Sandown Gold Cup Handicap Chase Tips

Sandown Gold Cup Handicap Chase Tipsbet365 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.

Horse Racing - Tingle Creek Christmas Festival - Sandown Park Racecourse

Vyta Du Roc looks well handicapped for Saturday’s big one.

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

Racing Tips EBF & TBA Mares Novices Hurdle

Racing Tips EBF & TBA MaresEBF & TBA Mares “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle Finale (limited handicap) Grade 2 2m4 1/2f Newbury Saturday – Following the heady fare of last week’s Cheltenham Festival, Saturday’s feature, The Mares Novices Hurdle Finale feels like something of an anticlimax, but it is always a pretty competitive affair that takes a useful performer to succeed. Nicky Henderson with three victories in the past decade has been the most successful handler, followed by Oliver Sherwood, who won with Jaunty Flight in 2008 and followed up with Argento Luna a year later. It has been a pretty punter friendly heat, with the winner coming from the first three in the betting on nine of the last thirteen occasions, and indeed the “Jolly” herself has come home in front four times.

Henderson’s representative this year is the lightly raced 7yo Kings Theatre mare, Theatre Territory. A winner in the point to point field she failed to win any of her three bumpers, but made a promising start to her hurdles career when easily winning a Uttoxeter maiden by 9L at odds of 4/9 in December (2m Gd/Sft). She probably found things happening too quickly over Taunton’s fast circuit on good ground three weeks later when a keeping on third to Coillte Lass in a Class1 listed Novices Hurdle. Given a greater test of stamina she looked the most likely winner when upped to 20 1/2f at Newbury three weeks later but fell two out when moving easily into contention. She meets the runner up in that contest, Pearl Royale on 3lbs better terms at the weekend. She disappointed last time finishing 4th of five runners in a Sandown Grade2, eleven lengths behind Saturday’s opponent, Happy Diva who finished second. This was not the ideal warm up for Saturday’s contest, a race in which the majority of winners have been first past the post in their penultimate outing, but it is worth noting that all of Henderson’s three previous successes were exceptions to this particular stat, and indeed his 2007 winner Karello Bay was beaten out of sight at odds of 2/5 before winning at Newbury. Theatre Territory is obviously fairly highly thought of at Seven Barrows and if putting in a clean round of jumping must be involved at the business end on Saturday.

With two winners already on the board, Oliver Sherwood certainly knows what is required, and his 5yo Hitherjacques Lady looks interesting. By Robin Des Champs out of a Bob Back mare her future probably lies over fences but she has won her last two races by wide margins in very taking style. She hacked up by 12L (Wincanton 21 1/2f heavy) at the beginning of Febuary and eighteen days later, again won very easily from subsequent maiden winner Carspindle, (Lingfield 19 1/2f heavy). Obviously well suited by heavy ground, she showed her versatility by winning a good ground Cheltenham Bumper last April, where she had Saturday’s opponent Tara View back in 6th place and Mr Sherwood has every right to be hopeful of a third victory in the race.

The Philip Hobbs trained Copper Kay seemed to appreciate the step up from 16f to 21f at Warwick at the end of December where, with the race at her mercy, she idled in front after the last, and got going again all too late to pull back Ellen’s Way who prevailed by a head. However the third was 12L further back and the Hobbs mare proved conclusively that the trip suited. She had a nice confidence booster, winning a 19 1/2f Doncaster Novice twenty two days ago very easily, so this seven year old daughter of Kayf Tara has to be on the shortlist for Saturday.

Alan King’s 6yo Tara View, also a daughter of Kayf Tara, has won her last four races, a Bumper at Bangor-on-Dee, and three Hurdle races at Ludlow. She beat Saturday’s opponent, Happy Diva by a neck in the first of them, over an inadequate two miles and meets her on a pound better terms at the weekend. She proved well suited by the step up to 21 1/2f five weeks later, winning by 1/2L from another of Saturday’s opponents Wizard’s Sliabh, who reopposes on 5lbs better terms on Saturday. Alan King’s mare however took another step forward seven weeks later, when contesting her first handicap, she prevailed by 2 1/2L off a mark of 124 (21f Ludlow Soft) earning her a new rating of 132. She looks a very progressive mare and the only concern would be very soft ground. With a fairly benign forecast she looks the one to beat.

