Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade1) 3m2 1/2f Cheltenham (New) Friday

gold cup chase

Could the great Tom Dreaper’s record be equalled?

Tom Dreaper, with his 5 victories, Prince Regent 1946, the immortal Arkle’s three consecutive wins, 1964, 65, 66, and Fort Leney in 1968 remains the most successful trainer in the history of the great race, but more than a few think that his outstanding record could be equalled this year by the Master of Ditcheat, Paul Nicholls. His Clan Des Obeaux was a most impressive winner of The King George V1 last time out and Paul will be hoping the French bred son of top NH stallion, Kapgarde, can add to the victories of See More Business, Kauto Star twice, and Denman.

A winner of 6 of his 17 starts over fences, the 8yo has yet to win over further than 3 miles, and his stamina did seem to run out in last year’s renewal. He travelled really well throughout the race and looked to be going at least as well as any jumping the second last in third place, but could find no more from the final fence and finished fifth. It was a similar story 20 days later when he again appeared to be outstayed by Kemboy in Aintree’s Betway Bowl Chase, (3m1f) . Stamina is certainly an issue on Friday, but now a year older, he looked as if there was plenty left in the locker at Kempton where he won the strongly run heat by an impressive, eased down 24L, and his Master trainer certainly knows what is required.

The Willie Mullins trained Kemboy has certainly got his act back together again since unshipping David Mullins at the first In last year’s renewal. He has won 2 of his 4 starts,  both Grade1 events, including a 2L decision over stable companion Al Boum Photo at Punchestown in May. He has gone well in both starts this term, including a good 2nd to Delta Work in the Irish Gold Cup last time. However, he has never finished closer than 4th in three Festival appearances, and showed a definite tendency to jump to his right in The Irish Gold Cup, so Willie’s best chance of back to back victories would seem to lie with last year’s winner, Al Boum Photo. The Co Carlow Maestro certainly seems to have trained him with just The Gold Cup in mind as he has followed the same route as last year. His only run since Punchestown in May being the same Listed Tramore event (2m5f Jan1 Soft) as the previous year, in which he had no trouble seeing off his stable companion, Acapella Bourgeois. Few animals manage to win the Gold Cup twice but there are few equals of Willie in the training stakes, and there won’t be too many surprised at Prestbury Park on Friday If he pulls it off.

Gordon Elliott won with Don Cossack 4 years ago, and will be hoping to follow up with Delta Work in the same colours, (he would be a third winner for the Gigginstown operation who also won with War Of Attrition in 2006) and this very progressive 7yo has to be on most people’s short list. Despite having to be switched twice in last year’s RSA he was only beaten 1/2L and 1 3/4L by Topofthegame and Fridays opponent, Santini. He went on to easily win the Grade1 Champion Novice Chase at The Punchestown Festival 48 days later where he had the now 166 rated A Plus Tard
14 1/2L back in third. He made no impression at Down Royal on his reappearance in November but 8 weeks later won Leopardstown’s Grade1 Savill Chase, outstaying Monalee to win by a Head, and 7 weeks later, beat the 177 rated Kemboy by 1 1/2L to land His biggest pot to date, The Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup. Only rated 139 when scraping home by the minimum distance in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle at The Festival in 2018 as a 5yo, he is now rated 32 pounds higher over fences and I doubt if we have yet seen the limit of this young animals improvement.

The Henry De Bromhead (won with Sizing John 3 years ago) trained Monalee did make Delta Work pull out all the stops to win The Savill Chase in December and could represent some value at his current odds of 20/1. However there has to be a big question mark over his stamina as the furthest he has won over is 3 miles and that was in a Hurdle race at Clonmel over 3 years ago. However he has got a decision over the current market leader, Al Boum Photo, (Leopardstown Feb 2018 2m5f Soft) who he beat by 3/4L in the Grade1 event, and by Milan, out of a Glacial Storm mare, is certainly bred to get the trip.

After finishing 2nd in last year’s RSA the Nicky Henderson trained, Santini was retired for the season, and following a 242 days break, made a less than auspicious start to the new campaign, when getting up by a head to beat a 144 rated opponent at Sandown in November. However, following wind surgery, and a 76 days break he looked a different animal, winning the Gold Cup Trial, The Cotswold Chase, (3m1 1/2f Soft) here at Prestbury Park by a very comfortable 3 1/2L from last year’s Gold Cup 3rd, Bristol De Mai. Nicky, who has won Cheltenham’s Blue Riband twice before thinks there is plenty more to come from the lightly raced 8yo and I for one wouldn’t disagree.

