Day 2 of the December meeting at Cheltenham features a trio of graded races, but the most intriguing is the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, a name that just rolls off the tongue. Bookies had a field day on Friday with just one favourite winning (the only one to run a place!), tomorrow at least appears to be more punter-friendly.
Let's see what regular contributor Chris Day, @chrisday100, has to say about the toughest race on the card.
Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase
Grade 3, £100,000, approx 2m5f
1350 GMT, 0050 AEDT
The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup is the second of the season’s big 2 ½ mile handicap chases which provide such a great spectacle throughout the year at the home of jump racing.
The form of the first in the series, the Bet Victor Gold Cup, has already been boosted with the success of eighth home As De Mee in last week’s Grand Sefton at Aintree and the placed horses plus the fifth and tenth all renew rivalry this weekend.
Village Vic put in a superb round of jumping to see off all bar Taquin Du Seuil, who looks likely to put his Gold Cup credentials on the line at Leopardstown over Christmas, 4 weeks ago and must take all the beating again from a 3lbs higher mark. He won the race last year off 136 and now finds himself on 158 but his jumping will put anything not bringing its a game under pressure from early on. Very difficult to keep out of the frame and anything in front of him at the line is the likely winner.
Third home that day was Buywise, running on strongly at the death and 23lbs better off with Village Vic for the 8 lengths he was beaten in this race last year. He has his own way of doing things but his record here is superb, just the type of horse you’d love to own and surely he must have his day in the sun some time, having last won here on good ground at the April meeting in 2014 from a mark of 134. Despite the presence of the very highly regarded stablemate, King's Odyssey, Moloney has always been jocked up and he has everything in order over this stiffer track to go very close. Kings Odyssey improved dramatically between his first two runs last season and supporters will be hoping for the same but the way he won here on heavy ground on Trials Day in January suggests he’ll need plenty of the wet stuff as well as being able to find similar improvement.
Turning for home that day, Aso looked to be travelling like the winner for Venetia Williams but he hit two out and could not quite match the boot of the other high class horses. This race was always the target from them and he looks nailed on to win a good race soon but his form does say he needs it soft.
The Ante Post gamble, Bouvreuil, caught the eye in fifth, given a patient ride that day by Gavin Sheehan conceding the outside to no one and should love this better ground having put up his best performance over fences at the festival in the novice handicap chase won by Ballyalton. As a backer that day, I felt he had a think as he came to win his race and may not have truly stayed the trip. No such luxuries will be afforded here and, as he’s favourite, that’s a negative for me.
Tenth home was Frodon, a four year old who jumped and travelled well but seemed to have the stuffing knocked out when banking the open ditch four out and never recovered. It’s difficult to know what would have happened but jumping’s the name of the game and you have to be guessing to back him.
Kylemore Lough, a Grade 1 winner at Fairyhouse over Easter for last year’s breakthrough trainer, Kerry Lee, stayed on well on his reappearance when just failing to get up behind Royal Regatta at Ascot last time. If he improves he has to run very well but this will be a stiffer test of his jumping and he’s never won a chase with more than 6 runners in.
Tom George and Adrian Heskin have had a promising start to their new partnership and Module stayed on well behind Fox Norton here in the Shloer Chase over two miles and now runs in a handicap from a mark 15lbs below that he achieved two years ago. Injury has largely been responsible for that and he’s another who could go well but needs to show the fire is still in his belly.
Colin Tizzard just goes from strength to strength and runs a couple here, firstly Quite By Chance, who has looked improved in two outings at Ascot, finishing runner up to Sire De Grugy last time from just a 4lbs lower mark. The exploits of the former Champion Chaser against Un De Sceaux last weekend make that effort look all the more commendable and he was always considered more of a 2 ½ miler although his best form is right handed. His other entry, Sizing Codelco, fell at the first in the Grand Annual but is obviously very talented and should soon be adding to his trainer’s coffers in pursuit of Paul Nicholls in the trainers’ title.
Solar Impulse will enjoy the ground, is a Grand Annual winner but has been allowed to leave the yard and that is off putting in itself, Roman Flight is solid, loves good ground and keeps improving, Turban well in on old form but has shown very little for some time now, Aloomomo surely needs deep ground and is much higher than for his last win and Full Shift has the ability but has to show the mental toughness to compete in a race of this nature.
Thomas Brown looked very good when holding off a well handicapped rival at Aintree with 28 lengths back to the third but he won’t get things his own way here and was well held in seventh behind Ballyalton in a race previously discussed here in March.
To sum up, I believe the BetVictor Gold Cup form was the best handicap form of the year and I recommend backing both Village Vic and Buywise win only plus a reverse forecast on the two.
For tricast purposes I could see Bouvreuil filling the third place at a respectable distance behind the principals.