BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase 2m4f (Old Course) Cheltenham Saturday

oddsguru tom dreaper

Tom Dreaper claimed the first ever Mackeson

First run as The Mackeson Gold Cup 59 years ago, the inaugural running was won by Fortria, trained in Ireland by the legendary Tom (Arkle) Dreaper. Fortria did win again 2 years later, but since then Irish successes have been few and far between, and the sole victor from the Emerald Isle in the past 37 years has been the Eddie O’Grady trained
Tranquil Sea ten years ago. However, the Multi-talented trainer from Co Kilkenny,
Joseph O’Brien, is not one to be discouraged by statistics, and is hoping that his upwardly mobile young chaser, Us And Them, can reverse this sorry trend, and land him a first victory in the contest.

On first glance, the 6yo’s record over fences of one win from nine starts, hardly inspires confidence, but closer inspection reveals that he has finished 2nd, (including in this year’s Arkle over the Old Course) four times at Grade1 level, which paints a rather different picture. Until stepping up to 20f for his seasonal debut at Gowran Park 6 weeks ago, he had been campaigned for all his previous 15 starts at around 2 miles, but even a cursory inspection of his pedigree, (by the stayer Stowaway out of the stoutly bred Flemensfirth mare, Manorville) strongly suggested that he would stay further, and so it proved at the Co Carlow track 6 weeks ago. Having his first run for 156 days in the Grade2 heat, he was always towards the head of affairs, and but for mistakes at the last two fences would have finished a lot closer than the 6 1/2L and a Head that he was beaten by. The runner up Peregrine Falcon is rated 159 which makes Us And Them look very fairly treated on Saturday’s mark of 152.

The Colin Tizzard trained 7yo, Slate House, struck for the first time from 5 attempts over fences when landing a 6 runner Novices Chase over Saturday’s course and distance 3 weeks ago. (His record at Prestbury Park in all races is 3/6). Having his first run for 228 days, and a wind operation in June, he travelled really strongly on the heavy ground, and never off the bit, won as he liked. Saturday represents a very different test, but the Tizzard horse is already a better chaser than he was a hurdler, and being by the multiple champion jumps sire, Presenting it won’t come as a great surprise if he ends the season on a considerably higher mark than Saturday’s 147.

The Nick Williams trained Siruh Du Lac’s record over fences is 6/8 and he is unbeaten in his last 4. His last two wins were here at Cheltenham, both Class1 handicaps,
at 2m4 1/2f and both over the new course, in January, and at The Festival in March. He won by narrow margins, on both occasions from the now 166 rated Janika (gave 18 lbs last time) He is making his seasonal debut on Saturday off a mark a whopping 19lbs higher than last time, and racing over the tighter Old Course, looks to have plenty to do.

oddsguru mackesonThe Dan Skelton trained 7yo, Spirit Of The Games, finished 3rd, 3L behind Siruh Du Lac in that Cheltenham race giving the winner 9lbs, (including Lizzie Kelly’s 3 lbs claim) and off level terms on Saturday must fancy his chances of reversing the form. He is another making his seasonal debut, but has won his first race of the season in each of the last 3 years. He has run well in all of his 5 Cheltenham appearances, including in large field handicaps, ( 5/24 County Hurdle 2018), and handles most ground.

Considering the poor record of top weights in the race (only 2 have succeeded in the last 25 years) Harry Whittingham’s classy 6yo, Saint Calvados, looks to have a tough task on his hands. The French bred made an excellent start to his chasing career winning 4 of his first 5, including a Warwick Grade2, and a Naas Grade 3 but stepped up to Grade1 level has been very disappointing, finishing well beaten 3 times. However, following wind surgery in September, he put in an excellent effort 3 weeks ago, over the Old course on his reappearance, winning a valuable 2mile Chase on heavy ground, conceding lumps of weight. He has never raced beyond 2m1/2f  in his 9 starts since coming to England, but his pedigree, (by the excellent jumps sire, Saint Des Saints, out of the Pistolet Bleu mare Lamorrese) certainly offers hope that he will stay, and he did run on gamely with his big weight up the Cheltenham Hill last time.

The great Martin Pipe won the race 8 times, and son David once, so they certainly know what is required down Nicholashayne way, and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see last year’s 5th, the 8yo, Eamon An Cnoic play a prominent part on Saturday. Starting at odds of 50/1 last year, he stayed on to finish 11L behind the winner, Baron Alco and ran another excellent Cheltenham race when finishing 4th, beaten 3 1/2L in the race won by Siruh Du Lac at The Festival, (11 lbs better off on Saturday). He hasn’t been out since Punchestown in May, but can go well fresh, and at current odds of 25/1 is worth a second look.

Nigel Twiston-Davies with 4 wins on the scoreboard is another who knows what is required and his 7yo Count Meribel looks very nicely handicapped on a mark of 146, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-13. A winner of 2 of his 5 starts over fences, including over course and distance in the Novice Chase at this meeting last year, he made a very satisfactory reappearance when finishing 2nd at Carlisle 13 days ago and should be spot on for Saturday.

