The 2019 Magners Gold Cup goes to post Friday the 15th of March at 3.30pm. It is run over 3 miles 2 and a half furlongs where the runners will cross 22 fences and race for £350,000 to the winner.
The blue riband event of the festival looks a really competitive renewal with an interesting make-up: improving young chasers, a favourite who we’ve seen little of and past heroes returning. Such a wide open and varied field, it may be best to preview the race by looking at the key trials for it.
Last Season’s RSA
This was run at a serious gallop and was a true test of stamina. The RSA is a great trial for a Gold Cup; Denman, Bobs Worth and Lord Windemere for example. Black Corton in 2018 went a fierce gallop. Presenting Percy jumped and travelled well, sitting back off the pace. Monalee 2nd, Elegant Escape 3rd, Black Corton 5th and Al Boum Photo fell when looking booked for 3rd all did wonders for the form since.
A Red Mills chase, a Welsh National and a Grade 1 novice winner among them. That would have been 2 Grade 1’s if not for a black swan moment at Punchestown for Townend and Al Boum Photo. Al Boum Photo looks held on RSA form but improvement is not out of the question, and Presenting Percy hasn’t seen a fence in public since.
🔥 How hot was this race? Presenting Percy, no bigger than 3-1 for this year's Gold Cup, lands last year's RSA by seven lengths from Monalee, himself an 8-1 shot for the Ryanair next month#FestivalFlashback pic.twitter.com/zWN7VOL8mz
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 11, 2019
Last Season’s Gold Cup
A big field of 15 on soft ground, heavy in places. Native River made all in a really likeable performance. Prominent racers are no harm in bigger fields round here to stay out of trouble. Two class acts in Native River and Might Bite went toe to toe and Native River’s stamina reserves and liking for soft ground won the day.
Might Bite travelled all over a winner 2 out but was out stayed, may have been different on good. This was Denman v Kauto all over again, courage v class. Total Recall fell when going to run on for possible 3rd. Anibale Fly never threatened to win but ran well in 3rd. Road to Respect had a good trip and no excuses bar the ground. English > Ireland on this evidence.
JN Wine Champion Chase
An early season affair between most Gigginstown runners. Road to Respect won well but we learned little. Noel Meade was flying at the time. Good ground set tone for the winter, Sub Lieutenant was sub par as was Balko des Flos.
Fences were stiff and the ground was good. A small field but all top class animals. Clan des Obeaux ran middling but given context later in the season, Paul Nicholl’s quote of ‘got a little bit tired in the Betfair’ makes sense. Thistlecrack jumped poorly but showed signs of his huge ability when arriving back on the bridle on a few occasions between the obstacles to make you think , Phwaor. Native River never travelled on this quicker ground, the story of this season but hung around to be an admirable 2nd.
Might Bite travelled away but faded in the straight. Nicky Henderson blaming the fences and himself, the horse may not have been straight enough. He made a mistake with Clan des Obeaux at the first and that set the tone. This race was 15 seconds quicker than a later race in the card over the same distance won by a 143 rater according to the unmissable Simon Rowlands in the Irish Field and Attheraces. Bristol de Mai won on good ground after a second wind op, silencing ‘the doubters’. But those same doubters are contented he’s a Haydock only beast. Interesting Nigel Twiston Davies noting he was a ‘very fragile’ horse after the race.
Ladbrokes Trophy Chase
Not the typical trial I suspect. Sizing Tennessee won 10 lengths from Welsh National winner Elegant Escape. Sizing Tennessee doesn’t hold any entries. It’s a pity Kemboy didn’t make the boat to see how Ireland and England compare.
King George VI Chase
Right handed on a fast flat 3 miles, this race needs to be taken with salt but has provided us with plenty of winners in the Gold Cup. On good to soft, Bristol De Mai was awkward at the first. Pace was high with Coneygree leading early. Native River was soon off the bridle. Bristol De Mai fell with a circuit to go and Waiting Patiently was brought down. Might Bite hit the 13th fence, Thistlecrack kicked on plenty early I felt, forcing the pace from 4 out and jumping really well for Tom Scudamore. Clan Des Obeaux stayed out of the heat of the race until joining in around the home turn travelling beautifully. Thistlecrack rallied gallantly but somewhat set it up for Clan des Obeaux who was brilliant on the day, jumping great when needed, if idling a bit in the finish.
