When discussing the Cheltenham Festival, the Gold Cup is usually the first sub-topic that springs to mind. National Hunt racing's showpiece event has been won by many of the sport's most famous figures and this years' renewal promises to be just as exciting, just as unpredictable and just as spectacular as the history of this iconic contest suggests.

Guiding this years' crop of Gold Cup hopefuls towards Cheltenham is Nicky Henderson's Might Bite. Strangely, it was in a losing effort where Might Bite announced his intentions in the staying chasing division. The likeable nine-year-old was miles ahead of his competition in the 2016 Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton's Christmas Festival, before a crashing fall at the final obstacle saw Henderson leave Kempton with his head in his hands.

Fast forward a year and Might Bite returned to Kempton as the warm favourite for the King George VI Chase. In the intervening months, Henderson watched his charge claim victory in a dramatic renewal of the RSA Novices' Chase at Kempton, cruise to a second-straight Grade One in the Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree and comfortably see off some decent chasers on his reappearance at Sandown.

Might Bite took his customary position at the head of the field and one-by-one, challengers fell by the wayside. As the leader jumped the last, it was down to long-odds shots Double Shuffle and Tea For Two to try and track Might Bite down, but neither could get within touching distance as Nico De Boinville drove his mount towards Kempton redemption.

Nicky Henderson's charge is likely to carry the tag of favouritism into the Cheltenham Festival for the second straight season, after handsomely rewarding his backers in the RSA. A swarm of challengers are stacked up behind him, all hoping to take a crack at the champion elect, but will any of them be good enough to stop Might Bite?

Runaway Betfair Chase winner, Bristol De Mai has failed to shake off titles like "mud-lark" and "flat track bully" and the way he submitted to Might Bite at Kempton was rather tame. Native River has been supported in recent weeks, despite not appearing on a racetrack since finishing third in the 2017 Gold Cup. Colin Tizzard is likely to give his star his first outing of the season in the Denman Chase next month, but whether he will be at the peak of his powers come the Gold Cup is yet to be seen.

Last year's Cheltenham hero, Sizing John looked imperious on his return to action in the John Durkan, but connections were left mystified by his lacklustre showing in Leopardstown's Christmas Chase. Jessica Harrington has decided to give Sizing John a well-earned rest before returning to Cheltenham, but that flop at Leopardstown has cast a shadow of doubt over the returning king.

Road To Respect was on hand to take advantage and claim a surprise Grade One victory at Leopardstown, but the performances of the favourites in that race were so poor, his Cheltenham credentials were hardly boosted. Coney Island rose to third in the current Gold Cup standings after scoring in a low-key Graduation Chase at Ascot - a fact which wouldn't have gone unnoticed by a confident Nicky Henderson.

There's evidence to suggest Might Bite wasn't at his best at Kempton. His jumping was understandably safe - considering the heavy fall he suffered 12 months previous - and he didn't display the same finishing pace he had utilised last season. Yet, he was still strong enough to sweep his rivals aside and conditions will be more favourable come the spring. Might Bite already has one hand on the Cheltenham Gold Cup according to tipsters and it will take a phenomenal performance to thwart him.