By Jack McCumisky

The Cheltenham Gold Cup doesn’t have the same level of international recognition as, say, the Breeders’ Cup or Epsom Derby, nor does it have the sort of money behind it like the Pegasus World Cup or Everest. But ask any UK or Irish jumps jockey what they prize higher than anything else, and you’ll get the same answer – the big one at Cheltenham.
The race looks very open this year, and there has plenty of big changes in the ante-post markets over the last few months. However, there are several horses taking a lot of money, leading to short odds – short enough to make some pundits wary.

Avoid Presenting Percy at 5/2

For example, looking at the favourite, Presenting Percy. Does he really deserve odds of just 5/2 (Paddy Power)? Sure, he was impressive when winning the RSA Chase last year, but he didn’t make an appearance after that, until popping up against a fairly unremarkable field in the Galmoy Hurdle a couple of weeks ago.
In some ways, you can understand why bookies have pulled the trigger on Presenting Percy. Many of the contenders who were previously fancied, especially Might Bite who went from ante-post favourite to 20/1 (Betfair), have not looked outstanding in recent months. Indeed, there is still time for the markets to change in the next six weeks, so you can get the latest Cheltenham betting odds from if you want to get a broad perspective from top bookies, as well as the latest horse racing promos.

Reigning champion needs to improve

Last year’s winner Native River is given a price of just 9/2 (Bet365), despite looking sluggish in the Betfair Chase in November and finishing 14 lengths behind Clan Des Obeaux in the King George VI Chase at Christmas. Native River hasn’t looked bad, as such, but there has been nothing to really tempt punters into thinking he has a date with destiny in becoming a two-time winner.

In a similar vein, Thistlecrack – a marvellous horse in his pomp – has been priced at just 8/1 with Bet365. That looks okay, but you have to consider that it’s been 50 years since a horse older than 10 has won the Gold Cup. Thistlecrack is an 11-year-old, making Bet365’s odds look stingy. Other bookies, however, are a lot longer, with Betfair going 16/1 on the brutish Thistlecrack.

Clan Des Obeaux warrants more respect

Of course, if some horses’ prices are skewed towards the top end of the market, we can find some value at the other end. The aforementioned Cland Des Obeaux is available at 10/1 with William Hill and a few others, a very good price for the horse who has won the biggest event of the season in jumps racing.

A lot of pundits also like Elegant Escape, a gutsy 7-year-old with stamina by the bucketload. He looked like he had plenty left in reserve when almost catching Frodon in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham last weekend, and the longer trip at the Gold Cup might just suit him. 25/1 is offered by several bookmakers, and he does look worth a punt.

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Willie Mullins has yet to win a Gold Cup, but, as ever, he has several candidates in with a punchers’ chance. Kemboy looks like terrible value at just 6/1 with Ladbrokes. But punters will like the each-way credentials of Bellshill, a decent 25/1 shot with Unibet and Betfair. Elsewhere, the sometimes frustrating Anibale Fly has the stamina and the jumping capability to grab a place at 33/1 if found on a good day.