Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade3) 2m4 1/2f (New Course) Cheltenham Saturday

caspian caviar gold cup

Venetia Williams has high hopes with last year’s runner-up Cepage

First run in 1963 as The Massey Ferguson Gold Cup, Saturday’s contest has been won by some of the greats of the Winter Game including the mighty Flyingbolt, (some good judges rated him better than his illustrious stable mate, the immortal Arkle) who carried an eye watering 12-6 to a 15L victory in 1965, and the Fred Winter trained Pendil who won carrying the mega weight of 12-7 in 1973. Happily, horses no longer have to carry such welter weights, but 3 winners in the last decade have done so with 11-7 or more in the Plate, and last year’s Hero, Frodon, carried 11-12. Course form is particularly relevant, as the last animal to win on his Prestbury Park debut, was Kings Fountain 28 years ago, as is age, as we have to go back to Fragrant Dawn’s victory in 1993 to find a winner older than eight. The stand out statistic in the contest though,  has to be the record of runners trained by Paul Nicholls, who have won 5 of the last 10 renewals, and the Master of Ditcheat again seems to hold a strong hand with his two contenders this year, Secret Investor, and Brelan D’As.

The former, a 7yo son of Kayf Tara, has won 2 of his 6 starts over fences, including a Grade2 at Ayr last April, and looks progressive. He made a satisfactory reappearance in another Grade2, 6 weeks ago, when finishing a 14L second at Down Royal following a 203 days break, and can be expected to have come on for the run. On a mark of 150  giving him 11-7 to carry on Saturday, he looks fairly treated, and my only concern would be that this will be his first run at Prestbury Park.

Stable companion, the 8yo, Brelan D’As on the other hand will be appearing at the track for the 7th time, and while he has yet to score at the course, ran his best race ever when finishing a brave 2nd in last months Bet Victor Gold Cup. It was only by a diminishing neck that he failed to reel in the winner, Happy Diva in an epic battle up the Cheltenham hill. A French bred son of Crillon, he looked well suited by racing back at 2m4f in The Bet Victor (Old Course) where he ran on so resolutely, (his 4 previous runs had been over 2miles) and might well find the more galloping nature of the new course on Saturday even more to his liking. Despite a 5lbs rise his mark of 143 looks fair, giving him a racing weight of 11-0.

Venetia Williams won with Niceonefrankie 5 years ago, and will be hoping that last year’s runner up, the 7yo, Cepage, can go one better this time. The son of Saddler Maker was retired for the season following that excellent effort, and following a 329 days break, made a very satisfactory reappearance 5 weeks ago, when giving Saturday’s opponent and current favourite, Riders Onthe Storm, plenty to think about. In a Class2 Aintree Handicap, he was only beaten 1 3/4L by the Twiston-Davies runner and meets him on 5lbs better terms on Saturday. With the run under his belt, and obviously well suited by Saturday’s track it should be close between them.

It is only since joining The Twiston-Davies Academy in November that Riders Onthe Storm has shown what a talented individual he is with that impressive Aintree victory. His record of 1/5 over fences when trained by Tom Taaffe was hardly impressive, and he had either fallen or was pulled up in his 2 previous races. However they have obviously found the key to him at Naunton, and that was a near faultless round over the stiff Mildmay fences. My only concern would be the Handicappers reaction of raising him a very severe looking 13 lbs.

The Dan Skelton trained 6yo, Not That Fuisse, a decent hurdler, has only raced 3 times over fences, finishing 2nd twice. He was runner up in a 2m Novices here at Cheltenham in October, but his best effort was over 2m4f when finishing a close 2nd on his chasing debut at Uttoxeter the same month. Giving 5lbs to the 137 rated, Eric The Red, he was only beaten a length, and the Handicapper seems to have been quite lenient leaving him on 131 for this his handicap debut. He needs a few above him to come out but if getting into the race could be interesting.

Winning three chases off the reel,  including a Grade2 in late 2017, the future looked bright for the Gary Moore trained Benatar, and he did indeed perform well in his first race of 2018, the Grade1 JLT Novices Chase at The Cheltenham Festival, finishing 3rd despite being found to be lame in his off hind. However the wheels have come off in his 4 subsequent races, the last time at Ascot in January. Nevertheless Benatar can go well after a break, and Gary Is a past master at reviving a horse’s fortunes so it’s definitely too early to write off this son of the outstanding National Hunt stallion, Beneficial.

Following a 231 day break and wind surgery, the Warren Greatrex trained 8yo Keeper Hill ran his best race for a long time when winning a valuable Haydock Handicap off a mark of 146 three weeks ago, a career best. He beat the runner up, the 155 rated Midnight Shadow in a sustained duel by 1/2L giving him 11lbs and may only now be fulfilling the promise he showed when winning a Doncaster Grade2 two years ago.

