bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase 3m5f Sandown Saturday – First run as the Whitbread Gold Cup in 1957, it was the first commercial sponsorship in British sport, and in its early years, the classier animal at the top end of the handicap tended to dominate. It’s first two decades saw five Cheltenham Gold Cup winners come home in front, but in the subsequent fourty years, Desert Orchid in 1988, has been the single winner of Cheltenham’s Blue Riband, to figure on the role of honour. Indeed it has become a contest where the lighter weights have had the better of the argument, with twenty three of the twenty eight winners since “Dessie’s” victory, carrying less than eleven stone. Experience counts for plenty with eight of the last ten winners having had a minimum of ten outings over the larger obstacles, and significantly all ten had a previous run within eight weeks of their victory. A win going right handed, and success over at least three miles, have also proved essential. Paul Nicholls with three wins holds the training honours with Henderson and Hobbs sharing the runner up spot with two each.
The latter’s sole representative, Rock The Kasbah, racing off a mark 8lbs lower than his rating over hurdles, (150) looks interesting. The 7yo has won going right handed, winning a Grade3 Hurdle at Ascot, and won a Chepstow 3m Chase on soft ground in February. He looked a bit one paced finishing second over three miles at Uttoxeter last time and could be suited by the step up in trip. Worth considering!
The 2016 winning trainer, Neil Mulholland is triple handed. He runs last year’s short head victor, The Young Master, fifth placed, The Druids Nephew, and the recent easy Cheltenham winner, Doing Fine. The first named races off the same mark but with 11-5, (including Walley-Cohen’s 3lbs claim) has 7lbs more to carry than last year and has been disappointing in his three races this term. The same can be said of The Druids Nephew, but with a 10lbs lower mark than last April, and with Noel Fehily riding, he is not so easy to dismiss. He was slightly hampered at the 19th in last year’s contest, so did well to finish 5th, 7L behind the winner, and I suppose 7th of 23 runners (although beaten 29L) at the Cheltenham Festival last time, doesn’t read too badly. However, Mulholland’s third contender, Doing Fine, with the featherweight of 10-03 in the plate looks to have the best chance of the trio. He had been a promising young horse for Rebecca Curtis, winning twice, and on one occasion, gave the useful Cogry, a run for his money over 26f at tricky Warwick in February 2015, before losing his way. The move to The Mulholland yard has proved a success. He went down by a neck, over Saturday’s course and distance, to the useful Rocky Creek in December, followed by a good second at Wincanton, and last time he got back to the winners’ enclosure, with that impressive win at Cheltenham over 28f, ten days ago. He will enjoy the good ground at the weekend, has won going righthanded and with his light weight will think he’s running loose.
Paul Nicholls, who after his Scottish National win last week, must be still entertaining hopes of retaining his Trainers’ title, also runs three. However with 11-12 and 11-9 to carry both Southfield Theatre and last year’s short head runner up Just A Par have a very difficult task indeed, so perhaps the Novice, Present Man (pictured top), represents the best chance of keeping the Master of Ditcheat in the title race. A winner of four of his eight chases, including a Doncaster 3m Grade2, he won at Ascot 27 days ago over an inadequate 21f, and as a son of Presenting, out of a Strong Gale mare, Saturday’s test over eight furlongs further, on good ground, might prove right up his street. With Jack Sherwood taking 3lbs off he will have a nice racing weight of 10-13, and looks to have plenty to recommend him.
Considering he is a double Grade2 winner over hurdles, and a winner at the same level over fences, Nicky Henderson’s 8yo Vyta Du Roc, looks very well treated on a mark of 137 which puts him in Saturday’s race with 10-11 on his back.
He has disappointed in his last two races, (lost a shoe last time) but did run a decent race in the Hennessy Gold Cup when finishing 6th, nine lengths off the winner Native River off a mark of 143. Having avoided the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals he will strip a much fresher animal than many and is worth considering.
Paddy Brennan who usually partners Theatre Guide has jumped ship to take the ride on Fergal O’Briens Viva Steve. The 9yo looked good when winning at Ayr in November following a six-month break, but disappointed in his next two races. Perhaps he is best caught fresh, and following a nice nine week holiday, might prove the surprise package.
Selection: Doing Fine
E.W. : Present Man