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

Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase Racing Tips 2m5f New Cheltenham Saturday

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. Image result for Clan Des ObeauxFrench 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

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.

village-vic

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.

venetia-williams

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

Hennessy Gold Cup Betting Tips 2016

hennessy-gold-cup-betting-tips-2016

A potent force over the larger obstacles Un Temps Pour Tout has a strong chance in the Hennessy writes the Oddsguru

Hennessy Gold Cup Chase (Handicap) 3m2f Newbury Saturday – First run in 1957, the race has been won by some of the greats of the Winter Game, including Arkle, (twice) Burrough Hill Lad, and more recently Denman, (twice). With eight individual Cheltenham Gold Cup winners, and many more outstanding chasers, on the roll of honour, it is advisable to look for a young horse, on the upgrade, who has performed at a high class level in its first season over fences.

arkle-hennessy

The great Arkle claimed two Hennessys: in 1964 and again in 1965.

Older animals have a particularly poor record in the race, and we have to go back to 1981 to find a winner older than nine. (Doesn’t bode well for 10yo Double Ross). With three winners apiece, training honours are shared by Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls and both are again represented by highly creditable candidates. A man who has never won the race, but did train last year’s runner up, Theatre Guide, is the amazing Colin Tizzard and his upwardly mobile 6yo, Native River heads the market.

A thoroughly genuine type, as his record of six wins and six places from his fifteen starts bears eloquent testament to, he ran his usual solid race on his reappearance in a 3m Wetherby Hurdle four weeks ago. Having his first run for nearly seven months he stayed on strongly to finish 2 3/4L second to Silsol, with the very useful Lil Rockerfeller 1/2L back in third. Second in the 4m National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, he won the 25f Grade1 Novices Chase at Aintree 24 days later under a great ride from Richard Johnson. He won by 3L and 3 3/4L from Henri Parry Morgan and Blaklion, and with the same man doing the steering on Saturday, the Tizzard horse looks a worthy favourite. A definite reservation would be heavy ground as he had no answer to Blaklion in those conditions at Wetherby in February.

The latter’s trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, I’m sure would be more than happy to see the heavens open, as his Cheltenham RSA winner handles heavy conditions better than most. Not that the talented 7yo needs such conditions as we saw in that epic performance at the festival, when he outbattled Shaneshill on good ground. Blaklion made a perfectly satisfactory reappearance in the “Charlie Hall” four weeks ago, finishing 4th, and while he does seem to have some leeway to make up with Native River on Aintree form, I suspect that the Twiston-Davies horse found that race coming too soon after his Cheltenham exertions. Given soft ground I can see This relentless galloper making a big impression.

The Paul Nicholls trained 7yo Saphir Du Rheu was sent off favourite for last years renewal, racing off a mark of 163, but didn’t seem to quite get home, and finished 5th, beaten 22L. It was a similar story for the rest of the season, seeming to struggle in the closing stages of his races, but there were signs of a revival at Ascot last time on his reappearance after a five months break. At the Berkshire venue, four weeks ago, he responded well to pressure from three out, and staying on strongly, nearly snatched second on the line in what was a strongly run race. If his problems are indeed behind him, he looks nicely treated on a mark 9lbs lower than last year, and could provide the Ditcheat handler with a fourth success.

Smad Place put up a sparkling performance last year, when, jumping like a stag, he came home 12L clear of his field off a mark of 155 to leave Oddsguru readers celebrating.

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Could the galloping grey stage a repeat of last year’s success?

Taking it up at the 10th fence, he was never headed afterwards, and went into many notebooks as a Gold Cup possible. However, after coming home in front, in what was a real slog in the Cheltenham mud in January, he disappointed in the Gold Cup, and may well have been feeling the effects of that attritional January contest. Retired for the season he made a satisfactory reappearance at Aintree 34days ago, finishing 4th, over an inadequate 20f. As the great Arkle, over fifty years ago, was the last horse to win back to back Hennessys, Smad Place with top weight,  clearly has his work cut out on Saturday, but it’s just possible that we have yet to see the best of Alan King’s charge, and it would be great to see the galloping grey do a repeat.

The prize has gone back to the Nicolashane yard on four occasions, (three for Martin and one for David) and there must be plenty of optimism down Somerset way that the talented 7yo, Un Temps Pour Tout can bring home a fifth. A top class staying hurdler in France, winner of a Grade1 3m1 1/2f contest on very soft at Auteil in June 2015, he showed that he was going to be an equally potent force over the larger obstacles, when winning easily at the Cheltenham Festival, off a mark of 148, on only his fourth run over fences. He had the very useful Holywell 7L back in second,and the Young Master a further 9L back in third in the twenty three runner contest. He was found to be lame behind, when finishing 4th in Native River’s Aintree race three weeks later, but demonstrated his wellbeing when taking an Aintree Hurdle on his reappearance twenty one days ago. This very progressive animal handles any ground and is particularly well suited by soft so has to be on the shortlist to give the Pipe yard a fifth success.

