Native River leads the betting to defend its title, but faces still competition from Presenting Percy and Clan Des Obeaux.
Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux has had the best preparation out of the field and the trainer admitted he was surprised by the high odds it has been given.
Elsewhere, Triumph Hurdle favourite Sir Eric will try to prove that an injury scare last week was just that and begin the day with a win. Bookmakers revealed that Thursday was one of their worst ever days at Cheltenham after four well-fancied horses delivered for punters.
Selections: 1.30 Sir Eric, 2.10 Western Rider, 2.50 Rhinestone, 3.30 Clan Des Obeaux, 4.10 Hazel Hill, 4.50 Not Another Muddle, 5.30 Dallas Des Pictons.
1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle
Sir Eric is a clear favourite to win in this, but there was some slight concern over his fitness after he picked up a stone bruise last Thursday. However, the betting market did not adjust, in fact its odds shortened, which suggests there is nothing to worry about.
The Joseph O’Brien-trained horse has been impressive over hurdles this season, the stamina test will suit him and it should have enough to beat a field not filled with quality.
Quel Destin comes into the race with five consecutive wins behind it, including a Grade 1 win at Chepstow, although the quality of the races does not set it well for this. Paul Nicholls’ other contender, Pic D’Orhy, had decent juvenile form in France and is an unknown quantity on his debut for the new stable.
2.10 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle
Take your pick from the 26-strong field. Pingshou was most recently seen finishing last in the Champion Hurdle Trail at Haydock, but it was a Grade 1 winner as a Novice at Aintree. May be a long-shot.
Western Rider has the stamina to suit this and will stay on, whether it can win or not will depend on if it can deliver in the way trainer Warren Greatrex hopes.
2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Rhinestone stands a decent chance after finished second to Commander Of Fleet at Leopardstown last time. He has just three runs over hurdles to his name, but he is more experienced than that would suggest. Had several good runs, including in this race last year and the soft ground will not be a problem.
Birchdale won very well at Cheltenham in January and this will be its biggest test in just its third race. Lisnagar Oscar is also one to watch following a good win at Haydock last time, where it beat Ask Ben by 10 lengths. Stoney Mountain also offers great each-way value and has been improving with every challenge it faces.
3.30 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup
Here we go, the one that matters and the selection for the 2019 Gold Cup is…Clan Des Obeaux. Paul Nicholls knows what it takes to win a Gold Cup, having won it four times before, and Clan Des Obeaux has had the best preparation of the field after winning the King George VI and following it up with a win at Ascot a month later.
Presenting Percy leads the betting after it won the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle in 2017 and the 2018 RSA in superb style. However, it has not jumped a fence in public since the Festival last year.
Definitely Red offers good each-way value.
4.10 St. James’ Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase
This race has reduced in stature over recent years and is not one that generates a huge amount of interest.
Hazel Hill is a well-fancied runner after winning 14 of its last 15 races. Stand Up And Fight looks short based on what he has done, while Ucello Conti could do a job for Gordon Elliott.
4.50 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
This two-mile handicap is a tough race and Not Another Muddle stands a good chance of doing something here. It’s relatively light on experience, but it jumps very well. It won with a lot to spare last time at Sandown, in a race that produced the runner-up in this one last year.
Mind’s eye is also well-placed to do well, two miles is a distance that suits him and Henry De Broomhead had plenty of options for this horse at Cheltenham.
5.30 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
As the professional jockeys head off to beat the traffic, or race to town early, the amateur jockeys end the Festival in this one.
Dallas Des Pictons could do well as often stays on, which can be important in these often-testing races. It did well to win last time out in less-than ideal conditions in a quick three-mile race at Leopardstown, Gordon Elliott has a great record in these races and knows what it take to win it.
All odds quoted are Betfair. The Betfair Exchange had the best odds on every winner at the Cheltenham Festival last year. Small Details. Big Results at Cheltenham with Betfair.
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