Cheltenham BetVictor Gold Cup Preview

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The first big meeting of the season at Cheltenham and I can hardly contain my excitement.

Cheltenham is a place where I always perform and with it being my local course, in fact it is where I walk my dog, I know the course very well. I know exactly what type of horse it takes to win around here and it is a place where I am simply at home.

My results at Cheltenham are the reason why I have been known as the ‘Cheltenham Specialist’ and I am going all out to make sure these next 3 days are full of profit.

Let’s move on to the big race of the weekend where I am happy to produce a preview for you with a couple of selections attached.​​​​​​​

Remember we will be running a Festival Special over the next 3 days and if you want every single over the 3 days, please sign up to our Cheltenham BetVictor Gold Cup Festival Special.

 

​​​​​​​Bet Victor Gold Cup

The first running of this race was back in 1960. It is a Handicap Chase and often attracts some quality horses. The race has actually been won by some very good horses such as Imperial Commander, Exotic Dancer, Al Ferof, Lady Cricket, Celestial Gold and Our Vic.

It is also a race that some top class horses find hard and one that springs to mind is Long Run who finished 3rd in this race and, in the same year, still went and won the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

In the last 20 years the race has been dominated by 3 yards in Martin/David Pipe, Nigel Twiston Davies and Jonjo O’Neil who have won it 13 times between them in the 20 years. If you also throw in Paul Nicholls who has won it twice in that time, you have 4 trainers who have won the race 15 times (75%) in the last 20 years. If you like your stats and trends look no further than those 4 trainers.

I will obviously take notes of the above record but I won’t take it at face value as you also have some trainers like Philip Hobbs and Alan King who have had many places without winning so it is a race they clearly target, just haven’t got lucky.

Above are just some of the angles for you to take away if you are going to tackle the race yourself.

Another angle for you to take away would be 11 of the last 12 winners had run at the previous Cheltenham Festival. The one horse who didn’t run at the Cheltenham Festival and won the race was Imperial Commander and that was because he was injured.

For me experience at the course is absolutely crucial if you haven’t run at the course you can forget it in my eyes. Cheltenham racecourse takes no prisoners and for me you can’t rock up in an ultra competitive handicap chase, without a run at the course.

Let’s go through the field in Alphabetical order and see where it takes us.

Odds correct at the time of writing 2:15pm, Thursday 15th November.

 

BAREN ALCO

Trainer – Gary Moore
Cheltenham Form – 00322
ODDS 10/1

BAREN ALCO returned at Chepstow after a 577 day lay off last month. He came home 2nd to Charbel and it was a top class effort considering he had been off the track for so long. His previous run had come at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival when 2nd of 24 to Road To Respect in the Brown Advisory Plate. It is worth pointing out that his run prior to this was when 2nd to Top Notch in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novice Chase, at Sandown. Since he went chasing in 2016 he has never finished outside the first 3 with his form reading 3121222. He is back up to 146 following his 2nd at Chepstow which is the same mark as when he was 2nd to Road To Respect at the 2017 festival. That horse is now rated 169 so the form stands out. Given this horse likes to lead he should have a trouble free passage and has to be thereabouts.

Trainer Form
At the time of writing Gary Moore is in decent form with his chasers. He has had 15 runners in chases and had 4 winners (27% strike rate) over the last 30 days.

 

BENATAR

Trainer – Gary Moore
Cheltenham Form – 3
Odds 11/1

Gary Moore also has BENATAR who on last season’s form must surely go close. He made his reappearance Newton Abbot just over a month ago and was below what he is capable of. I am happy to put a line through that form as I am of the opinion that he would have not been fit and lots saved in him for him to peak for this race. Why would Gary Moore have him fit for that race and potentially ruin his handicap mark for this race? He runs in this race off a mark of 149 which he could be a tad better than. BENATAR finished 3rd in last years JLT Novice Chase behind Shattered Love and Terrefort. He finished in front of some good horses that day that include Kemboy and Finians Oscar. He also won a Grade 2 Novice Chase at Ascot last December beating Finian’s Oscar. You would imagine he has improvement to come from last season and if he repeats his run in any of the two races mentioned above he must go very close.

