First run in 1963 as The Massey Ferguson Gold Cup, it has been won by some top class performers, including two of the greats of the Winter Game, Flyingbolt, who carried an eye watering 12-6 to victory in 1965, and Fred Winter’s Pendil, who won carrying a pound more in 1973. However more recent renewals have been dominated by good solid handicappers, although the 2006 winner, Exotic Dancer, did go on to finish second in The Gold Cup. Having won four of the last eight runnings, any contenders from Paul Nicholls Ditcheat yard, demand maximum respect, as do runners from the Seven Barrows stable of Nicky Henderson, who have hit the back of the net on three occasions. Course form is most important as the last animal to win on his debut at the track, was Kings Fountain, twenty six years ago, and the Bet Victor Gold Cup, run four weeks previously, has proved a solid guide, with four of the last ten winners having contested that particular heat. However the omens aren’t so good for the winner of this year’s Bet Victor, Splash Of Ginge, as only the classy Exotic Dancer in 2006 has managed to follow up since Senor El Betrutti in 1997. It is worth noting that the Bet Victor is run over the old course, which is much tighter in character, and the Caspian Caviar is run over the more galloping in nature, new course, which gives horse and rider that little bit more time to organise themselves.
David Pipe has only won the race once, with Tamarinbleu in 2007, but Dad Martin, won it twice, so they certainly know what is required at Pond House, and there seems to be plenty of confidence in the markets behind their runner up in last months Bet Victor, Starchitect. The 10/1 shot looked the most likely winner before two out but meeting the penultimate and last fence on the wrong stride he just couldn’t get past Splash Of Ginge who revelled in the testing conditions, and went down bravely by a neck. He meets the winner on a pound better terms on Saturday, and if tidying up his jumping must have serious prospects of reversing the placings.
Le Prezien, who finished third in The Bet Victor, did best of the Ditcheat runners and indeed made eye catching progress from off the pace to finish within two and three quarter lengths at the line, and he could well be suited by the nature of the new course on Saturday, so off a mark only two pounds higher, has to be considered. However stable companion, Clan Des Obeaux (pictured), also has plenty to recommend him. French bred, he is a son of the high class French jumper, Kapgarde who is a sire of plenty of good National Hunt animals, and he showed that he was going the right way when getting to within half a length of Whisper at Kempton on level weights on his reappearance, following a six month break in November. He confirmed the good impression three weeks ago when coming home seven lengths in front of that good yardstick, Vintage Clouds, in the Haydock mud off a mark of 148. As his Kempton conquerer Whisper is now rated on 169 Clan Des Obeaux doesn’t look at all badly treated on 155, and as he has performed with credit on all his three runs over the new course, including a sixth behind Ivan Gorbatov in the 2016 Triumph Hurdle, and a close second behind Whisper in a course and distance Chase last January, he looks a danger to all.
The Nicky Richards trained, Guitar Pete, won two Grade One hurdles as a four year old, when trained by the late lamented Dessie Hughes in Ireland, but unfortunately, daughter Sandra had little luck with the son of Dark Angel. However since his transfer to Richards, things have taken a turn for the better, and he followed a good second in a valuable Class one Market Rasen Chase in September, with an excellent win at Wetherby five weeks later, beating the Nicholls trained Sametagal, by seven lengths off a mark of 127. He lined up for the BetVictor on a mark of 134, but lost all chance when badly hampered at the first. He did persevere, and to his credit, finished the race twenty five lengths behind the winner. He lines up on Saturday on the same mark giving him a lovely racing weight of 10-02 (Including jockeys three pounds claim) and if getting anywhere close to his old Hurdle form would look thrown in.
Talented Welsh handler, Evan Williams has an interesting contender with his lightly raced eight year old Kings Odyssey. Racing off a mark of 147 in last year’s contest he was travelling easily in third place when coming a cropper six from home. He showed little in his next two races but made a very satisfactory return to action thirty three days ago when only beaten two lengths over an inadequate two miles at Carlisle. He gets into Saturday’s contest on a mark seven pounds lower than last year and as a course and distance winner over the new course has to be of interest.
The Nicky Henderson trained O O Seven made a satisfactory return following an eight months break at Newbury fifteen days ago and races here off a pound higher. If turning up, ( also entered at Doncaster ) would be worth a second look.
Selection : Clan Des Obeaux
E.W. : Kings Odyssey and Guitar Pete