Peter Bowen’s 8yo, Henri Parry Morgan was a useful staying hurdler, achieving a rating of 129, but has really come into his own since tackling the larger obstacles, and is now rated 150 in that discipline. Mind you, both initial attempts over fences were less than promising, finishing last at Bangor, and unseating over course and distance last December. However next time, equipped with a tongue tie, he showed what he could do, storming home from the subsequent winner, Bear Rails in a Chepstow Class 3 handicap. Raised 13lbs for a Uttoxeter Class2 three weeks later, he repeated the dose, coming home 15L clear of Delgany Demon. Upped to Grade1 level, in Native River’s Aintree race he was beaten 3L but reopposes on 5lbs better terms at the weekend. Having travelled well, he unseated at the 19th when favourite for the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April and was put away for the season. This 8yo is bred to stay “forever”(by Brian Boru, out of an Over the River mare) so if conditions are testing on Saturday, would be worth considering.

Selection: Un Temps Pour Tout.
E.W.       : Blaklion.

Caspian Caviar (December) Gold Cup

Caspian Caviar December Gold Cup 20f 166yds Cheltenham Saturday.

The December Gold Cup was first run in 1963, under the sponsorship of Massey Ferguson, and two of steeplechasing’s greats, Flying Bolt and Pendil, won it in its early years carrying the mind boggling weights of 12st 6lbs, and 12st 7lbs respectively. Happily such eye watering imposts are now a thing of the past and the top weight on Saturday will be asked to shoulder a mere 11st12lbs. Its worth noting that weight hasn’t been a bar to success in recent years with the winner of five of the last eight renewals carrying north of 11st. Indeed the Paul Nicholls-trained Poquelin won consecutive runnings in 2009 and 2010 with 11st8lbs and 11st9lbs on his back. The Ditcheat handler also trained the 4yo Unioniste to win in 2012, so his three candidates this year, Sound Investment, Salubrious, and Art Mauresque, are certainly worth considering.

Sound Investment, who carries top weight, and is the choice of stable jockey, Twiston-Davies, ran a great race in the “Paddy Power” where carrying the maximum burden, he finished third, 1 1/4L behind the winner, and Saturday’s opponent, the Alan King trained, Annacotty. The Nicholls 7yo had impressed in his previous race, a Gd2 Cl1 handicap off a mark of 155 at Aintree, and having demonstrated his ability to safely negotiate the vagaries of Prestbury Park last time, he must, on 4lbs better terms have serious prospects of reversing the form with the King horse at the weekend.

The 8yo Salubrious was having only his second run over the larger obstacles when taking a Cl2 3ml Carlisle chase four weeks ago. It was his first outing for 13 months, so further progress can be expected, but considering seven of the last ten winners had run at least six times over fences, he is likely to prove too inexperienced for Saturday’s test.

Of more interest is the Nicholl’s third string, Art Mauresque. This 5yo, ex French gelding has won four of his seven starts over the larger obstacles, including two victories over Kempton’s tricky fences, and quite impressively, here at Cheltenham in October. He was a tad disappointing in the “Paddy Power” when finishing 6th but may have had a little too much use made of him. Given a more conservative ride it is not hard to envisage him being involved at the weekend, and it will come as no surprise if he finishes the season on a considerably higher mark than his current 147.

Only three horses, Pegwell Bay, Senor El Betrutti, and Exotic Dancer have managed to win both the Paddy Power, and this in the same season, so racing off a 5lbs higher mark than last month, it looks a tall order for Annacotty to join this select band. However his excellent trainer, who is carrying all before him this season, is quite bullish, and reports the horse to be in fine fettle, so he can’t easily be dismissed.

Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson combined to win this with Monkerhostin in 2004 and have prospects of a repeat this year with the talented 7yo Champagne West. He is a winner of two of his four starts over fences, both here at Cheltenham, and he also ran well in the Dipper Chase, again at the course last January, finishing second to Ptit Zig. He sustained a minor injury in his next race when joint favourite for a Gd1 novices chase at Sandown and was retired for the season. He looks nicely handicapped off a mark of 150 giving him a racing weight of 11st and the only reservation would be his lack of a recent outing. However he did win after an eight month break last year and coming from this yard is unlikely to fail for lack of fitness.

Evan Williams’s 8yo Buywise has been a frustrating animal around Cheltenham. He did manage to win a handicap here in April 2014, but usually, due to poor jumping, gets himself well behind and seemingly out of contention, only to come up the hill like the proverbial train and manages to grab a place. It was a similar story last time in the Paddy Power when finishing second to Annacotty off a mark of 148. One day hopefully he will get everything right, but raised another 4lbs for coming second he has it all to do.

Rebecca Curtis’s 6yo Irish Cavalier won a handicap at the festival over course and distance off a mark of 137, and comfortably defied a mark of 151 at Newton Abbot in October. He was a well backed 8/1 chance for the Paddy Power off a 5lbs higher mark and came to the third last looking the most likely winner. He took it up at the penultimate fence but was headed after the last and with nothing more to give finished fifth. It may well be that he got there too soon, and if held onto for longer, may do better on Saturday. However the stable remains in poor form, and with “fodder” problems reported, he is one to treat with caution.

Selection: Champagne West.

