There is now little over a week to go before the start of Cheltenham’s November Meeting. We have bookmaker offers available for the three days on our free bets page – plus selections and runner-by-runner previews covered by our free horse racing tips.
The feature race of the meeting is next Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup, which has been won by the likes of Exotic Dancer, Imperial Commander and Al Ferof.
Our man Joe Eccles has produced his own ante-post preview for the race below, providing two selections that – at the time of writing – are priced up at 9/1 and 25/1 respectively.
Colin Tizzard’s Slate House currently heads most markets. This son of Presenting has clearly had his issues, but he also has bags of talent – as he showed when running out a facile eleven-length winner of a novice chase at the Showcase Meeting here last month.
This is a whole new ballgame, however, and it is tough to say the assessor has let him in lightly here off an opening handicap mark of 147.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has trained two of the last nine winners, and his likely representative this year is Count Meribel, who made a promising seasonal reappearance when second at Carlisle over the weekend.
That run suggested that a step back up to three miles was in order, however, so I feel he may find at least a couple of these rivals too quick over the two-mile four-furlong distance.
White Moon made an eye-catching reappearance at Wincanton last month – falling at the final fence when looking set to score – but the Ladbrokes Trophy is more likely to be on his agenda.
Cepage was last seen chasing home subsequent Ryanair Chase winner Frodon in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup here in December, and he would warrant serious respect if taking up this engagement.
He is currently favourite for a handicap chase at Aintree over the weekend, however, and as he tends to save his best form for when fresh – that provides enough cause for concern to leave him off my ante-post list.
With that in mind, the first of my two selections is the seven-year-old Spiritofthegames.
This Darsi gelding disappointed in the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree when last seen in April, but he was found to have bled from the nose post-race there, so there are legitimate excuses for that performance.
Fifth in the 2018 County Hurdle and third in last season’s Brown Advisory Plate, Cheltenham clearly holds no fears, and he still appears to have some wriggle room off his current rating of 150.
Norman Lake’s charge currently has a perfect 3-3 record when returning from a break of 100-days or more, so this appears to be the right time to catch him, and with a strong pace all but guaranteed, expect him to be finishing fast at the business end under Harry Skelton.
My second BetVictor Gold Cup selection is the Kerry Lee trained Happy Diva.
This admirable mare has finished in the first three in all but two of her twenty-four completed starts over obstacles.
She chased home Guitar Pete in a Listed chase at Wetherby last Friday, and that effort is worth upgrading as her stable was enduring a difficult run of form.
Still well in contention prior to being brought down four-out in the preceding renewal of this contest, she has shown improved form since that run yet arrives here running off just a two pounds higher mark, so rates as a solid each-way betting proposition.