Selection : Tara View

E.W.          : Copper Kay

Cheltenham Tips Stan James Champion Hurdle

 

Cheltenham Tips Stan James Champion Hurdle

Yanworth is the one to beat in this year’s Champion Hurdle says the Oddsguru

Stan James Champion Hurdle 2m 1/2f Cheltenham Tuesday – First run in 1927, when the winner, Blaris, pocketed the princely sum of £365 for his effort, next Tuesday’s victor will improve his or her owner’s bank balance, by a cool quarter of a million pounds. It has been a fairly punter friendly event over the last twenty years, with only four winners returning an S.P. Longer than 10/1, and indeed the “Jolly” has come home in front on three of the last five occasions. Willie Mullins has won four of the last six renewals, but Nicky Henderson remains one in front of him with five wins. Indeed Henderson could claim the overall, and outright title if adding another victory, which would put him one in front of the great Peter (Night Nurse, Sea pigeon, Saucy Kit) Easterby.

 

This year’s renewal looks a pretty open affair, and the stats strongly suggest, that whatever passes the post in front on Tuesday, will have won his penultimate race, and that won’t have been run more than seven weeks prior to the big day. The winner is also unlikely to be older than eight as only four in that age group have won in the last thirty five years. Strong festival form has been essential with fifteen of the last eighteen winners having won or been placed at the previous year’s meeting.

It is obviously a strong contest for trends and the one with the best fit this year is the Alan King trained Yanworth. The exciting 7yo has won seven of his eight starts over hurdles, five of them at Graded level, and but for Barry Geraghty steering such a wide course in last years “Neptune” he might well have a 100% record. Despite travelling considerably further than the rest of the field he was only beaten 1 3/4L by Yorkhill in that 21f contest. However he has won all his three races since, admittedly in more workmanlike than spectacular fashion, but on tracks that didn’t play to his strengths. He will be well served by the return to the the stiffer Prestbury Park course, and reported by previous winning trainer King, (Katchit 2008) to be in tip top condition, looks the one to beat.

chtibello

A successful breathing operation won’t harm Ch’Tibello’s chances

Dan Skelton’s 6yo Ch’Tibello gave Yanworth plenty to think about last time in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, when, in receipt of 4lbs, he made Alan King’s horse work for his 1L success. Connections felt that he wasn’t finishing off his races and has had a breathing operation since, which has been pronounced a success, so improvement can be expected. He looked a really talented individual when winning last year’s Scottish Champion Hurdle, and a Grade2 at Haydock in November, where he had last year’s runner up, My Tent Or Yours 4 1/4L back in third. In the hands of master trainer Skelton, guided by uber shrewd owner, Ian Marmion, it will come as no great surprise to see him involved at the business end on Tuesday.

The Henry De Bromhead trained Petit Mouchoir has looked a very progressive animal this season. He was going as well as anything when coming down at the third last in the Grade1 Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in November, and showed there were no ill effects when five weeks later he beat the 2/5 hotpot Nichols Canyon by 7L in a Leopardstown Grade1. A month later he notched up a second Grade1 (Irish Champion Hurdle) when holding on well to beat Tuesday’s opponent Footpad (rec 2lbs) by a length. Clearly progressive he is now rated within 4lbs of Yanworth, is owned by the Gigginstown Stud operation and comes from a stable having a great season so has to be on the shortlist.

If last year’s winner of the Mares Novice Hurdle at the Festival, Limini, is supplemented for Tuesday’s contest, she would be worth considering, as she would be following in the footpath of last years Heroine, stable companion, Annie Power. Following Cheltenham, Limini was placed in her next two races, both at Grade1 level, and was retired for the season. Having her first run for nine months she pleasantly surprised trainer Willie Mullins when easily beating 2/5 fav Apples Jade on Febuary 22nd. Connections feel that she is still on the upgrade and in receipt of that 7lbs mares allowance has to be considered a threat to all.

The Nicky Henderson trained Buveur D’Air has had an unusual preparation for a Champion Hurdle aspirant, winning a couple of small field Novice Chases and a listed Hurdle at Sandown thirty eight days ago. However the 6yo did finish third in last year’s Supreme Novices, and went on to take the Grade1 Novices Hurdle at the Aintree Festival so is not without hope of providing the Master of Seven Barrows with a sixth champion Hurdle.

