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.
Omeruo Needs To Do More In Super Eagles – Amokachi
Ex-Nigeria international, Dan Amokachi, has tasked Leganes of Spain defender, Kenneth Omeruo, to take up bigger responsibilities in the Super Eagles.
Omeruo, 26, earned his debut international cap in 2013 and quickly became a regular, with then captain, Joseph Yobo nearing his retirement.
He was considered the heir apparent to Yobo and, at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013, Omeruo showed just how good he was.
According to Amokachi, so far, he has made over 50 caps for the Eagles and continues to show he can become even better and indispensable.
At the 2019 AFCON in Egypt he was one of the tournament’s best players, according to ratings by whoscored.com with a 8.09 score, the highest by any defender.
In addition to his on-field abilities, the former Chelsea player has also been praised for his leadership quality in the locker room.
Amokachi, who was an assistant Coach in 2013, and later the interim head coach of the Eagles, described Omeruo as “tough” and a player whom others can look up to for inspiration.
No Structure On Grassroots Football In Nigeria – Ezeji
Nigeria Professional Football League ( NPFL) legend, Victor Ezeji has said that Nigeria did not have any structure on ground in terms of grassroot football development in the country.
He explained that, if there is any structure, the country would have gotten abundant talents, and there would be no need looking for players anytime there is competition.
Ezeji made the assertion , yesterday, in an exclusive interview with Tidesports in Port Harcourt , saying that catching then young is the best policy to adopt.
“ If we catch them young at the tender age and groom them, we will not have this problem of running around looking for players” Ezeji said.
He commended the Rivers State government for bringing back school Sports, saying that, it will be an avenue to discover talents.
According to him, if you engage the youth at their tender age it will take them off crime.
“We want everyone to support grassroot sporting activities because it is a way of encouraging the kids. It will take them off the streets” he stated.
Ikpoba-Oka LG Emerges Winners Of Edo Sports Festival
Ikpoba-Oka Local Government Area (LGA) of Edo at the weekend in Benin emerged winners of the just-concluded Edo State Sports Festival with 100 gold medals.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the competition, which was its third edition, Edo’s Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, thanked all the 18 LGAs which participated in the competition.
“This festival was also used to select athletes that will represent the state at the 20th National Sports Festival tagged `Edo 2020’.
“There were lots of surprises during this competition, and that is what we expected. We are going to see new athletes at the National Sports Festival.
“For us, this is the beginning of the return of sports to the native land which is Edo, and just as Governor Godwin Obaseki said at the opening ceremony, this event has become an annual event.
“The era where Nigeria uses calculator to calculate qualifications are over. Edo and Delta State are back and Nigeria now will be winning at world games as it used to be,’’ he said.
The deputy governor assured that the state government would keep in touch with all the participants in the competition.
Tidesports source reports that Owan West LGA clinched 74 gold medals while Egor LGA won 64 gold medals.
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