If this seems unfamiliar, the traditional ‘December Gold Cup’, run until last year as the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, now has a new sponsor.
So, we look ahead to what is now the 15-runner Racing Post Gold Cup on Saturday featuring 17 fences over an extended two-and-a-half miles of the New Course at Cheltenham.
It’s a tough old race as always, but these six are the ones we have taken against the field:
Philip Hobbs’ runner for JP McManus was sent off at only 5/1 when unseating behind Asterion Forlonge at Punchestown, a horse being mentioned for the Gold Cup, while he was also beaten only 3¼ lengths in the Paddy Power Gold Cup last month.
That’s solid and he seems almost certain to run a career best in this race, he’s certainly been backed as though that is the case anyway. On the numbers we’d argue his form is consistent rather than hugely progressive which is enough for us to pass him over for the win.
We love the profile of Venetia Williams’ Farinet. Just a six-year-old and only now leaving novice company, he obviously has tons more to give but has also had seven chase starts now and knows his way around meaning race experience, or lack of it, shouldn’t be a problem.
The grey was improving nicely last season before being put away for the summer. Third on his British debut, he was then a good-looking Listed novice handicap chase winner at Sandown in March and could be at a whole new level now.
The Sandown runner-up has won since making the form look decent and it seems only a jumping error will keep this horse out of the frame.
A course and distance winner at this meeting as a novice last year, Nicky Henderson’s Fusil Raffles is an obvious candidate.
He comes into this race as the latest Charlie Hall Chase winner over three miles, albeit a lucky one, so he has solid graded form. He almost certainly needs this shorter trip however so he could be better again today, but while the handicapper didn’t adjust his rating for that high-profile Wetherby win, 152 still looks tough given his form overall.
Lalor, now with Paul Nicholls having made his name with Kayley Woollacott, has always shown promise in his career and may yet land a big handicap race.
There were great signs when he was third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup last month and, assuming he has kicked on from that and that the New Course suits better which it seems to, we can expect an even better run. He’s a little short in the market for us though having gone back up to a mark of 151.
Sue Smith’s eight-year-old has a very solid record at Cheltenham and cannot big ignored. His two chase successes to date have come here, one on the Old Course and another on the New, with last month’s Paddy Power Gold Cup win a career highlight.
He beat Protektorat there who is now rated 164 after winning the Grade 2 Many Clouds at Aintree by 25 lengths, while Midnight Shadow has gone up 7lbs for his own win so further progression is probably required despite the strength of the form.
We are all expecting Fergal O’Brien to land major handicap chases at Cheltenham at some point and here he has a top candidate in the shape of Silver Hallmark.
He wasn’t at his best last time at Carlisle but it’s early days over fences and he clearly has ability. He’s on the upgrade and has been well backed since the final declarations were made and Nico de Boinville was booked, which of course we note.
The Paddy Power Gold Cup form could be crucial here. Midnight Shadow, Lalor, Dostal Phil and the hitherto unmentioned Zanza were all highly represented in that.
Fusil Raffles has tons of ability as we know, while Silver Hallmark is very solid but the one we like best is FARINET and so he is backed to score.
Rachael Blackmore has been booked to ride the six-year-old for Venetia Williams and she could be the perfect partner. His form is solid, he’s not been asked for his very best effort yet and if natural improvement takes him to the level we expect, then his handicap mark of 133 can prove to be simply too generous.