Selection: Yanworth

E.W.         : Petit Mouchoir

Racing Tips BetBright Grimthorpe Handicap Chase

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BetBright Grimthorpe Handicap Chase 3m2f Doncaster Saturday
– It was very disappointing that connections chose not to run our selection, Tea For Two in last week’s BetBright Chase. With so much in his favour he looked a very attractive bet at the 6/1 available at the time of writing, and I’m sure attracted plenty of ante post money. While connections have every right to campaign their horse as they see fit, a little consideration for the small punter, who after all keeps the “ship” afloat wouldn’t come amiss. Our E.W. suggestion, Irish Saint ran poorly and one can only conclude that three miles is beyond him. However upwards and onwards, with the sincere hope that we don’t see another well backed animal a late withdrawal from Saturday’s Grimthorpe Chase.

With two wins on the scoreboard, Kim Bailey has been the most successful handler, and he is represented again by last years winner, The Last Samurai. The 9yo was most impressive, taking it up three fences out and going clear from the last for a facile 10L win off a mark of 149. He went on to finish a marvellous second to Rule The World in the Grand National off the same mark, and showed that he was still progressing when finishing a Shd and 1L behind Vieux Lion Rouge and Highland Lodge in the Betfred Beecher Chase off a mark of 159 thirteen weeks ago. He was giving the winner a hefty 17lbs that day, and as David Pipe’s 8yo went on to take the Grade3 Grand National Trial at Haydock from Blaklion off a mark of 146, Kim Baileys horse doesn’t seem too badly treated off a mark of 161. Obviously connections will have one eye on Aintree, but it won’t come as a great surprise to see this super game animal, despite carrying 6lbs more than last year, in contention yet again.

A Doncaster winner in December 2015, the Alan King trained Sego Success, put up another decent performance over the course (3m) when finishing a staying on fourth behind No Duffer in December. Stable companion and course specialist, Ziga Boy in receipt of 4lbs, was 5L ahead of him in third place that day, and as he went on to win his next race, a Class1 handicap by 3 1/2L off a mark of 137, Sego Success looks nicely handicapped on a mark of 138, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st3lbs. He has to be forgiven a poor effort over 29f in the Warwickshire mud last time but, Alan Kings 9yo does seem to like Doncaster, and goes there with sound prospects on Saturday.

The Venetia Williams trained 7yo Yala Enki (pictured above) is trying the trip (26f) for the first time, but did look a stayer in the making, when winning over 23f, by 8L in the Haydock mud in December, from Vieux Lille, off a mark of 139. His pedigree, by the top class jumper, Nickname, out of a Cadoudal mare certainly shouts stamina, so is likely to find Saturday’s trip right up his street, and with plenty of rain about could find conditions ideal on only his third start over fences for Venetia.

Paul Nicholls has drawn a blank since winning this in 2000 but has two solid looking entries at the time of writing, the 7yo Present Man, and 8yo Vivaldi Collonges.

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Vivaldi Collonges could go well if he gets a run says the Oddsguru.

The younger of the pair will have the benefit of Jack Sherwood’s 3lbs claim, and as a comfortable winner of a Grade2 Chase (3m good) over the course, despite jumping right, has to be considered. However he disappointed at Kempton last time, and being by Presenting out of a Strong Gale mare, is always going to be better suited by decent ground. The year older, Vivaldi Collonges won a 24 1/2f Ayr Handicap last April very easily by 5L and 21L from Kilbree Thief and One For Arthur off a mark of 143. His two runs this term have been disappointing but as a result he has been dropped to a mark of 148, and on that run in April, looks well handicapped. Spring is his time of year, so with a nice racing weight of 10st13lbs is definitely worth considering. A caveat would be that he also has an entry in the 4 o’c at Kelso on Saturday, a course he has won over in the past.

Having his first run for eight months, the Nicky Richards trained 8yo, Looking Well, ran a race full of promise, to finish second to Ziga Boy, albeit beaten 3 1/2L, in a Class1 handicap here at Doncaster five weeks ago, (3m). He runs off a mark only 5lbs higher on Saturday, (137) and with the extra 2f very much in his favour is worth a second look.