E.W: Sound Investment.

Caspian Caviar December Gold Cup 20f 166yds Cheltenham Saturday.

 

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

Racing Betting Preview BetBright Cup Chase

Racing Betting Preview BetBright Cup Chase. 3m1 1/2f Cheltenham Saturday

Oliver Sherwood’s 8yo Many Clouds made a highly satisfactory reappearance at Carlisle at the beginning of November when defeating the talented Eduard and Holywell in a class 1 chase, and then ran the race of his life when winning the Hennessy at Newbury four weeks later.

As only three winners of this, Kim Bailey’s Master Oats in 1995, Paul Nicholl’s See More Business in 1999, and Noel Chance’s Looks like Trouble in 2000, have gone on to victory in the Gold Cup itself it hasn’t been the greatest guide to success in March. However if all eight turn out on Saturday this years renewal looks the strongest for some years, and certainly contains some potential Gold Cup winners.

With three 9yos, four 10yos, and an 11yo veteran collecting in the last ten runnings experience obviously counts. Paul Nicholls has won the race twice over the same period, with Colin Tizzard, David Bridgwater , Jonjo O’Neill, and Nigel Twiston- Davis getting their name on the scoresheet once. While David Pipe and Alan King have failed to win, they have both had two runners placed, King being of particular interest, as he has had only two runners over the period. Course form is important with eight of the last ten winners having previously been successful at the track. ( The other two had strong place form ). The market has been a poor guide with none of the last nine Jollys obliging .

Despite failing to win over the course, Smad Place’s Cheltenham record is exemplary. Having been placed in two World Hurdles he ran the race of his career in last years R.S.A. Chase. There, in a race run nearly three seconds faster than standard, he took it up before two out, and hard pressed by the winner O’Faolain’s Boy from the last, in an epic struggle, he only gave best in the last stride. Put away for the rest of the season, he made his reappearance in the Hennessy at Newbury where he started a well fancied 6/1 shot. Although making some progress after the 17th he was never really in the hunt and finished tired, 20l behind Saturday’s opponent Many Clouds. His excellent trainer Alan King blamed himself for the poor showing, feeling that in retrospect, the horse would have benefited from a previous race before such a competitive event as the Hennessy. With very positive vibes now coming from the stable, and with a pull of 12lbs with Many Clouds, his chance is obvious on Saturday.

Twice placed, and three times a winner ( including this race last year ) over the course, David Bridgwater’s 10yo The Giant Bolster’s chance must be respected. After his heroics in last years Gold Cup ( 3rd btn 3/4l ) he reappeared at Wetherby at the beginning of November, and ran abysmally finishing tailed off last. He ran with more enthusiasm at Haydock three weeks later finishing 15l 5th to Silviniaco Conti. While further progress can be anticipated back at his favourite track, he is carrying the maximum penalty and has to concede weight to classy animals like Smad Place and Holywell, so perhaps a place is the best that can be hoped for.

Another set to shoulder the maximum penalty is Many Clouds, and few would argue that he is the animal with most potential in the field. Oliver Sherwood’s 8yo made a highly satisfactory reappearance at Carlisle at the beginning of November when defeating the talented Eduard and Holywell in a class 1 chase, and then ran the race of his life when winning the Hennessy at Newbury four weeks later. He ran out a most convincing winner staying on with great gusto from the last, to win by 3 3/4l from Houblon des Obeaux off a mark of 151, and went into many note books as a potential Gold Cup winner. He is a relentless galloper who stays extremely well and thrives in testing conditions, so should have conditions to suit on Saturday. The slight caveat would be his lack of course form, but he has only run at the track twice, and was going well enough when brought down at the 14th in the R.S.A. Chase. He has shown his versatility on a variety of tracks and I don’t envisage the course being a problem.

Paul Nicholls, who has been relentlessly firing in the Saturday winners, saddles the 8yo Black Thunder, an animal who has been slowly getting his act together. A faller in the R.S.A. Chase, he disappointed on his reappearance at Newton Abbot in October but ran well in a cl1 chase at Ascot ( Nov1 ) when a close 2nd off a mark of 149. He then trotted up in a four runner affair when odds on at Sandown. He is another burdened with the maximum penalty on Saturday so perhaps this winner of four of his eight chases may find Saturday’s test beyond him.

David Pipes’ 9yo Dynaste stayed on well in the King George V1 chase at Kempton to take 2nd behind his nemesis Silviniaco Conti, giving some encouragement to the view that he has more reserves of stamina than appeared to be the case previously. If this is true last years Ryan Air Chase winner would be a serious contender on Saturday as he ran on so well up that daunting hill in March.

Jonjo O’Neill’s Holywell impressed when winning a handicap at the festival of a mark of 145, and progressed again when taking the gd1 novices chase at Aintree by 10l from the very useful Don Cossack, a performance that led to talk of “Gold Cups” by some good judges. However his performances this season have been disappointing, unseating in his last race. Jonjo was badly out of form at the time, so it is far too early to write off this very promising animal. It would be no surprise to see a much improved performance on Saturday.

Selection: Many Clouds.

Danger: Smad Place.