Betting on the Cheltenham Gold Cup is wide open this year as some of the biggest names in horse racing have already dropped out of the running.
On Friday the Gold Cup will get underway at 3:30 UK time and Unibet racing betting tipsters are already searching for the potential winner.
Gold Cup favourite Native River top the odds at 4.50, with 2016 Gold Cup hopeful Cue Card also back after falling in this race last year.
So who should you back to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup? And which other races are worth watching over the Festival this week? Let’s take a look at the biggest and best runners.
Cheltenham Gold Cup betting
Native River (4.50) has shot to the top of the betting stakes out of nowhere. The seven-year-old has won just 50% of his 18 jump races, placing in six others. He has not run properly since winning the Welsh Grand National in a field of 20 back in December — a win in February’s Denman Chase against just two other horses is not an indicator worth considering when betting here.
And trainer Colin Tizzard is rightly optimistic about Native River. But Tizzard has another contender in Cue Card that is likely to challenge his stablemate over the hard yards at Cheltenham. Cue Card — four years Native River’s senior — is the headline name for the Gold Cup this year. He came second to Thistlecrack in the King Gorge on Boxing Day and romped to victory as favourite in February’s Ascot Chase. Cue Card is 5.00 to win the Gold Cup and a great price at that.
But the Gold Cup does throw up surprises from time to time and Djakadam is also 5.00 to surge to victory. Djakadam has finished second in the last two Gold Cups. The French eight-year-old comes into Friday’s meet having won just one of his last six races. Djakadam in fact lost to Cue Card in the Bowl Chase at Aintree last April and his only win since was in a race of just five horses. Djakadam has only won once where the field has gone into double figures and may be squeezed out again on Friday.
With odds of 9.00, Outlander is a better bet than Djakadam, having won his last outing at Leopardstown in a field of 13 back in December. Outlander was tipped last month as the horse to replace Thistlecrack as the favourite for the Gold Cup and while his odds mask his understandable quality on the turf, it is clear there are doubts over his chances of success come Friday.
But if you’re seeking an outside shout from the top three then Empire of Dirt, who replaced Don Poli and moves over from the Ryanair Chase, is a great shout at 13.00. The 10-year-old won all three of his races in 2016 and was runner-up in February’s Irish Gold Cup.
Who isn’t running at Cheltenham?
There have already been some major absences for the Gold Cup this year. King George victor Thistlecrack was expected to lead the field but was withdrawn last month due to to a tendon injury. Last week Don Poli also pulled out with an injury, having been out at around 17.00 to win the race.
Across the rest of the festival, star absentees include Faugheen, Sprinter Sacre, Annie Power, Min and Getabird.
Best Cheltenham tips
Away from the Gold Cup, the odds are switching a lot for the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle. Yanworth is 3.75 favourite to win the Champion Hurdle and only a spirited run from 5.50 challenger Buveur D’air will stop him. Owner JP McManus has put plenty of faith in Yanworth over recent months and this could be the year he really makes his mark.
Wednesday’s Champion Chase sees Douvan enter at 1.25 favourite. Those odds are quite simply ridiculous and punters should stay away from them unless Douvan is in an accumulator — they are just too slim to worth bothering with. However, an E/W bet on Altior at 3.25 here. Altior has won 10 of his 12 jump races and although most have come in small fields he is a decent shout here.