Selection : Yala Enki

E.W.          : Vivaldi Collonges (if abs. Sego Success)

Racing Tips BetBright Handicap Chase

Tea For Two and Lizzie Kelly jump the last to win the William HiBetBright Handicap Chase 3m Kempton Saturday – Last week’s Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock saw our two selections, Vieux Lion Rouge, (E.W.) and Blaklion finish first and second, and both certainly enhanced their Aintree prospects. The 8/1 winner stayed on really strongly to get the better of the tiring Blaklion after the last, and may well prove to be be the first since Sundew in 1956 to win the Haydock race and go on to collect a first Grand National. However it has to be said that Twiston-Davies’s gallant Blaklion lost little in defeat, and meeting Vieux Lion Rouge on 3lbs better at Aintree must have serious prospects, of emulating the runner up in the 2012 Grand National Trial, Neptune Collonges, who went one better in the Aintree Showpiece. Indeed, Trainer Twiston-Davies was quite bullish in his post race comment, suggesting that after such a long layoff the race was needed, and full of praise for Blaklion’s jumping, particularly when tiring, sounded pretty confident that a third Grand National Trophy could be on it’s way back to Naunton come April.

Saturday’s BetBright Chase has also served as a Grand National Trial, and two winners of the Kempton race, Rhyme ‘n’ Reason (1988) and Rough Quest (1996), have gone on to victory in the Aintree Showpiece in the same season. Weight has been no bar to success with six topweights coming home in front over the past twenty five years, and twelve winners shouldered at least 11st in the same period. Kemptons tricky circuit takes some jumping, so unsurprisingly many of the winners of this, boast previous winning form over the course, as indeed did last years hero, Theatre Guide. Always run at a good clip, valuable handicaps at Kempton get competitive from a long way out, putting plenty of emphasis on stamina, so an assured ability to stay three miles has been essential. Few horses older than nine get their nose in front, although course specialist Nacarat did so when winning for the second time, as an eleven year old in 2012. Eight year olds have won four of the last six renewals.

Clearly a strong contest for trends and the one with the best “fit” is the Nick Williams trained, 8yo, Tea For Two (pictured above). He won the first three of his four Kempton Park races, including at Grade1 level over course and distance, and on the fourth occasion, in the King GeorgeV1 Chase on Boxing Day, he put up another fine performance to finish 4th, 3 1/4L, Shd,  and a Hd behind Thistlecrack, Cue card, and Silviniaco Conti. He had a nice pipe opener thirteen days ago when winning a four runner affair at Exeter with his head in his chest, which should put him spot on for Saturday, and with the talented Lizzie Kelly able to claim her 3lbs allowance, (couldn’t in the King George) he looks good value at current odds of 6/1.

Tom George and Adrian Heskins, who have proved such a potent force this season, must fancy their chances with their course and distance winner, Double Shuffle. Stepped up to three miles for the first time sixty days ago the 7yo showed that the trip was just what the doctor ordered when coming home 3 1/2L in front of the useful Go Conquer here at Kempton. He took it up between the last two fences and responding well to pressure stayed on really well in a contest that was run in a good time. Last years runner up, and 2013 winner, Opening Batsman, was 20L back in fifth. Now that connections have worked out his correct trip there should be plenty more to come and only 6lbs higher than last time is well worth considering.

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Irish Saint is Paul Nicholls’ best chance of success, or so say the markets

Paul Nicholls has won the contest on two occasions and if the Markets are to be believed his 8yo, Irish Saint represents his best chance of a third. The problem is that he doesn’t really convince as a three miler having only achieved two distant thirds from his three attempts at the trip. However he has won all three races, including the Grade2 2 1/2f Novices Chase on this card two years ago, that he has contested at Kempton, and is also beginning to look a very well handicapped horse, so isn’t easily dismissed. His run over 3miles on soft ground at Sandown last time was looking quite promising until making a mistake at the second last and he finished a tired third, 19L behind Otago Trail. It is worth remembering that it was only his third run back after 19 months on the sidelines, so perhaps the Ditcheat Operation is expecting better over Kempton’s flat track on good ground at the weekend.

The Neil Mulholland yard is in top form at the moment and their 7yo Fingersontheswitch looked an improver last time out. Having only his sixth race over fences, he won a Wetherby Class4 very easily off a mark of 119. It is a huge step up to a Kempton Park Class1 off a 13lbs higher mark on Saturday but the son of Beneficial was actually rated 137 over hurdles. Bred to be a chaser, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if Fingersontheswitch, off his low weight of 10st took a hand in the finish at the weekend.

