The top national hunt trainers across the UK and Ireland have declared 38 horses for the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 16th March. If you are not familiar with the system, this is a potential list of runners only, with the field for the race averaging around a dozen over the last ten years.

Still, with most bookmakers offering non-runner/no bet markets (your stake is returned if your horse does not compete in the race), there is some value to be found in this inflated field.

Before looking at some of the contenders, it should be pointed out that there are two notable absences from the list – Yorkhill and Thistlecrack. While both have been out of form recently, they would have figured prominently in the betting.

Below is a guide to some of the entries creating a stir with pundits and tipsters. If you agree with any of the selections, check out how you can claim a free bet from major bookies to bet on Cheltenham before you part with any cash.

The Favourites:

Might Bite (7/2, William Hill): Arguably the standout horse of the year in 2017, Might Bite remained unbeaten throughout the season and won the King George VI Chase. Has also won a big race – the RSA Chase – at Cheltenham before. A huge chance for trainer Nicky Henderson to land his second Gold Cup and a worthy favourite.

Sizing John (5/1): You have to go back to the great Best Mate (2002-204) to find a horse that has won multiple Gold Cups in succession. That is the challenge for last year’s winner Sizing John. Had a disappointing campaign over the New Year however, so punters will be a little bit wary about wagering their money at short odds.

The Wildcards:

Native River (9/1): Finished 3rd in last year’s Gold Cup, but has not lined up for a race since. Native River has no apparent injury issues, so many pundits are wondering if his prolonged absence is a good or a bad sign. The Colin Tizzard trained horse is very capable however, and those odds could look very big in hindsight.

Disko (25/1): Another whose absence in recent months has got tongues wagging. Disko was last seen when winning in Downpatrick in early November 2017. An intriguing candidate who could offer a lot of value in each way markets.

The Longshots:

Tea For Two (40/1): One of those horses with which you never really know what will happen. Unseated his rider (Lizzie Kelly) early in the Gold Cup last year, but then redeemed himself by winning the Grade 1 Betway Bowl Chase at Aintree a couple of weeks later. Has been creeping back into form when 3rd in the King George VI Chase. The price screams value.

Blaklion (25/1): Some tipsters are whispering that Blaklion has the chance of doing something really special this year, namely winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National in the same season. Only the legendary Golden Miller (1934) has achieved such a feat, so it is, of course, a tall order. The current Grand National odds are 10/1 for Blaklion, so a huge profit would be gained for anyone having a punt on the double.

By Zlata