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Bet 365 Gold Cup Chase

The National Hunt season winds up tomorrow at Sandown but the greater attention will be paid to the final rides for the legend that is AP McCoy. A sellout crowd for a non-Festival race meeting is pretty rare in the UK, but the Sold Out sign went up this morning. The feature race of the meeting is the Bet 365 Gold Cup Chase, and surprise, surprise, it's a big handicap race and near on impossible to isolate the winner.

Sam Tribe, @samtribe87, makes a welcome return to the blog for the preview, he's not afraid of the tough ones!

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BET365 GOLD CUP CHASE
Grade 3 Class 1 Handicap
3m 5 1/2f
1550 local time
Going: Good


Form link

No AP. No problem. I decided to focus on this race because AP wouldn’t be riding in it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the champ as much as the next racing fan but when writing a preview of a race, it’s hard to not get wrapped up in McCoy Mania and tell everyone to re-mortgage their house and lump on Mr Mole. I hope he does win his final two races but my focus is on this beaut of a chasing challenge; The Bet365 Gold Cup Chase. Won by some fairly impressive (sic) horses in the past; Desert Orchid, Arkle and more recently the evergreen Tidal Bay to name but a few. This is a physically demanding test usually on fast ground and has been a favourites’ graveyard, which makes it all the more intriguing.

I will quickly run through the line-up and then give my conclusion at the end (please note, all odds correct at time of publishing.)

1. Rocky Creek 11st 12lb 16/1
The drying ground will be a concern as will the fact he completed the Grand National a fortnight ago. Considering that was the aim for this horse you start to wonder if this is a bit of a consolation run.

2. Bobs Worth 11st 8lb 11/1
Pulled up in the Gold Cup, the lightly raced 10 year old will have to improve considerably to have a chance of winning this one. However this drop in grade and first handicap appearance since 2012 makes an intriguing prospect. Henderson will no doubt have him ready and the ground will suit.

3. Unioniste 11st 8lb 14/1
The second of four for champion trainer Nicholls who, like Rocky Creek, went in the National only two weeks ago but should be fresher than his stablemate after falling five fences in. Usually a sound jumper and staying on strong for sixth in the Hennessey last November when all around were struggling suggests he can go the distance.

4. Wonderful Charm 11st 8lb 16/1
Another of Nicholls’ string and further proof of how strong his yard has been this past season. Has struggled this season in Grade 1 company but showed signs of class when narrowly beaten in his handicap debut at Aintree two weeks ago off of top weight. A rallying finish there in a hotly run race could have taken its toll and this latest test could be too soon.

5. Grand Jesture 10st 10lb 8/1
The first of the Irish raiders and tipped to do well after his impressive second to The Druid’s Nephew at the Cheltenham Festival. Will be fresher than some of the leading contenders but the quick ground could be an issue.

6. The Package 10st 10lb 9/1
A mightily impressive performance in the Kim Muir saw this 12yo win by twelve lengths and pulling away, surprising many, including me. Tongue tie and blinkers did the trick that day and with the same gear in place, if the same horse turns up he could be very hard to beat.

7. Le Reve 10st 10lb 8/1 Has been the favourite all week and this race has been the plan for a long time. There are concerns over the quick ground though as his trainer, Lucy Wadham pointed out earlier in the week. Has strong course form but doubts over this extended distance suggests looking elsewhere in this race.

8. Bally Legend 10st 5lb 20/1
Tenth in this last year but efforts this spring suggest that he could improve on that performance. Third behind Rocky Creek and La Reve in February was followed up by a creditable four length sixth at the Cheltenham Festival gives this 10 year old a decent each way chance.

9. Vics Canvas 10st 5lb 14/1
Falling at the first but bouncing back up last time out hopefully hasn’t had too much effect on this twelve year old. Never really shown anything in Britain but the booking of a certain Ruby Walsh is interesting.

