First run in 1960 as the Mackeson Gold Cup, it acquired its present sponsor in 2003 and has always been an extremley competitive affair. Historically weight hadn’t been hugely significant, but in recent renewals the lighter weights have been having the best of the argument.
Al Ferof (11st8lbs 2012) has been the only horse to shoulder more than eleven stone in the past eight years. The star of the older more exposed animal has been in decline with eleven of the last twelve winners being relatively lightly raced second season chasers. This is a really severe test and it is usually won by a progressive animal capable of defying a mark at least 10lbs higher, (the 2013 winner, Johns Spirit who won off a mark of 139, is being asked to defy an eighteen pound rise on Saturday). Read the Oddsguru’s 2014 Paddy Power Gold Cup preview.
Course form is highly significant, with fifteen of the last twenty winners boasting a success over Prestbury Park’s unique undulations. Usually run at a frenetic pace, stamina for the trip is essential, although interestingly it tends to be the type who has the pace to be competitive at two miles but stays 21f, rather than the three miler coming back in distance who have the better strike rate.
The market has proved a useful guide in recent renewals, with seven of the last ten winners starting at 8/1 or less. Having won three times Nigel Twiston-Davies is the most successful trainer represented on Saturday, followed by Paul Nicholls with two victories. David Pipe, whose father, Martin, won the race seven times, hit the back of the net himself in 2011 with Great Endeavour, and tries for a repeat with the current favourite Kings Palace at the weekend.
By Kings Theatre out of the Witness Box mare, Sarah’s Quay, he is certainly bred for the job, and his racing c.v. Is also pretty impressive. He has won three of his four starts over fences including an impressive victory as a novice over three miles and a half furlong at this meeting last year. Four weeks later he was again impressive over the course when beating that good yardstick Sausalito Sunrise (3m 1 and 1/2 furlongs) by seven lengths. Making all he jumped superbly and was pushed clear on the run in easing down near the finish. He then made all in a two runner affair at Newbury, again winning easily, despite some decidedly dodgy jumping. He was a big disappointment at the Festival where denied a soft lead his jumping went to pieces and he finished a well beaten sixth. There must be some doubts about his ability to handle the drop back in trip in Saturday’s large field, but he did have the pace to win a bumper as a 4yo and I’m certain any jumping deficiencies will have been ironed out at the Pond House Academy. He looks a horse with a big future and is well treated off a mark of 154.
Rebecca Curtis’s Irish Cavalier won over the course and distance at the festival off a mark of 137, and was kept busy, running twice in the space of three days at the Punchestown equivalent, where he ran well on both occasions. He reappeared in a conditions event at Newton Abbot four weeks ago and won comfortably. He is a very progressive animal and his chance has to be taken seriously, but his mark,19lbs higher than for his Festival win is a big ask.
Nick Gifford whose dad Josh won the race twice in the ninetys with Bradbury Star, runs the 7yo Generous Ransom. He has won two of his seven starts over fences, including over the course last January, and ran another fine race at the Festival, finishing third , 3L behind Irish Cavalier, whom he now meets on 15lbs better terms. Following a six month break he reappeared in a 2m5f hurdle at Cheltenham three weeks ago, and clearly needing the run he finished tailed off. Likely to come on a ton for the pipe opener, and with his nice racing weight of 10st7lbs he has plenty going for him and is shortlisted.
Fences have been the making of Malcolm Jefferson’s 7yo Oscar Rock. He has won two of his last three chases, and was probably unlucky in the other, being brought down when looking the likely winner. He really impressed on his reappearance at Market Rasen six weeks ago easily winning off a mark of 147 and a rise of 8lbs seems more than fair. His very able trainer knows what is required to win at Prestbury Park, and it will be no surprise to see his 7yo involved at the business end.
Alan King is quite bullish about his 7yo Annacotty and this course winner is worth a second look. Previously in the hands of Martin Keighley, he is only 3lbs higher then last January, when taking a graded contest over the course. The move to the King Academy may well have elicited further improvement, so is worth considering.
Selection: Oscar Rock
E.W. : Generous Ransom