BetVictor Gold Cup looks good for More Of That by Oddsguru – Since the original sponsors, Mackeson, gave up their thirty five year association with the race in 1995, the contest has had numerous backers, and this year’s renewal will see it run under yet another banner, with the BetVictor organisation putting up the cash. Always run at a cracking pace, the race has seen plenty of top notch handicappers in the winners enclosure, but only one, Imperial Commander in 2008, has gone on to win the Gold Cup itself. It has been a race for the younger horse, with only three animals older than nine collecting in it’s entire fifty five year history, and indeed, only three horses older than seven have won since 2000. Only two horses have won back to back contests, Half Free, trained by the great Fred Winter in 1984-1985, and Bradbury Star, trained by Josh Gifford in 1993-1994. The former carried the same weight for his repeat victory, and Bradbury Star had only 3lbs more in the plate for his, so last year’s hero, Annacotty, faces a major task off a 9lbs higher mark, if he is to join this exclusive club.
The Alan King trained 8yo only ran three more times last season, winning once, again over the course in January, and was well beaten in his last race, finishing 43L behind Vautour at the Festival. However he clearly goes well at the course, is at his best when fresh, and following a successful hobday operation, his excellent trainer is hopeful that he has made the necessary progress to defy Saturday’s new mark of 156.
Paul Nicholls has won two of the last four renewals, and is mob handed, seeking a third. Cases can be made for all four of his runners, but undoubtedly the 4yo Frodon is of particular interest as it is unprecedented for a horse of his age to participate. This ex French gelding has contested four chases, the first of them as a three year old at Auteil where he finished fourth of nine. He did win over hurdles at Auteil before joining the Ditcheat team, where, despite a win at Haydock last February, he has struggled over the smaller obstacles. However he has really come into his own since tackling fences, winning all three contested chases, last time quite impressively, a Grade2 novice chase at Wincanton seven days ago, where spring heeled at the obstacles, he came home in front in a good time. There is some uncertainty as to how he will react to the entirely different ball game of racing against twenty seasoned handicappers travelling with the choke out over Cheltenham’s tricky circuit, (he was well beaten in large fields at both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals over hurdles) but it’s worth remembering that these French breds are taught to jump from the cradle, and if Mr Nicholls thinks he’s ready for Saturday’s test we should take note.
Tom George, who is having such a good season runs Double Shuffle, and this 6yo made an eye catching reappearance thirty four days ago. Racing off a mark of 140, and ridden for the first time by new stable jockey A. Heskins, he was having his first run for nearly six months, and looked badly outpaced until three out, where, taking hold of the bit, he ran on strongly, and only just failed to catch the winner, Art Mauresque, by a fast diminishing head. He has run well on all three previous visits to Cheltenham but didn’t seem to be quite getting home. That run at Chepstow strongly suggests that a lack of stamina has not been the problem and it may be that new man Heskins has found the key to him. Well worth considering!
Jonjo O’Neill has won the race twice and has two live contenders on Saturday, More of That and Taquin Du Seuil. The former won the 2014 World Hurdle, and following an enforced holiday, launched his chasing career at this meeting last year, where he comfortably beat Saturday’s opponent, As de Mee, over course and distance. He won again over the course four weeks later, and might well have remained unbeaten over fences, (and on the course) but for breaking a blood vessel in the RSA chase where he finished third. O’Neill considers him the best he has trained, and entertains strong hopes of winning the Gold Cup itself in March with this hugely talented animal, so you would have to give the 8yo, who goes well after a break, and racing off a mark of 154 a great chance at the weekend.
His other runner, Taquin Du Seuil is no back number either as he is twice a course winner, including at Grade1 level, and is ideally suited by Saturday’s trip. He ran a perfectly satisfactory trial for this when finishing less than 3L back in 6th, behind Ballyoptic over hurdles at Chepstow thirty one days ago on his first start for six months, and it will come as no surprise to see him involved at the business end on Saturday.
Young, and upwardly mobile trainer, Johnny Farrelly, runs the previous inmate of the Nicholls academy, Stilletto, and this 7yo could get involved at a nice price. He won off a mark of 132 by 10L at Leicester in February, and was then sent off the 11/2jf for the Plate at the Festival, only to come down at the third fence. He made a satisfactory debut for his new stable five weeks later, finishing last of three over an inadequate two miles at Warwick. He looks nicely treated off a mark of 141, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st7lbs, and with one of the best pilots around, Noel Fehilly, doing the steering, could be there at the finish.
Selection: More Of That
E.W. : Double Shuffle