Trainer Form
At the time of writing Gary Moore is in decent form with his chasers. He has had 15 runners in chases and had 4 winners (27% strike rate) over the last 30 days.

 

FRODON

Trainer – Paul Nicholls
Cheltenham Form – 80150
Odds 16/1

FRODON was a winner of the recent Old Roan Chase at Aintree off a handicap mark of 158. It was a great ride by Bryony Frost that day and it was a career best performance. He has gone up to a handicap mark of 161 so it will require another career best performance to win this. He will have to carry top weight in doing so and I just can’t see it happening. Was a winner of the December Gold Cup again under a top class ride by Bryony Frost off a mark of 154. FRODON could run a big race and place but life is going to be difficult under a burden weight.

Trainer Form
Paul Nicholls is in top class form with chasers. He has had 9 winners from 35 runs over fences (25%) with 15 placing (42%). He does well in this race and his runners deserve maximum respect.

 

KALONDRA

Trainer – Neil Mullholland
Cheltenham Form – 013
Odds 13/2

KALONDRA is a horse who could still have improvement to come. He looks fairly well handicapped on a mark of 147. He has winning form at the course and was also 3rd in a Grade 2 Handicap back at the April meeting. He ran at Galway in August and was still travelling well when falling 2 out. He ticks a lot of boxes in all fairness but coming here after a fall is not ideal as it is the last thing he remembers on a racecourse. The price is also a bit skinny. Should be thereabouts but I am happy to take on at the prices.

Trainer Form
Neil Mullholland is not in great form with his chasers. He has had 19 runners in the last 30 days and only 1 winner. 4 have placed.

 

KINGS SOCKS

Trainer – David Pipe
Cheltenham Form – 5
Odds 11/1
This a plot waiting to happen. Has not been the easiest horse to train as he has only had 3 runs for David Pipe since he joined the yard over 2 years ago. KINGS SOCKS season got going in February last season and started with a decent 3rd to Modus in a graduation chase at Kempton. He was then sent to the Cheltenham Festival where he finished a decent 5th of 22 to The Storyteller in the Brown Advisory Plate. You can put a line through his last start as it has been reported that his wind was playing up on his last two starts. He has since gone had a wind operation and comes straight to this race. This is a race that the trainer targets and you would have to think off 139 he is potentially very well in if his wind is sorted. Before he came over to this country he was 2nd to Footpad in a Grade 1 hurdle in France so is clearly talented. Has to be thereabouts with his ridiculously low handicap mark and he has shown he handles Cheltenham.

Trainer Form
Not had a lot of chasers run so far this season with only 5 running. He has not had any winners from those 5. His hurdlers have been running fairly well but nothing to write home about.

 

MR WHITAKER

Trainer – Mick Channon
Cheltenham Form – 11
Odds 6/1

MR WHITAKER made his debut over fences last October and he is as consistent as they come. His form over fences reads 312111 and is looking to make it 4 on the bounce here. He has won twice at Cheltenham including the Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, off a mark of 137. He was then a winner of his first start of the season off a mark of 145 and looks a horse on the up. MR WHITAKER has gone up the handicap to a mark of 152 and although he deserves to be favourite, I have a niggling doubt if he can win this off a mark of 152. Sure to be in the mix but at the current odds I am happy to look elsewhere as he comes here after only a 2 week break.

Trainer Form
MR WHITAKER won for the trainer 2 weeks ago and he has only had one other runner over fences in the last 30 days. He has not had a winner over hurdles from 5 starts although 4 of them were over odds of 14/1.

