Without a shadow of a doubt, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is one of the most exciting races on the National Hunt calendar. The best horses in the business compete over three miles for the prestigious title on the final day of March’s Festival – and planning for next year’s event is already underway.

As of May 26th, the Colin Tizzard-trained THISTLECRACK is up there with the market leaders in ante-post betting markets. Already a Festival winner over hurdles, Thistlecrack has shone over fences and he could be the one to beat in 2018. Injury hampered his chance to romp home this year but he will be back to his brilliant best ahead of next season.

Thistlecrack had won nine races in a row before finding Many Clouds too good back in January and Tizzard will be confident of nursing his new superstar back to full health. With CUE CARD set to retire, Thistlecrack will now spearhead his Gold Cup yard as the racing community look to challenge Jessica Harrington’s dominance in the sport.

Harrington’s SIZING JOHN made the step up in trip to win the Gold Cup at the first time of asking this year – an incredible feat for any horse. Having lost on numerous occasions to Willie Mullins’ two-mile star Douvan, Sizing John was aimed at the Cheltenham showpiece and romped home ahead of MINELLA ROCCO.

Horse racing fans have always recognised Sizing John’s talent and plenty of tipsters were confident that he could handle the step up in trip ahead of the festival. Sizing John went off at 7/1 according to odds from tipping site The Winners Enclosure for the Gold Cup this year and he is 6/1 to complete a famous double in 2018.

Source: Cheltenham Racecourse via Facebook

If punters get their own way, this could be a straight up battle between three of the best Grade One horses in the business. DJAKADAM has tried his best but another Willie Mullins mount YORKHILL may be about to take over the mantle. The 2017 JLT Novice Chase winner was phenomenal at Cheltenham this season and could be involved in a three-way contest with Thistlecrack and Sizing John.

It is almost impossible to back against a defending champion but Thistlecrack is on another level when fully fit. Tizzard knows that he has a real diamond on his hands and the 2016 World Hurdle winner may be the one to beat. Even with 10 months to wait, the Cheltenham Festival is still attracting plenty of attention within the racing community.