Ceebee previews Saturday's Cheltenham Gold Cup at 14:25 and identifies four each way selections of interest.
Mister Whitaker is now 15lbs higher than his Festival winning mark. The 7lbs he got for a 5-runner race in Carlisle looks incredibly harsh. Behind him in the novices’ handicap at Cheltenham were Rather Be (up 6lbs & re-opposes here); Jameson who was beaten just as far in a similar race next time; Ibis du Rheu was beaten a good distance at Aintree as well; Barney Dwan fell at Ayr and was beaten at Chepstow on reappearance; Rocklander who hasn’t beaten a rival in 3 starts since; Kayf Adventure who was beaten favourite next time and Any Second Now who’s still a maiden after a recent disappointment at Naas. Eight horses didn’t finish. Long story short - that was a very average renewal of a Festival handicap and as a result, I’m eager to be against market leaders Mister Whitaker and Rather Be who fought out that finish.
Rather Be is the one of the two which I prefer as an unexposed improving handicapper with CD form. Experience might be the issue though. Only 4 starts, 3 completions, 2 of which were 5-runner novice races. Others are preferred.
Javert is one of the form horses in the race. He may be turning 10 but due to injuries he has raced just 10 times. He won in Uttoxeter during September, after over 2yrs off. This took his total over fences to 4 from 6. The 4th & 5th from that race have both won since. He then split Frodon and Cloudy Dream in the Old Roan. Despite the small field that was a very competitive race and Javert ran well; he just didn’t have the pace of Frodon up the Aintree straight. A better test of stamina here will suit. That was only his second start in 2.5 yrs and first in top company so hopefully he can take another step forward on Saturday.
It’s probably a result of the money and emphasis placed on spring festivals but this is no longer the race it was. Greats like Imperial Commander, Al Ferof and Our Vic claimed it since 2005. Recent winners were not of that ilk. Hennessy bound horses (think Celestial Gold) now prefer an easier prep race. Graduation Chases are now easier options for exciting young chasers (think Granit Jack & Exotic Dancer). The Irish have enough big money G1s to stay at home and it’s too early for Willie to travel and Giggi tend not to. Rant over. But that all kind of leads me to Splash of Ginge. Splash of Ginge won this race last year (OR 134) and finished second in the Festival Plate (OR 137). A repeat of either performance will put him bang there. Last year’s race worked out ok with placed horses Starchitect nearly collecting the Caspain Caviar and Le Perizen taking the Grand Annual. The Plate was a strong race, stronger than the novices handicap in my opinion. He probably has nothing in hand on the handicapper now but will love the trip, track, field size etc. and ran a fine race on his seasonal reappearance over hurdles. He’ll run his race and if this race is as weak as last year (and some other recent renewals) that could well be enough.
Based on connections willingness to go to Galway and his subsequent decent showing, Kalondra will certainly be suited by the unseasonal good ground. In Galway he tripped up at the second last but was in the process of giving the 158 rated Sub Lieutenant a race. Sandymount Duke (OR 155) was 2nd and back in 5th was Saturnas who finished 2nd in Kerry National next time – it’s solid form and Kalondra was running to above his official rating of 148. Kalondra has two decent pieces of course & distance form. He was 3rd to Traffic Fluide in a competitive handicap chase in April. Traffic Fluide is now 14lbs higher having won again this season. Kalondra got a bad ride that day getting to the front way too soon; it’s a race he should’ve won. Fehily got it right the day he gave 5lbs and a decent beating over C&D to the now 149 rated Coo Star Sivola. Trip, track, ground, well-handicapped; he ticks all the boxes for me.
Baron Alco ran second to the extremely well-handicapped Road to Respect in the 2016 Plate. A race that has worked out tremendously well. He then faced over 500 days off track but returned with a decent showing at Chepstow. It was a hot little race for October with the classy Charbel winning and well-handicapped Garde le Victoire 4th. Baron Alco clearly lost very little sparkle during his time-off. He’s still just a 7yo. He’s a no-nonsense type who’ll be ridden prominent and battle all the way to the line. He has finished 1st or 2nd in his last 6 races and 10 of his last 12. A solid each-way selection.
Frodon looks on a fairly stiff mark now whilst stablemate Movewiththetimes is hard to win with even when his jumping holds up.
Benatar didn’t get home after pulling hard in the JLT and did the same on his seasonal reappearance. I’d rather back him over a shorter trip.
Willie Boy has a big race in him, but he’ll need to get his jumping together first. It’s let him down the last twice. Perhaps a step up in trip might be for the best.
Eamon An Cnoic is the last I want to mention – he didn’t get home over 3m1f at the Festival so should be better at this trip. Lightly raced I’d guess we haven’t seen the best of him yet but he needs to show some form before I‘ll back him.
I was trying to whittle my 4 choices to 2 or 3 for this article but then I saw Paddy Power were going 7 places in a 20-runner race. So a hefty each-way outlay with 4 selections is the plan, let’s hope it pays off.
2pt e/w Kalondra 11/2
1.5pt e/w Baron Alco 9/1
1pt e/w Javert 25/1
0.5pt e/w Splash of Ginge 33/1