The Bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Sandown on Saturday provides the last big prize of the jumps season and Neil Mulholland saddles the three market leaders (3.35pm live on ITV). The cautious Mulholland will not be drawn on which one he prefers but Doing Fine is the favourite with punters at 9/2.
Doing Fine was narrowly beaten over course and distance in the London National in December when the mercurial Rocky Creek had a rare ‘going day’ to deny him. This nine-year-old was the 13/8 favourite in a decent staying handicap chase at Wincanton in late March but was beaten four lengths into second by Tom George’s Moss On The Mill. He was outpaced rather than outstayed over the three mile one furlong trip.
Doing Fine finally rewarded his followers by winning a three and a half mile chase at Cheltenham 10 days ago under Noel Fehily. He starts off the same mark of 129 here but the rapid turnaround is a concern and Tom Scudamore rather than Fehily rides him.
Fehily usually rides the best of Mulholland’s available horses, but the light weight will have ruled him out, so he is booked to partner The Druids Nephew (6/1). This ten-year-old has talent and stamina but is physically fragile, suffering from joint problems. He has not won since taking the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2015 and was strongly fancied in the subsequent Grand National but frustratingly slipped up on the flat when in the lead.
The Druids Nephew finished fifth in this race last year, beaten seven lengths by his stablemate, The Young Master, off a mark of 153. His two runs this season have been underwhelming, he was beaten 50 lengths at Ascot in December and 30 lengths in the Ultima. His mark has consequently been dropped to a favourable-looking 143. If Mulholland manages to produce him in good physical order The Druids Nephew ought to be competitive but his issues make it difficult to be massively confident about his chances. Mulholland has decided to try him in a visor for the first time.
The Young Master (7/1) rewarded his part owners, the Waley-Cohen family, by taking this race under the capable amateur Sam Waley-Cohen last year. Starting off a mark of 148, he battled impressively after making a mistake at the last to beat Just A Par a short head.
The Grand National was probably the target for this eight-year-old this season and he kicked off his campaign in the Becher Chase in December. The Young Master did not appear to enjoy his first experience of Aintree’s largest fences and fell when out of contention two from home.
The Young Master was next seen in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January, presumably to help rebuild his confidence. He was sent off at 80/1 and was beaten 80 lengths, finishing last. A more encouraging effort in the Ultima in March followed. He finished sixth, beaten 21 lengths, but eight lengths ahead of The Druids Nephew and Fehily.
The Young Master’s National bid did not last long, he tipped up at Bechers first time. On the positive side he did not have a hard race and, starting off the same mark as last year, has very realistic hopes of retaining his title if he is undamaged by that fall.
Just A Par (9/1) was last seen in the National too and completed, beaten about 50 lengths under Harry Cobden who rode him patiently and never looked likely to challenge. He scored in his previous start in a veterans’ handicap chase over three and a quarter miles at Newbury in January, proving he retains his ability.
Trained by Paul Nicholls, this ten-year-old starts off a mark 1lb higher than last year but is effectively 6lb worse off as Cobden cannot take 5lb off his back this time as he has ridden out his claim. If Just A Par has recovered from his Aintree exertions he has solid each-way claims.
Nicholls also saddles the novice chaser Present Man (12/1), who benefits from Jack Sherwood’s 3lb claim. This likeable, consistent seven-year-old is a very different proposition. Present Man has won four of his six starts this season, including a Grade 2 three mile novices’ chase in December at Doncaster, resulting in a 10lb hike in his handicap mark.
As a son of Presenting he will enjoy the good ground but he is yet to win over a distance longer than three miles making this a venture into unchartered territory. After finishing fourth in a Grade 1 at Kempton on Boxing Day Present Man was absent for three months and reappeared in early April, winning a novices’ chase at Ascot from the front over two miles five furlongs. Present Man has a great attitude but is not always the best of jumpers and has never run at Sandown.