— Kempton Park (@kemptonparkrace) December 26, 2018
Native River was 12 lengths back in 3rd, which was remarkable in itself for a horse who was always off the bridle, jumping left and crying out for a drop of juice in the ground. He looks so laboured this season, but a soft ground test may bring about last season’s Native River. Clan des Obeaux announced himself here, Thistlecrack reminded us that he never went away.
Leopardstown Savills Christmas Chase
3 miles on good ground on the 28th of December, this race was run at an unsatisfactory gallop. Pulling for his head, David Mullins let Kemboy on with a circuit to go to dictate in front. A race winning move. Road to Respect was held up, tight for room after 4 out, stumbled between 3 out and 2 out and ran on to finish a respectable 3rd considering. Kemboy won 7.5 lengths from Monalee, showing a great turn of foot after the last, like his run in the Clonmel Oil Chase. They were in a bunch turning in and this turned into a bit of a sprint.
Poor Disko was put down after it. Outlander finished close considering the mistakes and how he travelled. The 2nd-6th finished in a blanket. Kemboy is also in the Ryanair and showed plenty of boot this year, hmmm.
— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) December 28, 2018
Irish Gold Cup
Good ground officially, good to firm really. 4 runners in the end. A slowly run race where Bellshill showed a good attitude and turn of foot to nab Road to Respect on the line. Road to Respect didn’t shirk in the finish but jumped poorly. The Storyteller and Outlander well held further back. This race does not tell us a whole pile. Bellshill been beaten by Might Bite in an RSA 10l where it could have been 30l sticks in the mind. But Willie Mullins has never altered from his high opinion of him.
This is not a race that will cut up too much. Maybe one of Willie Mullins runners will head to the Ryanair, but that’s unlikely as Un De Sceaux and either Min or Footpad will head there it seems.
Native River has looked laboured this year and would want soft ground for me to reconsider.
Might Bite bled after the King George and has had a wind op since then according to Seven Barrows #ad. He is a monster at his best. A 10 length beating of Clan des Obeaux in the Aintree Bowl last year and his magnificent, if quirky, RSA win stick in the memory. Henderson reports him to be working well and it’s hard to sniff at the big prices.
Al Boum Photo looks held on RSA form by Presenting Percy, but he should have won two Grade one novices since and returned in tremendous style at Tramore on New Year’s Day. He gave weight away and a beating to decent rivals including Total Recall. The fact that it was Tramore may mean it was underrated. He may be a rapid improver.
Thistlecrack may have gone too soon in a fantastic display in the King George at Christmas. He jumped terribly in the Betfair but reminded us of his brilliance on the flat. Colin Tizzard’s fragile superstar is too old at eleven to be winning Gold Cups the trends will say, but he has had only 8 chase runs.
The selection at the prices is Bristol De Mai. He’s only 8. Pigeon-holed as a Haydock horse, he has a bit to prove elsewhere. But he won on quick ground in the Betfair. Nigel Twiston Davies’ horse ran a good race in the 2017 Gold Cup at Cheltenham, bang there 2 out before making a crucial mistake. That was behind Sizing John, as a six year old.
It's back-to-back wins in the Betfair Chase for Bristol De Mai as he fends off his four rivals in the Grade One contest. 👏
— Haydock Park Races (@haydockraces) November 24, 2018
Beating Native River, Clan des Obeaux, Might Bite and Thistlecrack in his only run this season when he stood up is not the form of a rag in the betting. The King George fall early on can be forgiven. He has been talked about for the Grand National as well but in a year that looks ferociously deep and competitive, Bristol De Mai seems to be dismissed in the market. Non runner no bet covers you ante-post. if he goes straight to the National. Why not win both?
Bristol De Mai 33/1