 

MOVEWITHTHETIMES

Trainer – Paul Nicholls
Cheltenham Form – 5423PU
Odds 12/1

MOVEWITHTHETIMES is a horse who has not reached the heights expected to date after a very good hurdle record. He has had 4 starts over fences and has run with credit behind the likes of North Hill Harvey and Finian’s Oscar. He was pulled up in the Brown Advisory Plate at the Cheltenham Festival with something clearly a miss. He then had his first start of the season at Fakenham 3 weeks ago but was a faller half way around. The handicapper has him on a mark of 140 which could be a decent mark given his talent. His jumping could let him down and it is going to be put under huge pressure in a race like this but if you are looking for a horse who is handicapped well, this could be the one. For me personally I prefer to have it in black and white rather than hoping he gets his jumping together and hoping he still has the talent. To come here on the back of a fall and win the Bet Victor Gold Cup will be some performance in my opinion.

Trainer Form
Paul Nicholls is in top class form with chasers. He has had 9 winners from 35 runs over fences (25%) with 15 placing (42%). He does well in this race and his runners deserve maximum respect.

 

RATHER BE

Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Cheltenham Form – 9F2
Odds 9/2

This is a horse I have a lot of time for and he is the current favourite for the race. He was 2nd in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival behind Mr Whittaker. You couldn’t split them and only a head separated them. RATHER BE is 7lb better off with that horse in this race so I can certainly see him turning the form around. He has won two races over fences and on the whole is a decent jumper. He likes to be prominent which should keep him away from danger and the drying ground will be to his liking. Over hurdles he was a Grade 3 winner at Aintree and he was then sent to a Grade 2 hurdle race at Sandown which shows connections clearly rate him. RATHER BE is rated 149 by the handicapper so I wouldn’t say he is well handicapped on what we have seen but he could also improve further. I really like this horse but I have him priced up at 11/2. He represents no value at 9/2 but I would hate to see him win if I did take him on with the sole reason he is 1 point the wrong side of what I make him. A hard decision to be needs to be made.

Trainer Form
Nicky Henderson as always is in good form with 5 winning chasers from his last 18 starts over fences over the last 30 days.

 

ROMAIN DE SENAM

Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Cheltenham Form – 32550
Odds 20/1

ROMAIN DE SENAM was 5th in this race last season off a mark of 145. He lines up this year on a mark of 138 so 7lb lower. You know he will be very fit for this race as he has already had 2 starts this season. He was soundly beaten on both starts so does have to improve as he has weakened fast, in particular on his last start at Aintree. Obviously handicapped very well on last years run in the race but I don’t think he is the same horse this time around. Saying that he is overpriced at 20/1 and could sneak a place.

Trainer Form
Paul Nicholls is in top class form with chasers. He has had 9 winners from 35 runs over fences (25%) with 15 placing (42%). He does well in this race and his runners deserve maximum respect.

 

SPLASH OF GINGE

Trainer – Nigel Twiston Davies
Cheltenham Form – 16F17706017PU2
Odds 33/1

The surprise winner of this race last season off a mark of 134. He is rated 141 this time around so 7lb higher. Can he do it again? For me personally I won’t be getting involved but he is a horse who surprises when least expected. This would have been the target for some time and he will turn up absolutely spot on, tuned to the minute. He has a nice spin over hurdles at Newbury last week but this race does come quickly after so I am not sure it was the right thing to do.

Trainer Form
Not been in great form with his chasers and is only 4 wins from 38 runners. I know he targets this meeting so his horses could peak at just the right time.

 

WEST APPROACH

Trainer – Colin Tizzard
Cheltenham Form – 35023PU363
Odds 14/1

I think this horse is a real dark horse on a mark of 142. On his last start he was sent from the front and the race was at Cheltenham. I have never seen these tactics with the horse before so reading between the lines they were testing the waters from the front, ready for this race. This horse stays 3 miles so if he got into a rhythm from the front he could get them all hard at work when stamina comes into play. He ran in the JLT Novice Chase last season and ran a decent race to finish 6th of 9 to Shattered Love. That is a Grade 1 race so I am sure he could perform at this level off a mark of 142.

