First held in 1981, the inaugural running was won by Little Owl who went on to victory in that years Cheltenham Gold Cup. The following four renewals saw two more Gold Cup winners in Bregawn and The Thinker winning here. Winner of this in 1993 and 1997 the great Jodami also got his name on the Gold Cup roll of honour yet again highlighting what a top class race the Peter Marsh can be. While nothing of Gold Cup standard has emerged in recent years it continues to be a race that attracts good class fields, and is always competitive. The classier animal has been most successful in the last four renewals, all having shouldered more than 11st. This could be partly down to the revamping of the course in recent years which has undoubtedly left it a considerably less demanding test. So what of this years race?
Sue Smith, who has won this with The Last Fling ( 2000 ) and Arctic Jack ( 2004 ) and who does so well with these staying chasers, runs Vintage Star and No Planning. Vintage Star was quietly fancied at Wetherby on Boxing Day but having made a mistake at the 2nd fence never got competitive. However it’s worth noting that he is owned by Trevor Hemmings, who loves to win at Haydock, is 4lbs lower than Wetherby, and will be well suited by Saturday’s much slower ground,so definitley worth a second look. Sue Smiths other runner No Planning also ran at Wetherby on Boxing Day, winning over hurdles,denying the four times seeking Spanish Fleet by a nk. However that was off a mark of 130 and Saturday’s test off a mark 17lbs higher looks more problematical.
Oliver Sherwood’s Global Power who was a late withdrawal from last Saturday’s Classic Chase at Warwick, ( this columns e.w. Selection ) due to a bruised foot, is of interest. Sherwood was particularly upset to have missed the Warwick race as he had the beating of the 2nd home there, Theatrical Star, on previous Fontwell form. Global Power thrives on ground that is virtually unraceable so Saturday’s likely conditions should be right up his street and perhaps compensation awaits.
Nigel Twiston-Davis’s lightly raced 10yo Benbens didn’t quite get home in the Welsh National where he finished 5th. He had been well in contention until the third last, and a return to the 5f shorter trip on Saturday should be in his favour. The one concern would be very heavy conditions, as he has never performed on anything worse than soft.
There are no such concerns about Lucinda Russell’s Green Flag who thrives in such conditions. Having won his first three chases, he was stepped up in class at Kempton in Dec 2013 and ran a very promising race, finishing 2nd to the very useful Annacotty. He made a very satisfactory reappearance finishing 4th to the subsequent Hennessy winner Many Clouds at Carlisle. He then disappointed in the Becher Chase at Aintree, but is easily forgiven that lapse. Having won on heavy ground at Hexham, Newcastle, and Ayr, Saturday’s conditions will hold no fears and off a mark of 140, with a nice racing weight of 10st10lbs he does look well handicapped. He is one of Saturday’s classier runners, and it isn’t difficult to see him being involved at the business end.
Another who looks to be on a good mark is Venetia Williams’s mud lover Bennys Mist. Out of his seven starts on heavy ground he has won six, so his excellent 3rd behind Poole Master and Cedre Bleu on gd/sft ground over the National fences, last time out, off a mark of 138 was highly commendable. Given a mark of 139 for Saturday seems generous, and with Venetia’s talent for getting the best from her team in testing conditions, he is another for the short list.
Trained by the leading course trainer, Donald Mc Cain, Corrin Wood deserves a mention. After only six starts over the larger obstacles, and having won 3 of them, he is already rated 16lbs above his hurdle mark. On his second outing this season he ran well enough at Wetherby on Boxing Day, where, despite stumbling after jumping the 5th last, he finished 3rd off a mark of 147. He is one of the few in the race to have been competing at cl1 level, looks well treated off a mark of 146, and will handle the conditions, so this progressive animal must be considered.
Selection: Corrin Wood.
E.W: Green Flag.