The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase is the highlight for punters of Saturday’s card at Cheltenham (1.50pm Saturday live on Channel 4).
Bouvreuil, the 6/1 favourite, looks plenty short enough for a horse who has only ever scored in mud and has just two wins to his name. This five-year-old, owned by JP McManus, only managed one win as a novice chaser last season but he did claim a major scalp when he beat Nicky Henderson’s Vyta Du Roc a length and a half at Doncaster. That was over two miles three furlongs on soft in January and he was receiving nearly a stone from Vyta Du Roc.
Bouvreuil was beaten nearly 30 lengths in two of his subsequent runs on better ground but was only beaten half a length at the Festival by Ballyalton in the listed Close Brothers novices’ handicap chase off a mark of 139. In his one run this term off a mark of 146 Bouvreuil was beaten seven lengths by Taquin Du Seuil here in the BetVictor Gold Cup a month ago on good to soft. This son of Saddler Maker looked short of speed rather than fitness which makes the quicker ground in prospect a concern so this preview will not be tipping him. On the positive side his trainer Paul Nicholls has a habit of saddling winners on Saturdays which is difficult to ignore.
Nicholls also saddles the youngest runner in the line-up, the French-bred Frodon (12/1). This four-year-old has been on the go since September and won his first three chases. You could argue that he has beaten nothing but he looked to be in command when the useful Shantou Village fell at the last at Wincanton over this distance on a decent surface.
Last time out Frodon blundered badly four out in the BetVictor Gold Cup and did not recover, getting beaten 35 lengths. If we forgive that effort he could be interesting as he obviously performs on good ground and is open to further improvement if his jumping holds up in a field of this size. Sam Twiston-Davies has won on him twice and is not without hope of doing so again.
Philip Hobbs’ Village Vic (7/1) was only beaten a neck by Taquin De Seuil in the same race and has to shoulder topweight here as his mark was raised 3lb to 158. This nine-year-old son of Old Vic is a force to reckoned with over this distance and put together a sequence of three wins last term including two at Prestbury Park.
We can expect a bold show from Village Vic at the front of affairs as, unlike Bouvreuil, he has scored on a variety of surfaces and usually jumps like a buck. He is not the strongest-bodied individual but good ground should make his burden less of an issue. His fencing prowess is absolutely invaluable and there is no better partner than Richard Johnson to aid his cause. He has to have strong claims.
Kylemore Lough (8/1) is another horse at the top of the weights having his second run this term. This seven-year-old trained by Kerry Lee races off an unchanged mark of 156. He was only beaten a head by Hobbs’ Royal Regatta at Ascot in the Grade 2 Stella Artois Chase a month ago over two miles five furlongs on good to soft. He stayed on strongly, closing on the winner in the final 100 yards, suggesting that he may be just the type to thrive on an uphill finish.
Kylemore Lough was only beaten once in his six runs last season, first time out on his only encounter of good ground at Uttoxeter when he looked to need the run. He ended that campaign with a win in the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase at Fairyhouse in March, beating Willie Mullins’ Outlander a length. If the good ground does not inconvenience him he stands a decent chance of returning to his winning ways.
Muddy conditions would play to the strengths of the Venetia Williams-trained Aso (9/1) but he ran well in the BetVictor Gold Cup, beaten five lengths into fourth. Given a hold-up ride by the talented 5lb claimer Charlie Deutsch, Aso did not help himself by hitting the second last pretty hard. Deutsch partners him again but all this six-year-old’s form over obstacles suggests that he really needs testing ground to shine.
Evan Williams (pictured) would also like some rain for King’s Odyssey (12/1). He was bullish about this seven-year-old son of King’s Theatre on Friday saying that he was not at all disappointed by his 30 length defeat on his debut at Haydock in November. Williams clearly rates this horse and scored with him in two of his three outings last season on soft and heavy. If his trainer is right he is one to follow when lining up on more typical winter ground.
Williams also saddles the nine-year-old Buywise (10/1) who is a firm favourite at his yard. Buywise has had two outings since finishing 12th in the Grand National and ran well in that BetVictor Gold Cup, taking third, two lengths behind Taquin Du Seuil.
Buywise has not won over fences since triumphing here in April 2014 in a handicap when he was rated 134. He starts of a mark of 151 but the use of a visor for the first time is an interesting development. Williams has tried it at home and thinks it has had a positive impact on his jumping but the metalwork in Buywise’s back is still there. If the visor works he could have each-way claims.
The six-year-old French-bred Aloomomo (9/1) saddled by Warren Greatrex is fancied to go well. He started as the 3/1 favourite in the Close Brothers chase at the Festival but was beaten nine lengths, finding the uphill finish a challenge. Since then he started as the second favourite at Ascot in a novice hurdle in mid November but was beaten seven lengths into third, looking rather one paced on the good to soft ground.
Aloomomo is obviously useful, winning three races last season but he produced his best effort over further than this on soft at Newbury, beating Tom George’s O Maonlai nine lengths. He appears to offer little value at his current price.
Thomas Brown (10/1) initially looks more appealing. He won on his seasonal debut at Aintree over this trip in early November and comes into the race slightly fresher than most. His trainer Harry Fry has probably given him a decent break from the racecourse for good reason as this seven-year-old has a habit of winning first time and getting beaten on his second run. He used to wear cheekpieces but has sported blinkers in his past three runs. Thomas Brown could go well under Noel Fehily if sufficiently refreshed but his ‘second time out’ jinx is a concern.
It will be the third run of the season for Colin Tizzard’s Quite By Chance (20/1). He won on his debut in late October at Ascot and was last seen finishing a creditable second behind the rejuvenated Sire De Grugy at the same track three weeks ago. Both those runs were over shorter distances but Quite By Chance has scored over this trip and further so stamina should not be an issue.
This seven-year-old should not be troubled by conditions either and, although his mark is at a lifetime high of 147, he is an interesting each-way prospect at his current price.
Tizzard’s recent recruit, Sizing Codelco (16/1), looked to need the run when he was a well-beaten favourite in a two mile handicap chase here a month ago. He was emptying when he hit the second last and crossed the line with only one horse behind him – but at least he finished. Previously trained in Ireland by Henry de Bromhead, this seven-year-old unseated his jockey at the very first fence in both his previous runs in England. He stumbled and decanted Barry Geraghty at Sandown in December and catapulted Jonathan Burke out of the saddle when blundering at the Festival.
As a son of Flemensfirth, Sizing Codelco may be best suited by give in the ground but we do not know. We do not know if he will get this distance either as he fell on the only the occasion that he attempted it two years ago. On the positive side his lacklustre debut has lowered his mark slightly and, if good ground is his thing, he could continue the Tizzard winning trend but that is quite a big ‘if’.
Our Preview’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase Betting Tips’ Verdict
This is a typically tricky handicap and that often favours the bookies, but possibly not this time. The favourite, Bouvreuil, is unattractive despite the exploits of his trainer. Stablemate Frodon is a much more interesting prospect but his jumping could well be put under pressure. Quite By Chance has considerable appeal each-way at 20/1 but we have to look elsewhere.
- Our Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase preview’s betting tips’ selection has to be a horse who jumps like a stag and will enjoy the good ground. So back VILLAGE VIC each-way at a current best price of 8/1 with William Hill.
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.