The Cheltenham Gold Cup (Friday 15th March) is one of the highlights of the British racing season, perhaps even now surpassing the Grand National as the jumps event jockeys and trainers want above all else.

More so than most years, the 2019 running seems to be have a very open field. While bookmakers have settled on a favourite, Presenting Percy, the horse is not without its critics. With that in mind, here is a breakdown of everything you need to know:

The Favourite

As mentioned, Presenting Percy is the 3/1 favourite with several bookies, including Bet365. However, he has almost been put in by default, after running only one race this season – a hurdles event. He won, of course, but the Gold Cup will be another matter altogether.

The Reigning Champion

Native River is the second favourite at 11/2 (Betfair). Last year’s winner has been just about okay this season, notably finishing 3rd in the King George VI Chase. Does he have more to offer than that? Yes, but punters will be reluctant to take any lower than that 11/2. After all, retaining the Gold Cup is very, very difficult.

The Critics’ Choice

The money seems to be following Presenting Percy and a few others, but there is a lot of talk that Clan Des Obeaux is far too long at odds of 10/1 (Betfair/William Hill). His career was so-so up until the King George VI Chase at Christmas, in which he blitzed the opposition, including several runners he will be up against here. Was it a fluke? Several pundits reckon it was a case of Clan Des Obeaux finally showing his true worth. In the end, it’s quite strange for a King George winner to be so far down the pecking order in the betting markets.

The Best Bookies for the Gold Cup

Odds do vary from bookmaker to bookmaker, so it’s worth shopping around. For example, Thistlecrack is priced at 16/1 with Betfair and just 8/1 with Bet365. If you want to get the full picture, check out the best 2019 Cheltenham betting hub from Free Bets com, who will also point you in the direction of the top promos from bookies.

Willie Mullins’ Hopes

The Cheltenham maestro, Willie Mullins, has one glaring omission from his CV – the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It really is a strange one, on a par with Johan Cruyff not winning the World Cup or Dan Marino never winning a Super Bowl. Anyway, as ever, he has a few contenders, including Kemboy who is as low as 6/1 with some bookies. However, there is a lot to like about Bellshill, available at 25/1 with Unibet. Certainly, he has an each-way chance.

Outside Chances

You can always get a bit of value in the Gold Cup, because there are some horses who are just built for the long slog of the 3 miles 2½ furlongs distance. Elegant Escape is one of those who seems to get better as the race goes on. If he is within striking distance towards the end of the race, we really could see an upset. Definitly Red is another bruiser who can handle the trip. The word is that connections have been very smart by keeping him fresh for the race. Another decent each-way shot at 33/1 (William Hill).

Prediction

Clan Des Obeaux will make many of us look foolish by becoming a dual Gold Cup and King George winner, with some savvy punters cashing in on his over-generous odds.