As ever, the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup has a competitive field – as it should do with £73k to the winner – but the admin mix-up over the ante-post favourite Riders On The Storm has leant it an open feel, and with some generous bookie terms available, there is some value in the field.
In my mind, that value exists because there are question marks over the three market principals (as I type, anyway):
- Cepage went up a mighty 8lbs for his second at Aintree, and though the form of that rate looks rock-solid, horses shouldering top weight have a poor record in this race, the exception being last year’s winner Frodon, who went on to win the Ryanair. I can’t see Cepage winning the Ryanair.
- Brelan d’As has also been raised by the handicapper after a heroic second-place, but his second was behind Happy Diva at Cheltenham last month. Kerry Lee’s mare is an ultra-consistent sort, so this Caspian Caviar line-up would have to be a lot weaker than the BetVictor Gold Cup field for Paul Nicholl’s game eight-year-old to win this race, and I’m not convinced that’s the case.
- Good Man Pat has every chance off this low mark of 136, which undersells his quality, but a horse who has shown such a propensity to jump badly in the past simply cannot be backed in a big Cheltenham handicap at 9/2 or shorter in my eyes.
The next two in the market are the ones that do interest me.
CLONDAW CASTLE lines up today off a mark of just 144, the same mark from which he finished second at Ascot in the extraordinary race won by Diego Du Charmil, who took out his stablemate Capeland at the last Wacky-Races-style. The handicapper has taken the view that with Diego Du Charmil getting up despite the last fence shenanigans, the bare form flatters Clondaw Castle. However, this race was probably the strongest big-handicap run so far this season given that Capeland won handsomely next time out with Diego Du Charmil in second despite now being rated 156; perhaps more importantly, Clondaw Castle was staying-on strongly over that 2m1f trip, and and extra three furlongs over the New Course at Cheltenham could be exactly what he needs. His fourth in the Arkle when sent off at 33/1 proves he handles the track, and Tom George’s horses are in fine form, so there are no clear negatives and he should be backed accordingly.
At the very bottom of the weights is NOT THAT FUISSE, the mount of Harry Skelton (who could have ridden Spiritofthegames, so that’s a positive in itself). On the face of it, his form isn’t up to much, but he was very deliberately steered round Warwick last time out over an insufficient trip, and given the trainer and the big prize on offer here, this absolutely screams “plot job”. Not That Fuisse’s jumping has been sound on all his three runs over fences, and he looks like a horse who will be rated far higher than 131 in future. With some nice each-way terms on offer, he should be covered, as he could be thrown in here.
Others with strong chances are Secret Investor for Paul Nicholls – who absolutely loves targeting this race, but his mark of 150 looks a little high – and Robin Des Foret for Willie Mullins, whose second behind Le Richebourg last October hinted at a proper graded horse in the making. But I can’t back four in the race!
Elsewhere on the card, while Mister Fisher has real class and shaped well behind Torpillo at Warwick, the odds available on the likeable GOOD BOY BOBBY look generous. He hasn’t put a foot wrong over fences, and has always looked like a step up in trip would suit. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ promising six-year-old really enjoyed the undulations of Carlisle, so Cheltenham may prove to his liking. The five-pound penalty he carries won’t make life easy, but that’s also why decent prices are available.
At Doncaster, the two handicap chases have attracted appalling numbers of entries, so aren’t of interest, but I have backed WINDSOR AVENUE to beat Sam Spinner, even if the near three-mile trip is an unknown. Windsor Avenue has looked sensational in his two outings over fences so far, while Sam Spinner has looked far from a natural over the bigger obstacles, and that should tip the contest in Brian Ellison’s favour. But at odds-on, he’s not exactly a tip, is he?
Recommended Bets (Cheltenham):
12:45 Good Boy Bobby 2pts win at 5/2 (general)
1:55 Clondaw Castle 1pt e/w at 15/2 (4 places) & Not That Fuisse 0.5pts e/w at 10/1 (4 places)