We’re heading to Gloucestershire and the iconic Cheltenham course for the weekend’s highlight and the first meeting of the new jumps season – the Grade 3 BetVictor Gold Cup. To be run on the Old Course over a distance of 2m 4½f (4124 metres), it dates back to 1960 and was known as the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase until last year. It’s appropriate that in the week of Remembrance Day that there’s racing at Cheltenham as the venue served as a busy Great War hospital a century ago.
Graveyard for favourites
This is a race where, history shows, it’s best to steer clear of the market leaders. Irish trainer Jonjo O’Neill has high hopes for More Of That for next year’s Cheltenham festival, and the 4-1 pick will need to live up to that billing to end a seven-year drought for favourites. The last to triumph was Tranquil Sea (2009), and he is the only favourite to win in the past decade. Long Run (2010) and Present View (2014) placed in third.
Seven is the lucky number
Experience also counts in this early season chase. Six of the past 10 winners have been seven-year-olds with Caid Du Berlais (2014) the most recent to buck that trend as a five-year-old. No four-year-old has ever won this race so last week’s Wincanton winner Frodon has a tough task ahead. Not surprisingly, horses that are stepping up through the ratings are likely to impress this early in their prep. The key ratings numbers are 139-148, into which just seven of this year’s 19 runners qualify. Al Ferof (2012) was the last to fall outside this range (159).
Star power behind our pick
Although not ticking the age requirement, the value surrounding French gelding As De Mee is hard to ignore. Part-owned by actress Dame Judi Dench, the Paul Nicholls-trained six-year-old is into 8-1 joint second favourite behind stablemate Frodon and More Of That (both at 5-1). As De Mee was placed in Grade 1 novice chases last season and opened his winning account over fences in a Beginners’ Chase at Fontwell last month. The handicapper has generously left him alone on a very attractive mark of 139. Based on his second to More Of That here this time last year, he’s entitled to have a major say.
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