Matt Chapman: It’s time for Native River to flow into Gold Cup history

It's the Festival finale on Friday and Matt Chapman has saved the best for last...

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THIS is it. Magners Gold Cup day 2019.

This year’s big-race renewal – over 3m 2f at 3.30pm – promises to be a cracker, with the extraordinary Presenting Percy up against rising star Clan des Obeaux and defending champion NATIVE RIVER.

Throw into the mix Haydock enigma Bristol de Mai, Welsh National hero Elegant Escape and King George runner-up Thistlecrack and you’ve got yourself a horse race.

I’m a huge Native River fan who is defending his crown after a titanic battle with Might Bite last year. He’s just super tough, talented and stays strong. Richard Johnson, the champion jockey, is made for this animal and I’m sure he’ll run massive for Colin Tizzard.

Native River is a classical example of when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

And in this Gold Cup that is what I believe you will need.

Of the outsiders it won’t surprise me if Al Boum Photo runs a big one for Willie Mullins. He was good last time at Tramore and of course was most unfortunate not to land a big pot at Punchestown when running out at the last.

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Friday’s racing kicks off with the JCB Triumph Hurdle over 2m at 1.30pm. Most simply believe SIR EREC will hack up. He’s had a little issue having trod on a stone, but on form, he is a stand out. Very useful on the Flat when he took on the likes of Ascot Gold Cup hero Stradivarius, he’s looked a natural over jumps for Joseph O’Brien.

Next up is County Hurdle over 2m at 2.10pm, and this is wide open as you expect. I think WHISKEY SOUR has strong each-way claims here for Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins. A Grade 1-winning novice, he loves to run at a strong pace and was an eye-catcher when last seen.

The big novice event comes up with the Albert Bartlett over 3m at 2.50pm. I’ll have a few quid each-way here on Jospeh O’Brien’s RHINESTONE, who looks a biggish price on the back of not being beaten far by Commander of Fleet last time. He’s got plenty of talent and experience and was a good ninth in the bumper last year suggesting the track is not an issue.

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After the Gold Cup all eyes fall on the hunter chasers in the Foxhunters over 3m 2f at 4.10pm. The one to be with here is HAZEL HILL, who is very talented for Philip Rowley and ridden by the excellent Alex Edwards. My hope was impressive at Warwick most recently and stays strong.

The penultimate race of the 2019 Festival is the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual over 2m at 4.50pm. MAGIC SAINT is all the rage for this and it’s easy to see why. He looked good at Wincanton last time, jumps soundly and stays as he has gone a bit further. There’s every chance he’s well handicapped for Paul Nicholls.

And ladies and gentlemen we close at 5.30pm with the 2m 4f Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, named after, of course, one of the legends of the game. BIG TIME DANCER really impressed in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton and the handicap mark has been kept tight since that success. He has every chance of landing a big pot for Jennie Candlish – at a big price.

So I hope you have had a fabulous Cheltenham week. It’s been great to smash up Paddy Power with some big-priced winners.

Tomorrow ITV is at Uttoxeter and then it will soon be time for Aintree and Classic trials on the Flat. Enjoy a great sport. And pray for more Yeeehaaas.

You hear me Paddy?

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What do you think?