With the 2019 Cheltenham Festival edging closer, it is time to look at the feature race of the famous meeting: the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Native River emerged victorious under a fine ride from Richard Johnson in 2018 and horse racing fans will be hoping for another thrilling finish this year.

At this moment in time, there are no horses entered from stables based in the North East, but we could see late declarations in the coming weeks. Without further ado, let’s look at some of the standout contenders ahead of the National Hunt showpiece:

NATIVE RIVER

The 2018 champion is a fan favourite and his experience at Prestbury Park is invaluable. On paper, the Colin Tizzard runner ticks all the right boxes to claim back-to-back Gold Cup wins but history is against him. Only one horse (Best Mate) has managed to win this race in successive years since 1971.

Native River struggled in November’s Betfair Chase at Haydock Park before finishing over 13 lengths behind Clan Des Obeaux in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. Tizzard reckons that he should be back to his best in March and 6/1 could turn out to be a huge price if he emulates last year’s effort.

Odds: 6/1

CLAN DES OBEAUX

Still just seven years old, Clan Des Obeaux has a progressive profile and his form this season suggests that he has what it takes to win the Gold Cup. His form at Prestbury Park is fairly solid: 2622 shows that he lasts up the hill – some horses struggle to navigate the tricky Cheltenham circuit.

Clan Des Obeaux is improving and that makes him a real danger to his rivals ahead of the 2019 Festival. Paul Nicholls could be set to claim his fifth Gold Cup triumph and his first since the great Kauto Star romped home in 2009. Write Clan Des Obeaux off at your peril; he should be right in the mix.

Odds: 5/1

THISTLECRACK

Now 11 years old, this is probably Thistlecrack’s last chance to prove himself over fences. Jumping has been an issue for the Tizzard runner since connections switched him to fences and punters may wish to look elsewhere with that in mind. If everything goes to plan though, he could feature prominently.

Thistlecrack was less than two lengths behind Clan Des Obeaux at Kempton Park on Boxing Day and you have to consider him a genuine contender for the Gold Cup. You’d struggle to find a horse with a greater engine than Thistlecrack and he could be there or thereabouts if he shores up his jumping.

Odds: 16/1

PRESENTING PERCY

Presenting Percy has been the ante post Gold Cup favourite since the 2018 meeting and he will continue to crop up in Cheltenham Day 4 tips from Betting.Betfair ahead of this year’s Festival. An easy winner at Gowran Park on his seasonal reappearance, punters believe that he is arguably the best equipped to emerge victorious in the Festival showpiece.

Will he even go for the Gold Cup? Davy Russell made a tongue-in-cheek comment about going for the Stayers’ Hurdle and that now looks a real possibility after no prep run over the larger obstacles. 7/2 is a short price considering the uncertainty over his Festival status and punters may wish to refrain for now.

Odds: 7/2