Cheltenham Festival 2019 is only weeks away and the meeting’s showpiece, the Gold Cup, is shaping up nicely to be the most competitive in years. Last year’s winner Native Winner isn’t the bookies’ favourite to make it back-to-back wins (a feat that last occurred in 2002-4 with Best Mate), with Presenting Percy the leader at this stage. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at this year’s leading contenders for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Presenting Percy – 3/1
The Irish front-runner will be looking to make it a hattrick of wins at Cheltenham Festival, with a first in the Gold Cup the main agenda. However, should Presenting Percy not race at Fairyhouse, he’d become the first horse to ever be successful without turning out for any races this season. Owner Philip Reynolds and trainer Pat Kelly have denied there are any problems:
“Presenting Percy is absolutely fine,” said Reynolds.
Continuing: “I’m not sure how many more opportunities Pat’s going to have to have a horse go to the Gold Cup. I certainly doubt I’m going to have many more. So, we just decided to be ultra, ultra-careful, that’s all. Nothing wrong with the horse.”
Clan des Obeaux – 4/1
Trainer Paul Nicholls will be looking to make it a fifth success in the Gold Cup with this season’s most-improved chaser,Clan des Obeaux. An impressive win in the King George VI Chase at Ascot cemented his claims for a win in next month’s cup.
Native River – 5/1
Who could forget Native River’s win in last year’s Gold Cup? Him and Might Bite were head and shoulders above the rest of the field and made for an epic encounter in the closing minutes. The equine flu outbreak ensured Native River was unable to complete his pre-competition training; however, he didn’t look too bad in the two run-outs at the end of last year.
Kemboy – 9/1
The odds of Kemboycontinue to shorten and expect them to shorten further if Ruby Walsh decides to ride. The winner of his last four chases, Kemboyis in decent form and is one of Ireland’s best offerings (barring the favourite, of course). However, Willie Mullins is looking to break his Cheltenham hoodoo as runner-up on six occasions, and he’s certainly going big this year with no fewer than four horses in the race.
“There’s Al Boum Photo, Invitation Only, Kemboy and Bellshill — and I’ll probably run as many as I can. Those four can run there, anyway,” Mullins said.
‘It would be nice to win the Gold Cup and we have as good a chance this year as any. You can make cases for them all”.
Bellshill – 10/1
Bellshill won the Irish Gold Cup earlier this month, beating favourite Road to Respect and shouldn’t be underestimated. This form has shortened his odds from the 20s and put the horse ahead of his Irish Gold Cup rival, while strengthening Willie Mullins’ strong hand of racers.
Might Bite – 12/1
Last year’s runner-up, Might Bite has looked a shadow of his former self in the two runs this season, hence only featuring sixth with the bookies. Finishing last at the Chase at Haydock, he came up short in the King George VI Chase at Ascot. Trainer Nicky Henderson believes he can make a timely return to form – and maybe even go one better than 12 months ago.
‘I Can Discover Ballon d’Or Winners In Nigeria’
Ex-Nigeria international Usman Abdallah has declared that he can help the country groom future Ballon d’Or winners if he is handed the U20 job.
Abdallah, who led Enyimba to win the 2019 Nigeria Professional Football League and a Confederation Cup semi-final finish, is favourite to replace Paul Aigbogun for the Flying Eagles’ head coach role.
His outstanding CV features a Uefa A license, a degree in football coaching and team management (France) and a Strength and Conditioning level 1 coaching certificate in Australia.
According to reports, the Nigeria Football Federation will announce the Franco-Nigerian in the coming days, a claim the tactician is unsure of when quizzed by newsmen.
“Just like every other person, I applied for the job but I’m yet to get confirmation if I was picked or not.
“Nigeria is my country and it will be nice if I eventually get this role because it will be a big chance to serve. Also, I have what it takes to discover future Ballon d’Or winners for the country.
“Without sounding immodest, I strongly believe that I will excel in this position not only because of my wealth of experience but because of my closeness to grassroots football.
