There is just over a week to go before we are back at Cheltenham for their two-day International Meeting, with Saturday’s feature handicap being the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup – which has been won by the likes of Exotic Dancer, Unioniste and Frodon.
For runner-by-runner previews and selections at Cheltenham next weekend, be sure to check out our free horse racing tips page.
With his King George ante-post preview currently onsite – where he has pinpointed two horses at odds of 14/1 and 50/1 respectively – our man Joe Eccles is back, this time previewing the aforementioned Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, read his views on the race below.
Current market leader Riders On the Storm got off the mark at the first attempt for Nigel Twiston-Davies when landing a competitive handicap chase at Aintree last month.
He had some smart Irish form to his name prior to that but took a heavy fall in the Close Brothers at the Festival here in March, and that may affect him mentally on his return to Prestbury Park.
For me, he also looks no good thing to confirm Aintree form with the Venetia Williams-trained Cepage – who is my first ante-post selection.
The Saddler Maker gelding found only subsequent Ryanair winner Frodon too strong in the preceding renewal of this contest, with those two pulling fifteen lengths clear of the remainder.
That effort looks worth upgrading as he lost valuable momentum when getting the second-last fence wrong, and the good ground conditions were likely quicker than he would prefer.
He runs off a twelve pounds higher mark today but could easily still have room for manoeuvre off this rating, and the form of that Aintree race received a healthy boost when the third – Oldgrangewood – scored at Newbury last week.
BetVictor Gold Cup winner Happy Diva may swerve this in favour of the Lady Protectress Mares’ Chase at Huntingdon in January – a race she won last season.
Runner-up in the BetVictor – Brelan D’As – therefore, looks an interesting proposition, particularly with proven form over the new course, having finished third in the Grand Annual back in March.
A five-pound rise for his last effort does put him on what looks a potentially troublesome mark though, and with that in mind, it is probably best to look elsewhere.
At odds of 16/1, my second selection is the seven-year-old Clondaw Castle.
Tom George’s Oscar gelding looked very progressive over fences earlier this year, prior to having his limitations exposed in competitive Grade 1’s at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals.
It is easy to forgive those performances, and I felt last month’s seasonal reappearance at Ascot was a run filled with promise.
He undoubtedly benefitted from some final fence shenanigans, but having looked hopelessly outpaced turning for home, he kept on strongly to the line – eventually being beaten just a half-length into second.
Everything in that performance pointed towards a step up in distance now being required, and his pedigree would certainly support that theory – with his brother Red Devil Boys a dual 3m Point winner, and his dam Lohort Castle placing in a 2m4f handicap hurdle.
On more than one piece of form, he still appears to have plenty of wriggle-room in this mark of 144 – so it would be no shock to see him sent off at a significantly shorter price if taking up his engagement at Cheltenham.