Selection.           : Santini

Danger.               : Delta Work

John Gray

Paddy Power Cotswold Chase (Grade2) 3m1 1/2f Cheltenham (New Course) Saturday

cotswold chase

Little Owl and Jim Wilson

First run in 1980, The Cotswold Chase serves as a trial for The Gold Cup in March and did prove a pretty good guide in it’s first 18 renewals, producing 4 winners, Little Owl,
Master Oats, See More Business, and Looks Like Trouble In 2000 who went on to land the big one at The Festival. However the contest since 2000 has lost much of It’s significance, failing to produce a single Gold Cup victor, and indeed the only winner of the heat to even make the places in March in the last decade, has been The Giant Bolster 6 years ago, (also placed behind Synchronised in the 2012 renewal). The single Irish trained winner of the heat has been the Ted Walsh trained Rinnce Ri, 18 years ago, a statistic Co Meath Maestro, Gordon Elliott, with 2 contenders, Delta Work and Alpha Des Obeaux, will be hoping to improve on.

The former is a 7yo by the stallion Network, sire of many top class NH horses, including the wonderful Sprinter Sacre, and having already won 5 of his 7 starts over fences, Delta Work is well on his way to joining that pretty select band. A winner of his first 3 races over the larger obstacles, including two at the top level, he was sent off the 15/8 Favourite for Cheltenham’s RSA in March, and despite making a mistake four out and finding himself short of room after the last, finished a highly honourable 3rd, 1/2L and 1 3/4L behind Topofthegame and Saturday’s opponent Santini. Further Grade1 success came with a facile win in Punchestown’s Champion Novices Chase 6 weeks later, winning by 12L and 2 1/4L from Discorama and the 160 rated A Plus Tard. Making his seasonal debut in November following a 186 days break he ran no sort of race in Down Royals Grade1 Champion Chase, but showed that he was right back on track 4 weeks ago when landing the highly competitive Grade1 Savill Chase at Leopardstown, with a strong staying performance from Monalee and Road To Respect. Clearly going the right way, if Delta Work turns out on Saturday, (also engaged in The Irish Gold Cup in a fortnight’s time) he might just be the one to re-establish “The Cotswold’s” reputation, as a genuine Gold Cup Trial.

It would require a career best effort for Mr Elliott’s 2nd string, the 10yo, Alpha Des Obeaux to win, but he has run well on is only two visits to Prestbury Park, finishing 2nd to Thistlecrack in the 2016 World Hurdle and 4th to Might Bite in The RSA in 2017. He proved his well-being finishing 3/18 in The Becher Chase over The National fences last time and could be interesting particularly if the ground turns testing.

The Nicky Henderson trained Santini heads the market at 6/4 but will need to improve on his seasonal reappearance when only getting home by a Head from the 144 rated
Now Mc Ginty, in a Sandown Listed Chase if he is to justify such skinny odds. One presumes the logic behind his price is that he finished 1 3/4L ahead of Delta Work in The RSA in March and on 2lbs better terms on Saturday will confirm the form, but I’m not so sure. Delta Work, who looks the stronger stayer, has taken his form to a higher level while Santini has yet to win a Grade 1 over fences, and that Sandown effort wasn’t exactly full of promise. However they certainly know the time of day down at Seven Barrows, and presumably, with one eye on March, have left plenty to work on.

The 9yo Bristol De Mai has been a grand servant to connections, winning 10 of his 31 starts, amassing nearly £700,000 in prize money, and following an excellent 3rd in last year’s Gold Cup, there would be no more deserving winner on Saturday. He has failed to win from 4 attempts at Prestbury Park, but ridden with more restraint than usual in The Gold Cup, it was his best performance to date at the track, (only lost second place in the last 120yds) and similar tactics on Saturday over the furlong shorter trip could yield the maximum dividend.

The Philip Kirby trained 8yo, Top Ville Ben’s form has taken a serious step forward in his last two races, and is now on a mark 13lbs higher than he was at the beginning of the season. He was particularly impressive last time, winning Wetherby’s Grade3 Rowland Meyrick off a mark of 154, by an impressive 8L from Didero Vallis to whom he was conceeding 27lbs, and had the 155 rated Lake View a further 3 1/4L back in third. This young horse, (won’t actually be 8 until the 12th Of May) seems only now to be reaching his full potential, and there could be plenty more to come from this son of the top class jumps sire, Beneficial.

Another animal to take a large step forward last time is Emma Lavelle’s Ladbroke Trophy Handicap Chase (previously The Hennessy) winner, De Rashar Counter. A son of the 4 times Ascot Gold Cup winning sire, Yeats, he stayed on strongly to win what is one of the most competitive handicaps in the calendar, and is now rated 18lbs higher than he was 2 Chases ago. That was only his 7th race over fences so further progress over staying trips can be anticipated.

The Colin Tizzard trained 8yo, Slate House was going best of all when coming down at the penultimate fence in Cheltenham’s Bet Victor in November, and showed no ill effects winning his next 2 races, including Kempton’s Grade1 Kauto Star Novices Chase last time. (3m Soft Dec26). Jumping soundly, he travelled strongly throughout, and idling after the last was probably worth plenty more than the 1 1/4L he won by. An easy winner of a Cheltenham Novices Chase (2m4f Heavy) in October he is another on a strong upward curve and if effective over Saturday’s longer trip will be a danger to all.

Selection :       Delta Work   (If Abs Bristol De Mai)

EW.           : Top Ville Ben

John Gray