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BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
Course experience in this race is vital. All of the last 15 winners had previously faced the fences at Prestbury Park, whilst 11 of the last 15 winners had previously been victories at this historic course. Experience at this distance is equally as important. 13 of the last 15 had won at the 2m4f distance or further, whilst the same number of winners came from UK based yards. Another key stat is the importance of age, as 11 of the last 15 winners have been aged six or seven years old. One last key bit of information to note, the Pipes, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Paul Nicholls and Jonjo O’Neill all have good records in this race, so it’s wise to take at look at any horses that they enter. Our expert preview for the 2017 BetVictor Gold Cup is below.
Neil Mulholland’s seven-year-old, Shantou Village, currently heads the ante-post market. After a season disrupted by injury, he triumphed in the bet365 Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap Chase on his final run of the season. Making his handicap debut, he stayed up with the pace throughout. He travelled comfortably, whilst his jumping didn’t let him down. However, as the pace of the raced lifted, his jumping began to fail him. Nonetheless, he continued to hold the lead, which demonstrated how well treated the horse was. Chased hard by Brother Tedd and Casino Markets, he rallied gamely to hold off both challengers and poke his neck in-front. Twice a winner at the Cheltenham course, he still looks to be on a handy mark. Therefore, this race looks ideal to kick-start his season. If he produces a better round of jumping, he could take this impressively.
Another one who has won at Cheltenham is soft ground specialist, Le Prezien. Last time he visited this course, he was well beaten in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase. Although well placed throughout, the McManus-owned six-year-old lacked the pace to ever really be in contention. He did receive significant market support that day, suggesting that many believed he had a viable chance. Therefore, it may have simply been that ground and weight were against him that day. Now eased to a mark, it will be interesting to see this horse on it’s return, especially if there’s some cut in the ground.
Last seen tackling the national fences at Aintree, it would be an interesting move from connections, should they decide to target this race with Saphir Du Rheu. Nonetheless, last year’s Gold Cup fifth floats around the top of the betting. The eight-year-old impressed many with his performance at the Gloucestershire course. However, he was never really in contention once the race entered the final stages. His trip around the Aintree course was less successful. Sam Twiston-Davies, who chose to ride him, found himself lying on the turf, when he was unseated at the 11th. Connections of this versatile stayer, who is equally capable at these type of distances, may not see victory as a priority in this race. However, he is certainly capable of winning this, should he be race fit.
Arkle runner up, Cloudy Dream, looks set to make his comeback in this race. After his final race of the season, his trainer, Malcolm Jefferson, stated “Cloudy Dream deserved that and he might stay three miles” hinting that trips over the extended distance could lie ahead this season. In the same statement, Jefferson all but confirmed that this race would be the starting point for his seven-year-old. His jumping was rather sketchy, reaching at most of his fences, when last seen in the Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Novices’ Chase. His jockey, Brian Hughes, didn’t panic however, seemingly knowing that the horse would be good enough to pass each of its rivals in the latter stages of the race. A bold jump at the last ensured Hughes was correct to be confident, as he landed with momentum and breezed past Nicky Henderson’s Theinval. His jumping needs to be better this time around though. However, should it improve, he’ll stand a good chance.
Malcolm Jefferson could have another live chance in this race with Waiting Patiently. The six-year-old has a clear liking for soft ground. This was highlighted when he landed a Grade 2 Novice Chase at Haydock in January. Constantly creeping into contention throughout, the Flemensfirth gelding looked to be revelling in the rain-soaked ground. Courtesy of another fine ride from Brian Hughes, the six-year-old sauntered up the notoriously long Haydock straight. Finding himself on terms with Politologue at the last fence, he bounded over – and although he lost some of his momentum – he had enough speed to put the race to bed. Last year, this horse was entered in the JLT and the Arkle. However, the good ground destroyed any chance this horse had in either race. Cut in the ground is key, if he gets that in this race, he’ll take some beating.