Cheltenham Gold Cup 2019

The 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup was a competitive affair on paper, with the first, second and third from the 2018 renewal, Native River, Might Bite and Annibale Fly, once again in opposition and the King George VI Chase-winner, Clan Des Obeaux, also among the fifteen runners. Favourite, though, was the eight-year-old Presenting Percy, trained by Patrick Kelly in Co. Galway.

Presenting Percy had travelled and jumped well when winning the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018 but, unusually, had been seen just once in public since. Nevertheless, he had demonstrated his well-being when winning over hurdles at Gowran Park in January and his potential was deemed sufficient for him to be sent off market leader at 100/30. However, Presenting Percy was never really travelling or jumping with any fluency and, although close enough in seventh place as the field, led by Al Boum Photo, turned for home, weakened soon afterwards; he eventually trailed in eighth, beaten 33 lengths, and was subsequently found to be lame on his right hind leg.

Might Bite and Native River disputed the lead for the first circuit, but could not dominate the opposition as they had done when fighting out the finish in 2018. Might Bite weakened quickly turning for home and was soon pulled up, while Native River, who was another who was never really travelling, dropped out of contention between the final two fences; to his credit, he rallied on the run-in to finish fourth, beaten 9¼ lengths, but never looked like picking up the leaders. Clan Des Obeaux looked briefly as if he might be involved in the finish, but from the second last his stamina ebbed away and he faded to finish fifth, beaten 11 lengths.

Ultimately, it was the aforementioned Al Boum Photo – one of four runners saddled by Willie Mullins, but the only one to complete the course – who landed the spoils. Once set for home by jockey Paul Townend turning in, the 12/1 chance stayed on strongly to beat Annibale Fly by 2½, with Bristol De Mai a further 3¾ lengths back in third. In so doing, the seven-year-old became a first Cheltenham Gold Cup winner for Mullins, who previously saddled the runner-up no fewer than six times.

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