Nicky Henderson saddles Sugar Baron (8/1) who was fancied to do well in the Scottish National but unseated Nico De Boinville at the first. In his previous run he finished sixth, beaten seven lengths in the Kim Muir Cup for amateurs at the Cheltenham Festival, looking short of speed or resolve rather than stamina over three and a quarter miles on the good ground. The cheekpieces that were tried for the first time at Ayr are not making a reappearance.
This will be Sugar Baron’s sixth run over fences and his second experience of Sandown. He made his seasonal debut at the course in November and his jumping was described as ‘not fluent’. Sugar Baron was in touch when he fell two out. There could be more to come from this seven-year-old but this course tends to expose any fencing weaknesses making it difficult to support him with any confidence.
Henderson also sends out Vyta Du Roc (9/1) in the green silks of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. This grey started as the favourite in the Scottish National last year but was outpaced by Vicente et al, beaten nearly ten lengths into fifth. Henderson tried him over a variety of trips last season, starting with a facile win in his first novice chase over two and a quarter miles on heavy ground. Vyta Du Roc was a beaten 2/5 favourite next time out over slightly further but followed up with a Grade 2 win over three miles at Ascot in February 2016 on soft, beating Minella Rocco half a length. Vyta Du Roc has been beaten a minimum of nine lengths in his six starts since.
This eight-year-old started as the 15/8 favourite last time out at Kempton in a three mile handicap chase in February but was beaten 13 lengths into fifth. He made a couple of mistakes and lost a shoe. A tongue tie was tried in his previous start at Cheltenham in January in a three and a quarter mile handicap chase. He started as the second favourite but jumped badly and pulled up after 14 of the 22 fences. This horse is a bit of a puzzle, different distances and tactics have been tried with little effect recently. The positive angle is that Vyta Du Roc’s mark has dropped 11lb as result of his sequence of disappointing runs but his form suggests he is at his best on soft.
Rock The Kasbah (12/1) is not ground dependent, clocking victories on both good and soft ground. Trained by Philip Hobbs, this seven-year-old won a three mile novice chase on soft in February and only found Harry Fry’s ultra-talented American too good last time out in a handicap at Uttoxeter. American outpaced rather than outstayed him a month ago.
This will be Rock The Kasbah’s first try beyond three miles but he has shown encouraging signs that he could handle more of a distance. The worry is his tendency to clout the odd fence. He ruined his chances when tried here for the first time in February, uprooting the fourth under Richard Johnson. If his jumping holds up he could put in a big performance.
In contrast Benbens (20/1), the 12-year-old veteran of the field, has proven stamina. Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, Benbens finished third in the Scottish National, only beaten two lengths by Vicente under a 7lb claimer. This is a very big ask just a week after that effort.
Unfortunately for all the inmates of the yard Benbens’ stablemate Cogry (who was beaten a neck in the same race at Ayr) had run only six days before, finishing second in a three and a half mile chase. After the defection of Nicholls’ Southfield Theatre, Sam Twiston-Davies takes the ride.
Colin Tizzard’s Theatre Guide (16/1) was beaten 17 lengths by The Young Master in this race last year, appearing not to get the distance. Theatre Guide also weakened three out in the Welsh National in December but was not helped by the soft ground. This ten-year-old was last seen running disappointingly at the Cheltenham Festival but a lot of the yard’s horses were slightly under par at the time. That was a month ago and the yard is now in much better form but the stamina concern remains.
Bet365 Gold Cup Preview Betting Tips Verdict
Mulholland always commands respect and looks to have a strong hand but the rapid turnaround for Doing Fine and the fragility of The Druids Nephew makes them unattractive at their current prices.
- Course form really counts at Sandown and, starting off the same mark as last year, our preference is for THE YOUNG MASTER to emulate Vicente and rebound from an early Aintree tumble with a win to reclaim an existing title. Back him each-way, best-priced at 7/1 with the big-race sponsors Bet365 Bookmaker. If he were to drift to a longer Starting Price then you get ‘best odds guaranteed’ and so the bigger of the two prices anyway.
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.