaux) in November and then completed four-timer in 11-runner Savills Chase (by seven and a half lengths from Monalee, storming clear). That form rock solid and was going away again at the finish, so should stay this longer trip. Remains open to further improvement over fences and very much respected as a result. Acts on any ground.
11. Might Bite (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville)
2017 RSA Chase winner whose victories last term included King George VI Chase at Kempton and Bowl Chase at Aintree (by seven lengths from Bristol de Mai), when also second to Native River in this race (travelled well before being outstayed in testing conditions). Very disappointing both starts this season, folding tamely (bled) in King George last time. Usually strong traveller and superb jumper, though, so no forlorn hope if treatment for stomach ulcers has given him a new lease of life.
12. Native River (Colin Tizzard/Richard Johnson)
Third in this race in 2017 before winning both starts in abridged 2017/18 campaign, namely Denman Chase at Newbury (by 12 lengths from Cloudy Dream) and this race (by four and a half lengths from Might Bite, finding plenty). Not quite at best when placed in Betfair Chase at Haydock and King George VI Chase at Kempton this season, though efforts easily excused as not faced with stern enough examination of stamina on either occasion. Supremely tough and genuine bold-jumping front runner who should bounce back to his best now defending his crown.
13. Presenting Percy (Patrick Kelly/Davy Russell)
Won the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran last year en-route to emphatic win in RSA Chase at this meeting (by seven lengths from Monalee), and landed same hurdles race (by one and a quarter lengths from Bapaume) on reappearance this season. Unconventional campaign (that his sole start this season) makes him something of a puzzle, but has been primed to perfection to win at each of the last two festivals (won Pertemps Final in 2017). Stays and jumps well, and proven on all types of ground, so afforded utmost respect despite being yet to tackle the best of this division.
14. Thistlecrack (Colin Tizzard/Tom Scudamore)
Leading staying hurdler in 2015/16 and has developed into top-class chaser (despite injury problems), winning King George VI Chase at Kempton (as a novice, by three and a quarter lengths from Cue Card) in 2016/17. Lightly raced since, but made solid reappearance when third in Betfair Chase won by Bristol de Mai, before good one and a half lengths second to Clan des Obeaux in latest renewal of King George. No surprise to see him run well once more, but likely vulnerable for win purposes.
15. Yala Enki (Venetia Williams/Charlie Deustch)
Very smart handicap chaser who won at Bangor (by nose from Sir Mangan) in November. Good effort when five and a quarter lengths third to Elegant Escape in Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in December, but produced rare poor effort when well-beaten fifth to Robinsfirth in Grand National Trial at Haydock last time. Out of his depth here.
16. Shattered Love (Gordon Elliott/Jack Kennedy)
Wins last term included Neville Hotels Novices' Chase at Leopardstown and JLT Novices' Chase here (by seven lengths from Terrefort). Not far off best wen second on first two starts this season (one and a half lengths second to Min on latter occasion), but produced rare poor effort when well held behind Kemboy in Savills Chase last time, possibly amiss. Needs to bounce back here, but receives handy weight allowance from male rivals and place claims on pick of form with longer trip expected to suit.
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Timeform's Cheltenham Gold Cup Analyst Verdict
NATIVE RIVER can become the first back-to-back winner since the legendary Best Mate. He showed great toughness when getting the better of Might Bite 12 months ago and looks ready to peak once more having not been seen in the best light in his 2 runs since. Presenting Percy, seeking his third straight Festival victory, looks the biggest danger ahead of the progressive Kemboy.
Timeform's Cheltenham Gold Cup 1-2-3
1. Native River
2. Presenting Percy