 

Who has made the shortlist?

I have gone through the race in fine details and I have seven horses who made my shortlist. They are:

BARON ALCO
BENATAR
KALONDRA
KINGS SOCKS
MISTER WHITAKER
RATHER BE
WEST APPROACH

I am happy to get rid of KALONDRA as the form of Neil Mullholland is worrying and the horse comes here on the back of a fall. If he was around the 10/1 mark I would seriously think about betting him but at 7/1 I simply can’t bet him.

MISTER WHITAKER can also be taken off the shortlist as I think he is very high in the handicap at 152. I think he may well be in the handicappers grips and again at the prices he is not for me.

WEST APPROACH might find this distance a bit on the sharp side and if he is going to win he is going to have to go hard from the front and use his stamina. He is also prone to mistakes and they could cost him. For those reasons he has to come out.

It pains me to say this but I have decided RATHER BE is just too short at 9/2 in an ultra competitive race like this. I do rate the horse and he has to be thereabouts but I do worry if he gets in a scrap he will be out battled.

 

The Final Selections?

BARON ALCO ticks all the boxes for me. He comes here after a fine 2nd at Chepstow, after 577 days off the track. To finish 2nd in a hot race with so much time off the track was an excellent effort. He should come on for that run massively and although he has gone up the handicap to 146 it is still only the same mark as when he was 2nd to Road To Respect at the Cheltenham Festival in 2017. That horse was a very impressive winner recently and is 16/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. To get within 6 lengths of that horse and pull clear of the 3rd and 4th, tells me he is a very good horse on his day. His form around Cheltenham is excellent and although he has not won at the course he has not been out of the first 3. It is not his fault he bumped into horses such as Whisper or Road To Respect who would win this race on the bridle. The ground will be absolutely perfect and he likes to go from the front. He will have a trouble free passage with those tactics in what can be a very a messy race when you are a hold up horse. It is hard to believe this horse in only 7 and he has yet to reach his full potential. He clearly retains all his old ability as he showed us this at Chepstow. With the improvement to come, the way he handles Cheltenham and his trouble free passage he will get, he has to be in the mix.

BENATAR finished 3rd in last year’s JLT Novice Chase to Shattered Love. That was the sign of a horse with lots of ability. I am happy to put a line through his first run of the season as that was a training exercise for this race and the trainer was never going to ruin his handicap mark. He is rated 149 and he has run to that mark or more at least 3 times in his career. He beat a quality horse in Finian’s Oscar in a Grade 2 Chase last December and is a horse of the highest quality. The ground will be perfect for him and he is only a 6 year old with so much improvement to come. Trainer Gary Moore has two great chances here with two top quality horses.

I have left KINGS SOCKS in as I feel he is a plot waiting to happen with a handicap mark of 139. The Pipe’s love this race and with his tiny weight he carries he has a huge chance. He has always been highly talked up by connections but has had his fair share of problems. He did get get 3 runs in last season and was very eye-catching at the Cheltenham Festival when finishing 5th of 22 to The Storyteller. The reports are that his wind was stopping on his last 2 starts last season so the fact he has had a wind operation, tells me to catch him first time up before it potentially goes again. His form from France was a 2nd to Footpad in a Grade 1 hurdle. The horse clearly has lots of ability and could make a mockery of the handicap mark of 139 if things went right for him.

BARON ALCO 10/1 generally – 0.5 POINTS E/W (1/4 odds)
BENATAR 12/1 generally – 0.5 POINTS E/W (1/4 odds)
KINGS SOCKS 11/1 Coral and Sky Bet – 0.5 POINTS E/W (1/4 odds)

I hope you enjoyed the read. Good luck!

JPW Racing Tipster

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