Selection.   : Spirit Of The Games

EW.               : Slate House.   Us And Them

John Gray

November Handicap (Class2) 1 mile 4 furlongs Doncaster

donny races handicapSaturday sees the final major handicap of the flat racing season when a maximum field of not more than 23 go to post for what is always a highly competitive affair. Never an easy heat to predict, only a single Jolly, (the David O’Meara trained, Open Eagle, 5 years ago) has managed to win since Snow Princess passed the post in front 24 years ago. However, on a more positive note, in recent renewals, winner finding has not been impossible, and the last 6 victors have been returned at an SP of 10/1 or less. At the time of writing the current favourite, Deja, is trading around the 5/1 mark and has the profile of one laid out for the contest.

A 4yo colt, Deja, is trained by the dual Derby winning handler, Peter Chapple-Hyam, (Dr Devious 1992, and Authorised 1997) and the son of Youmzain, in his 5 race career, has shown a very progressive profile. He has won all of his last 4 starts, and racing over 12f for the first time 129 days ago, when making his seasonal debut, he put up his  most impressive performance to date, coming home 3 1/2L clear of the decent yardstick, Soto Sizzler, on Kempton’s AW track, off a mark of 93.  He showed that he is equally adept on turf, and can handle the demands of a big field handicap, when easily winning a 17 runner Pontefract heat over 10f in October 2018. He hasn’t been seen since Kempton, (Have his Uber shrewd connections been protecting his handicap mark?) but racing off a mark of 100 he looks really well handicapped, and with his proven ability to act on soft ground looks one to be very definitely interested in.

Saeed Bin Suroor won with the 3yo, Prize Money in 2016 and has another likely looking type from the Classic generation with the 3yo, Passion And Glory. Unraced at two, he has won 2 of his 5 starts, both at 10f, but the manner of his latest win at Doncaster on heavy ground, 15 days ago, suggests that Saturday’s trip should be within his compass. Driven clear over a furlong out, he ran on resolutely to hold the challenge of Saturday’s opponent, Dark Lochnagar by a neck. Stoutly bred, by Cape Cross, sire of Derby and Arc winners Sea The Stars and Golden Horn, he beat the now 105 rated
El Misk by 1 3/4L in August, and looks very fairly treated on Saturday’s mark of 93, giving him the flyweight of 8-3 to carry.

Mind you the runner up in that Doncaster heat, Dark Lochnagar, meeting the Bin Suroor Horse on 2lbs better terms, has to enter calculations. It’s unlikely that his talented trainer, Keith Dalgleish, has had too many better bred animals than Dark Lochnagar in his care as he is by the Derby winner Australia, a son of the great Galileo, and is out of the 2005 1000gns winner, Virginia Waters. The yard is in top form and it wouldn’t surprise to see him involved at the business end on Saturday if getting into the race, ( needs 4 above him to come out).

2015 November Handicap.

There seems to be plenty of interest in the markets in Hugo Palmer’s 4yo son of Frankel, Collide. A winner of 4 of his 10 starts he made his first attempt at 12f a winning one when winning a Kempton Class3 on his seasonal debut in April off a mark of 96. He followed up with two respectable efforts at York, 4/18, and Royal Ascot 5/19, but finished out the back last time over 14f at Headquarters in July. Twice a winner on soft, Hugo has booked the excellent 3lbs claimer, Ciaran Fallon, and  he looks set for a big run on his mark of 98 at the weekend.

If the Mark Johnston trained, Bo Samaraan gets into the race, (needs 3 above him to come out) he could be interesting. The 3yo son of Sea The Stars failed to win in his first 8 starts but has come good the last twice, winning a 12f Catterick Class4 on heavy ground 11 days ago off a mark of 85, with a dour staying performance. Mark has won this twice before so knows what is required and Bo Samaraan, an improving 3yo is just the type the Middleham trainer excels with.

Irish trainers have had a fair old time harvesting top English handicaps this season, and Tony Martin will be hoping to add to their haul with his 4yo filly, Melburnian.
A daughter of Zambezi Sun, she has a relatively poor strike rate of 3/21 but demonstrated in emphatic style 14 days ago how well suited by a big field 12f handicap run on testing ground she is. Racing off a mark of 77 in Leopardstown’s October Handicap on heavy ground, she took it up at the furlong marker and stayed on strongly to win easily by 2 3/4L. She is a half sister to the very talented Heartbreak City,
(also trained by Tony) who improved with age (was only beaten a head in the
Melbourne Cup as a 6yo) and Melburnian may prove to be a similar type. The old adage to follow a filly in form this time of the year could be well worth remembering.

Selection.  : Bo Samaraan   if abs  Deja

EW.              : Melburnian.   If abs Passion And Glory

Saeed

John Gray