Selection:  Tea For Two

E.W.         : Irish Saint

Betting Tips Betfred Grand National Trial Handicap Chase

 

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Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Blaklion gets the Oddsguru’s nod on Saturday


Betfred Grand National Trial Handicap Chase 3m4f 97y Haydock Saturday
– The three contenders we highlighted in last week’s preview of the Betfair Hurdle, Ballyandy, Movewithetimes, and Clyne put up excellent performances filling the first three places, but of the trio, the very lightly raced Movewithetimes, has to be the one to back wherever he goes next. Considering it was only his fourth race over hurdles, (he did show his inexperience with some deliberate jumps in midfield), the way he moved up effortlessly in the straight was most impressive. He again looked “novicy” when asked for maximum effort from the last, hanging slightly, but keeping on strongly to go down by 3/4L. It was the performance of a high class animal, and as his pedigree would suggest that he will be well suited by further, some of the fancy prices available about him for the 21f Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival look very tempting.

 

As a trial for the Grand National, Saturday’s Haydock contest hasn’t been a great success, as the last winner to go on to Aintree Glory, was the Fred Winter ridden Sundew in 1956, who collected the big one a year later. However the roll of honour does boast three other Grand National winners, Freebooter, Red Rum and Party Politics who all won this after success at Aintree. Perhaps a more interesting stat is that victory here foreshadowed two Cheltenham Gold Cup winners, Cool Ground and Master Oats. The contest was suspended from 1985-1990 and since it’s reintroduction in 1991 weight has proved no bar to success. Two animals have carried the maximum burden of 11st12lbs to victory,  and a further nine have defied 11st or higher. Lucinda Russell, with three wins has been the most successful handler and for this years renewal her sole representative is the 9yo, Kilbree Chief. However, from 9lbs out of the handicap and needing a few above him to come out, perhaps he can be safely ignored. The fairer sex have been responsible for the last three winners, and as there are three other lady trainers, besides Ms Russell represented, Kerry Lee, Sue Smith, and Venetia Williams, all of whom have trained the winner of this in the past, and all fielding likely looking types, we may see this female dominance extended.

Last year’s winner, the Kerry Lee trained Bishops Road was withdrawn on Tuesday, but the talented Herefordshire handler has another strong candidate with her 9yo Goodtoknow. Blinkers have sparked a revival in his last two races, finishing second off a mark of 136 in a valuable 29f Grade3 Warwick Handicap in January, and then winning a Hereford Handicap off a 1lb higher mark, seventeen days later.

kerry-lee-trainer

Kerry Lee knows all about success in this race and this year saddles Goodtoknow

He is set to carry 5lbs extra for that win on Febuary 1st, and if the blinkers continue to work, this tough stayer has to be considered. A slight reservation would be the poor record of contenders carrying a penalty in recent renewals, as Heltornic, ten years ago, was the last to get his head in front.

Sue Smith trained Last Fling to win in 2000 and is represented by the 8yo, Wakanda. A winner of six of his sixteen races over fences, including over the course, he ran a nice race last time, finishing second to the useful Definitly Red, off a mark of 149, sixty days ago. Only 1lb higher on Saturday, this son of Westerner, out of a mare by Indian River, (sire of Hennessy winner Madison Du Berlais) should be suited by the step up in trip and as a course winner is worth considering.

Venetia William’s best chance of a second victory would seem to lie with her gallant warrior, Houblon Des Obeaux, but, despite getting some respite from the Handicapper, he looks well held by Goodtoknow.

The great Martin Pipe won this twice in his illustrious career, but son David, has yet to hit the back of the net, and he will be hoping that his Beecher Chase winner, Vieux Lion Rouge can correct this state of affairs. Last season he showed that stamina was his forte when finishing 6th in the 4m National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and then putting up an excellent performance in the Grand National for a seven year old, to finish seventh. Backed in to 8/1 fav for the Beecher Chase over the National fences on his reappearance eleven weeks ago, he stayed on with great resolution to get up in the shadow of the post off a mark of 142. Only 4lbs higher at the weekend he has to be fancied to give the younger Pipe his first win in the contest.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Blaklion has always looked a stayer and could find Saturday’s first attempt at this 28f trip right up his street. He has a bit to find with Wakanda on Wetherby form in December but as a Grade2 winner over hurdles and a Grade1 winner over fences he has that touch of Class and I feel that we haven’t yet seen the best of this eight year old.