Selection  : Cepage

EW.            : Brelan D’As.  Benatar

John Gray

Betting Tips Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase

betting-tips-caspian-caviarCaspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase 2m5f Cheltenham (new) Saturday – Sponsored by Massey Ferguson from its inception in 1963, until 1980, the race has had many diverse supporters in the succeeding thirty four years, with the Caspian Caviar organisation, generously providing the cash since 2014. In the sixty five year history of the race, top weight, hasn’t stopped seven of our steeplechasing heroes, including the great Flyingbolt, who won the 1965 renewal by 15L, with 12st6lbs in the plate, and the immortal Fred Winter’s Pendil, who carried 12st7lbs to victory in 1973, from getting their heads in front, but we do have to go back twenty years to find the last successful top weight, Addington Boy (11st10lbs) in 1996.

The race is regularly contested by animals who have run in the centrepiece of the big Cheltenham November meeting, The BetVictor Gold Cup, and that race has been an excellent guide, with five of the last nine winners having been placed in that contest. Indeed three winners of the November race, Pegwell Bay (1988), Senor El Betrutti (1996), and Exotic Dancer (2006), have doubled up.

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Village Vic won this race in 2015

With one 4yo, five 6yo’s, six 7yo’s and six 8yo’s taking the honours since 1996, it is clearly a race for the younger animal. Indeed we have to go back to the 9yo Fragrant Dawn’s victory in 1993 to find a winner older than eight, a stat that doesn’t augur well for the chances of the first three past the post in last month’s BetVictor Gold Cup, Taquin Du Seuil, Village Vic, and Buywise, all nine year olds. Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson, with three winners apiece, share the training honours, although Philip Hobbs with two, including last year’s winner, Village Vic, has them in his sights. Poquelin in 2009 and 2010 is the only horse in the entire history of the race to have followed up the following year, which makes things look even more difficult for  the 9yo Village Vic. With the stats speaking strongly against the first three home in the BetVictor, the two to concentrate on from that good guide, are the 4th, Aso, and 5th Bouvreuil.

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Venetia Williams saddles the 6-y0 Aso

The Venetia Williams trained 6yo Aso was having his first run for nearly seven months, and was also making his handicap debut so it was a highly meritorious effort to get within 5 1/4L of the winner Taruin Du Seuil. Indeed, but for a mistake at the second last, he would have finished closer still. He races off the same mark at the weekend, (144) so it would come as no surprise to see this Frenchbred, a winner at Grade2 level over hurdles, go close. A slight caveat would be the ground, as he does seem very effective on a soft surface. However the good-soft ground in the BetVictor didn’t seem to inconvenience him, so given similar conditions, he should be fine, and must have serious prospects of giving Venetia a second success in the race, (won with Niceonefrankie two years ago).

The last, and only 5yo to win, was The Laird, all of fifty years ago, but the Paul Nicholls trained Bouvreuil looks to have serious prospects of doubling this age groups tally. Like Aso, he was having his first run for seven months, when finishing 5th, 1 1/2L behind the Williams runner (4th) in the BetVictor Gold Cup, but this doesn’t tell the whole story, as pilot, Gavin Sheehan, travelled wide the whole way around, covering much more ground than most of the opposition. A French import two years ago, he didn’t get his head in front until last January, and then went on to show what a steeplechaseing prospect he was, when narrowly beaten in a Novices Handicap Chase at the Festival in March. Having been runner up in the Martin Pipe Hurdle at the 2015 festival, Bouvreuil clearly handles Cheltenham’s undulations well, so with B. Geraghty doing the steering on Saturday, the likelihood of Mr Nicholls recording a fourth victory, and owner, J.P Mc Manus, a third look strong.

Warren Greatrex‘s 6yo Aloomomo ran a fine race on his first outing since the Cheltenham Festival, when finishing 3rd in a Novices Hurdle at Ascot three weeks ago. He looked at one stage as if he might win, but lack of condition found him out. He will have benefited hugely for the run and as a winner three times over fences he looks nicely weighted with 10st5lbs in the plate. His talented trainer is quite bullish about his chances but is concerned about the ground. If we do get some rain he is well worth considering.

The Harry Fry trained 7yo, Thomas Brown has only had seven races over the larger obstacles, and considering it was his first run for seven months, he put up an excellent performance when winning a Class2 Aintree Handicap five weeks ago, off a mark of 137. Jumping well he was tiring in the closing stages, but battled on well to win by a length from On Tour. He has plenty to find with Bouvreuil on Cheltenham running in March but is clearly progressive, and has won over hurdles at Prestbury Park. He looks well handicapped off a mark only 5lbs higher than Aintree, and with one of the best jockeys around, Noel Fehilly, in the plate, is another to consider.

Selection: Bouvreuil

E.W.  Thomas Brown