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Coral Cup preview

A traditional bastard of a race is how I'd describe the Coral Cup. A 28 runner handicap and the current favourite on Betfair is trading at 13.5 to back.

If that sounds like a dartboard job to you as well, then it's best we listen to what Chris Day, @chrisday100, has to say. Welcome to the blog Chris!

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Coral Cup

Drying conditions in the past 10 days means the last four months’ form is likely to prove less informative than we might hope when assessing the races at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and the handicaps, in particular, may be even tougher to decipher hence I feel definitely that a freshness edge will be the edge we look back on come Friday night as we travel up the M5 for the traditional end of Cheltenham celebration, The Midlands Grand National.

Before that, however, and to ensure we still have some funds to play with come the weekend, picking the Coral Cup winner will certainly not be detrimental to that aim.

Let’s start at the top with Dunguib, a horse I will always associate with Paddy Power wearing a tin hat on the Morning Line Tuesday edition as we awoke from a particularly lively Monday evening at the house we traditionally rent in Cheltenham in 2010. His third to Menorah on that occasion was actually superb form but, on balance, he’s always been a bookies’ horse and his last time out verdict over Zaidpour bore little relevance to what will be needed here and, under top weight, I feel he’s opposable.

Clondaw Kaempfer, a horse with classy bumper and novice hurdling form, needs to improve on his last time out third at Aintree but could be well suited to the demands of the race and did go off 2/1 to beat Taquin Du Seuil in last season’s Challow Hurdle so it’s unlikely that the 3lbs extra he carries here will be the thing which stops him. The stable know what it takes to win this, he’s been well supported in recent weeks and it’s easy to see him still there with a good chance two out. He’s also likely to benefit from a rest, having missed the winter ground since his most recent appearance in November.

Alan King supplied the winner 12 months ago, Medinas, under an unusually big weight for this race and the second, also trained by King, Meister Eckhart, bids to go one better but the horse I like from that stable is Vendor. When I look at the declarations for The Betfair Hurdle in February, I always have an eye on horses likely to go close in that race without winning with a view to reappearing on the Wednesday at Prestbury Park over this more searching trip. Vendor, well backed two years ago in The Fred Winter, had previously dotted up at Newbury in a very strong handicap with the likes of Saphir Du Rheu (now 150s), Gassin Golf (second in The Imperial Cup) and Listed class Mischievous Milly behind. Held up over two miles, he was always struggling to get into the race behind Splash of Ginge and this week’s contest should be ideal.

The other horses I like from that race are Dell’Arca, although I feel this quicker ground may be slightly against him, and Far West, staying on in fifth when falling but with a good second to Melodic Rendezvous and runner up spot in last season’s Triumph to his name, arguably two of the best pieces of form on offer here. The latter bids to emulate Spirit River, who I remember backing for this race after he fell while carrying my cash at Newbury three years ago.

Ifanbutwhynot’s Gerry Fielden form is undoubtedly smart in the context of this race but his course win came 18 months ago off 117 and he’s run disappointingly on three occasions at Cheltenham so, on balance, I think we can leave him out.

As a punter who likes to take big prices, it’s proven difficult to find anything of that ilk to put up here but well fancied horses have traditionally done well in this and the one I’ve sided with is Bayan from the Gordon Elliott stable. His mark has been protected since he got a sighter round here in November over a possibly inadequate two miles behind Sametegal but has plied his trade in a mixture of Premier flat handicaps and charity races since winning a four year old handicap hurdle at Listowel in September. Horses with no more than one handicap hurdle victory traditionally have the right profile for this race. The ground should be the icing on the cake and I like his chances.

For punting purposes, I’ll take Bayan, with Vendor, Far West and Dell’Arca to follow him home.

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The Lexus Melbourne Cup
Group 1, Handicap, 3200m
AUD 7,750,000
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