Last week’s selection, Present Man, never put a foot wrong under an inspired ride from young Bryony Frost. In a sustained battle up the straight, the runner up, Final Nudge, looked the most likely winner, but under sustained pressure from the daughter of Jimmy Frost, who himself won the 1996 renewal on Coome Hill, the Nicholls 7yo kept finding and held on to give the Ditcheat yard their eighth success in the race, and indeed Oddsguru’s third consecutive winner. There promises to be plenty more to come from the brave Present Man, and with his excellent jumping a huge asset, is one to bear in mind for Aintree next April.
Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup at headquarters, has a very open look to it, but is a contest with some pretty strong trends, which might make finding the winner a little easier. Weight in recent renewals has been very significant. Historically, plenty of winners defied burdens in excess of 11-7 but in the last decade only last year’s winner Tarquin Du Seuil and the 2012 winner Al Ferof have carried more than 11st to victory. Age has also been a big factor, with animals aged seven or younger, winning eight of the last ten renewals. A proven ability to handle the idiosyncratic track has been a great pointer in the past so good previous form over Prestbury Park’s undulations should be noted.
One that fits the trends very neatly is the Paul Nicholls trained 5yo Romain De Senam. He was only beaten a head by Diego Du Charmil in the 2016 renewal of the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, demonstrating his aptitude for the course, and his ability to handle the demands of a big handicap. A winner of three Hurdle races he achieved a rating of 139 in that discipline. He has taken a little time to get his act together over fences but a step up in trip to around 2 1/2 miles has brought about definite improvement, and he has won his last two races, most recently, four weeks ago, at Stratford (2m 5f) off a mark of 139. This young French bred is progressing nicely, and could be the second five year old to win for the master of Ditcheat. ( Nicholls has won the race twice before with Al Ferof in 2012 and with the 5yo Caid Du Berlais in 2014).
The name Martin Pipe, is on this particular role of honour an amazing eight times, but to date, son David has only got up there on the one occasion, (Great Endeavour 2011). However they clearly know what is required down Nicholashayne way, and they field a live looking contender this year, the 6yo Starchitect. By Sea The Stars out of a Saddlers Wells mare, he is bred to win a Derby, but alas, all he could achieve on the Flat was a second in a Curragh Maiden. However he did much better over hurdles, winning three of his ten races, and achieving an eye catching rating of 150. He has won two of his seven starts over fences, last time, comfortably taking a Stratford Handicap, (2m3 1/2f Gd) off a mark of 140, sixteen days ago. He has never won at Prestbury Park but has run respectably on all his four appearances there. He races on Saturday on a mark 6lbs lower than his hurdles mark, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-11 and is well worth considering.
Having only won this once ( Tranquil Sea 2009) in the past thirty five years, it hasn’t been a great race for the Irish, but they do have a strong looking contender this term with Alan Fleming’s 7yo Tully East. Fourth of twenty two in a two mile handicap Hurdle at the 2016 Festival, he put up a superb performance in his only other course appearance when winning The Novices Handicap Chase at this year’s March extravaganza. Run over Saturday’s course and distance, the son of Shantou took it up after the last, and stayed on well to to beat Saturday’s opponent, Gold Present by 1 1/4L. The runner up, on 6lbs better terms has to be respected, but Tully East, who had a nice pipe opener over hurdles thirty one days ago, racing in the colours of a great supporter of the “Winter Game”,Barry Connell, is fancied to confirm the placings.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the race three times, including uniquely, with the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Imperial Commander, so his contender, the recent course winner, Foxtail Hill has to be considered. Having his first run for over six months he held on tenaciously to win by a neck from Saturday’s opponent Le Prezien(2miles Gd) three weeks ago. This bold front runner will be well suited by the extra distance on Saturday but it does seem a big ask in a contest like Saturday’s, for the 8yo to make all, off a mark seven pounds higher than he has ever won off.
The runner up, Le Prezien, meets Foxtail Hill on a pound better terms on Saturday, and this stoutly bred 6yo, who has run the top class, Yorkhill, to 2 1/4L in a Grade1 Aintree Hurdle (2m4f Soft), is also sure to be suited by the step up in trip, and looks a strong second string to the Ditcheat bow.
Selection : Tully East
E.W. : Starchitect