“As I have always said, this level deserves a lot of serious work because players picked at this level form a pivot of future Super Eagles,”he told newsmen.
After a failed expedition at the 2019 Fifa U20 World Cup in Poland, Nigeria will be hoping to qualify for Indonesia 2021 through the Africa U20 Cup of Nations scheduled for Mauritania.
Champions, Europa Leagues Finals Likely For August
The Champions League and Europa League look increasingly likely to be played exclusively in August after more talks about the remainder of the 2019-20 season on Wednesday.
Uefa told the 55 associations on Tuesday there was still the possibility of the competitions being played throughout June, July and August.
But Tidesports source understands that the latest discussions revolved almost exclusively around a plan to complete the domestic leagues by 31 July, with European competition following after that.
Nothing definitive has been agreed but Uefa is keen to leave all options on the table for as long as possible given the general uncertainty across Europe and in the knowledge there is no guarantee the season will be finished.
However, there is a view that travel restrictions are more likely to have eased in August, which would be necessary for a cross-border competition.
The scenario envisaged would be for the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the respective European competitions to be played as two-legged ties between 11 and 22 August, although these could yet become one-off games.
In the plans now being discussed, there would be some flexibility for domestic fixtures to be played in August, should a July conclusion prove impossible.
The Premier League has nine rounds of fixtures remaining but in Spain and Italy, two countries that have been badly affected, there are still 11 and 12 rounds left respectively – although both have fewer cup games to fit into their schedules.
Uefa hopes the situation will become clearer in the next fortnight but completing the season in this way would cause the least disruption to its qualification competition for the 2020-21 season, which was supposed to start at the end of June but has been delayed indefinitely.
S’Eagles’ll Miss Mikel, Ighalo -Etebo
John Obi Mikel and Odion Ighalo would remain a big miss for Nigeria, concedes Oghenekaro Etebo, with the Super Eagles still coming to terms with their retirement.
After the Super Eagles clinched third-place at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, the duo drew the curtains on their international careers.
Mikel, 32, was the first to bow out before Egypt 2019 top scorer Ighalo followed the path of the former Chelsea star.
Coach Gernot Rohr is prepared to put faith in the likes of Joe Aribo, Alex Iwobi and Victor Osimhen as replacements for the duo.
The Getafe man said it was clear that the three-time African kings would miss Mikel and Ighalo for their leadership attributes, but believes Osimhen can fill the vacuum left by the Manchester United striker.
“They are leaders who we are going to be missed in the dressing room,” he stated.
“Mikel was a leader; I recall how he helped us during the Olympics when we had issues during our preparations for the Games. Not because I played with him but for the impact he had on me as a player.
“They helped the team make vital decisions during tough times and I guess it was just time for them to move on.
“Ighalo on his part is a goal poacher that we also miss but thank God that we have another goal poacher in [Victor] Osimhen, but we have to be patient with him to settle in well into that role.”
After the coronavirus pandemic, Rohr is expected to begin life without the retired players as Nigeria would be hoping to qualify for the 2021 Afcon billed for Cameroon.
Featured4 days ago
Governor Wike Is Building The Future For Rivers State – Nsirim …To Collaborate With CoolWazobiaInfo On Development Reportage
News2 days ago
Bayelsa Govt Advises Retirees To Remain Calm, Stop Lobbying For Payment Of Gratuity
News5 days ago
Rivers State Government Suspends Community Development Committee Elections
News5 days ago
COVID-19: NCDC Confirms 5 Cases In C’River, As FG Dispatched 17-Member Team For Authentication
News4 days ago
Bayelsa State Governor Diri Tasks Army On Agge, Oluasiri Bases …Seeks Cooperation On Arrests In Communities
Featured3 days ago
COVID-19: Rivers State Governor, Wike Sues For Understanding
Featured3 days ago
We Are Committed To Deepening Democracy, Says Rivers State Governor Wike
Niger Delta4 days ago
LG Service Commission Chairman Calls For Recognition Of RDAs, Creation Of More LGAs For Bayelsa State