10. Lost Legend 10st 4lb 25/1
AP has seemingly not chosen to ride in this race (make of that what you will) and Richie McLernon will take the ride instead. Not a bad effort last time out at the Festival but made no impression on the horses in front of him.

11. Just A Par 10st 3lb 18/1
The last of Nicholls’ entries and for me the most intriguing. It has been a break-through season for Sean Bowen and will be looking to strengthen his grip on the conditional jockeys’ championship with a win here. Although he was a beaten favourite last time out, Just A Par responded well when Bowen asked him to and there was enough there to suggest an improved performance this time round over a longer trip.

12. Grandads Horse 10st 3lb 40/1
It’s been a long old season for this tough competitor, making his 13th appearance on Saturday. A couple of wins on soft in December were impressive but pulled up last time and this is asking a lot of him.

13. Royale Knight 10st 2lb 18/1
Very impressive sixth in the Grand National but as with Rocky Creek, you wonder how much that will have taken out of him. Is in good form though and connections will hope to cap an impressive campaign with a win.

14. Ely Brown 10st 2lb 40/1
100/1 shot in the National and fell at the first. Not much suggesting he will fare any better this time round. Ground a major concern as well.

15. Roalco De Farges 10st 1lb 20/1
seventh in this last year but held on to second place gamely last time out from eventual Scottish Grand National winner, Wayward Prince. With Dickie Johnson choosing Duke Of Lucca, Michael Nolan picks up the ride and has place hopes at best.

16. Return Spring 10st 1lb 33/1
Frustrating one for me because I was at Cheltenham when he had form figures of 1-2-1 over hurdles around there. He seemed such a willing horse, a real battler but hasn’t found anywhere near that sort of form since switching to fences. The ground is also a concern as he likes it soft.

17. Duke Of Lucca 10st 14/1
Cracking performance last time out and really showed guts to retain the Betfred Handicap Chase at Aintree. Not been the greatest of campaigns before that win but will go on the ground and hard to dismiss.

18. Paint The Clouds 10st 8/1
What a season Warren Greatrex is having, epitomised by the impressive Cole Harden in the World Hurdle. His hope, Paint The Clouds, has a cracking chance in this and teams up with Sam Waley-Cohen again (who can claim 3lbs). A little disappointing at the festival but the ground was a bit on the soft side for him that day and the conditions should suit him in this one.

19. Guess Again 10st 16/1
An intriguing one this. Now with his fifth trainer in Tony Martin, Guess Again was travelling well before falling at Cheltenham in his debut for the yard. Showed good form on quick ground for the Pipe stable last summer before disappearing for nine months, switching stables and reappearing at the Festival. Worth watching to see how he fares in this race. Paul Townend a notable booking too.

20. Algernon Pazham 10st 20/1
Interesting novice who will carry a full two and a half stone less than Rocky Creek with 7lb claimer, Jamie Bargary on board. Bit of a quirky character who refused the final fence in the race before last, but has good form, placing three out of four times over the larger obstacles. Bit of hurdling form sticks out for me as well, having beaten the impressive Silsol at Leicester last season. The fast ground is a concern though.

Verdict
It’s a lottery but that is why we all love these big field handicaps. I can easily make claims for 80% of the field but I will try and pick out three that I think have the best chance of winning. Special mentions should be made for Bobs Worth who definitely has a chance of recapturing form by winning this and for Duke Of Lucca who seemingly turns up in the spring. My first pick is The Package. David Pipe has had an exceptional season and could cap it off with a win here and Tom Scudamore will certainly hope so as he attempts to beat Richard Johnson into second place in the champion jockey table. My second pick is Paint The Clouds. Conditions will suit this horse and I’m sure he will run a big race. And finally, out of the strong Nicholls’ contingent, Just A Par gets my vote. What a story it would be with the reigning champ retiring, 17 year old Sean Bowen could steal the show and be touted as a future champion jockey by winning this. If he goes on to achieve half of what AP has done it would be a remarkable feat.

1st Just A Par, 2nd Paint The Clouds, 3rd The Package

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