The Cheltenham Gold Cup for 2019 has received 43 official entries. That includes a record 24 Irish-trained horses, the highest total number for 12 years. Gordon Elliott trains seven of those Irish entries with Willie Mullins adding another nine to the proceedings.

Instantly, Presenting Percy was installed as the ante-post race favourite with Betfair. The eight-year-old, trained by Patrick Kelly is currently as short as 9/2. Winner of last year’s RSA Chase at the festival, he hasn’t made his seasonal return yet. That looks likely to happen on February 3rd 2019 for the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown. A solid run and win in that and undoubtedly his odds will drop even further.

In the betting, and on odds of 5/1, is Native River. It’s almost impossible to rule this horse out of contention. Trained by Colin Tizzard, he is one of the highest rated horses entered this year on 173. He hasn’t won yet this season, instead he finished in second and third place at Haydock and Kempton. However, from 15 chase starts he has won and/or placed in all 15. So while the odds may not be great for an each-way bet, his chances of finishing in the top three are excellent.

More importantly, Cheltenham is where he excels. From his total career earnings of just over £913K, more than £450K has come from races at Cheltenham. That’s largely in part due to his Gold Cup win in 2018. So he is the reigning champion but last time out, in the King George, he placed third to Clan Des Obeaux.

Clan Des Obeaux is also entered into the Gold Cup. Trained by Paul Nicholls, this seven-year-old is on great form. However, the King George was his first win in over a year which is reflected in his odds of 10/1. Co-owned by Ged Mason, Paul Barber and Sir Alex Ferguson, following his triumphant King George win Mason said: “Cheltenham is a totally different type of track and he’ll have to cope with a likely fierce gallop, but Clan Des Obeaux is a class horse and only just turned seven so he’s improving all the time.”

If you’re looking to whittle down the potential runners to find a winner you’ll have to wait a little bit longer. Despite 43 entries, only about 15 will actually run on March 15th 2019. That said, the odds don’t lie. Only one Gold Cup winner has gone off on odds of more than 8/1 since 2002. That was Lord Windermere in 2014 at 20/1. In the same time period, eight favourites have won. That means 47% of the winners have gone off as favourites.

Each-way bets tend to favour the horses who go off on higher odds. The likes of Anibale Fly (33/1 in 2018), Minella Rocco (18/1 in 2017), On His Own (16/1 in 2014) and The Giant Bolster (50/1 in 2012) have all placed. For the full list of Gold Cup entries and their odds click here.

As the season progresses it will be interesting to see who really stands out as a serious contender for the race.