Selection : Blaklion
E.W.           : Vieux Lion Rouge

Paddy Power Gold Cup 2m 4 1/2f handicap Cheltenham Saturday

Cheltenham Mackeson Meeting

First run in 1960 as the Mackeson Gold Cup, it acquired its present sponsor in 2003 and has always been an extremley competitive affair. Historically weight hadn’t been hugely significant, but in recent renewals the lighter weights have been having the best of the argument.

First run in 1960 as the Mackeson Gold Cup, it acquired its present sponsor in 2003 and has always been an extremley competitive affair. Historically weight hadn’t been hugely significant, but in recent renewals the lighter weights have been having the best of the argument.

Al Ferof (11st8lbs 2012) has been the only horse to shoulder more than eleven stone in the past eight years. The star of the older more exposed animal has been in decline with eleven of the last twelve winners being relatively lightly raced second season chasers. This is a really severe test and it is usually won by a progressive animal capable of defying a mark at least 10lbs higher, (the 2013 winner, Johns Spirit who won off a mark of 139, is being asked to defy an eighteen pound rise on Saturday). Read the Oddsguru’s 2014 Paddy Power Gold Cup preview.

Course form is highly significant, with fifteen of the last twenty winners boasting a success over Prestbury Park’s unique undulations. Usually run at a frenetic pace, stamina for the trip is essential, although interestingly it tends to be the type who has the pace to be competitive at two miles but stays 21f, rather than the three miler coming back in distance who have the better strike rate.

The market has proved a useful guide in recent renewals, with seven of the last ten winners starting at 8/1 or less. Having won three times Nigel Twiston-Davies is the most successful trainer represented on Saturday, followed by Paul Nicholls with two victories. David Pipe, whose father, Martin, won the race seven times, hit the back of the net himself in 2011 with Great Endeavour, and tries for a repeat with the current favourite Kings Palace at the weekend.

By Kings Theatre out of the Witness Box mare, Sarah’s Quay, he is certainly bred for the job, and his racing c.v. Is also pretty impressive. He has won three of his four starts over fences including an impressive victory as a novice over three miles and a half furlong at this meeting last year. Four weeks later he was again impressive over the course when beating that good yardstick Sausalito Sunrise (3m 1 and 1/2 furlongs) by seven lengths. Making all he jumped superbly and was pushed clear on the run in easing down near the finish. He then made all in a two runner affair at Newbury, again winning easily, despite some decidedly dodgy jumping. He was a big disappointment at the Festival where denied a soft lead his jumping went to pieces and he finished a well beaten sixth. There must be some doubts about his ability to handle the drop back in trip in Saturday’s large field, but he did have the pace to win a bumper as a 4yo and I’m certain any jumping deficiencies will have been ironed out at the Pond House Academy. He looks a horse with a big future and is well treated off a mark of 154.

Rebecca Curtis’s Irish Cavalier won over the course and distance at the festival off a mark of 137, and was kept busy, running twice in the space of three days at the Punchestown equivalent, where he ran well on both occasions. He reappeared in a conditions event at Newton Abbot four weeks ago and won comfortably. He is a very progressive animal and his chance has to be taken seriously, but his mark,19lbs higher than for his Festival win is a big ask.

Nick Gifford whose dad Josh won the race twice in the ninetys with Bradbury Star, runs the 7yo Generous Ransom. He has won two of his seven starts over fences, including over the course last January, and ran another fine race at the Festival, finishing third , 3L behind Irish Cavalier, whom he now meets on 15lbs better terms. Following a six month break he reappeared in a 2m5f hurdle at Cheltenham three weeks ago, and clearly needing the run he finished tailed off. Likely to come on a ton for the pipe opener, and with his nice racing weight of 10st7lbs he has plenty going for him and is shortlisted.

Fences have been the making of Malcolm Jefferson’s 7yo Oscar Rock. He has won two of his last three chases, and was probably unlucky in the other, being brought down when looking the likely winner. He really impressed on his reappearance at Market Rasen six weeks ago easily winning off a mark of 147 and a rise of 8lbs seems more than fair. His very able trainer knows what is required to win at Prestbury Park, and it will be no surprise to see his 7yo involved at the business end.

Alan King is quite bullish about his 7yo Annacotty and this course winner is worth a second look. Previously in the hands of Martin Keighley, he is only 3lbs higher then last January, when taking a graded contest over the course. The move to the King Academy may well have elicited further improvement, so is worth considering.

Selection: Oscar Rock

E.W. : Generous Ransom