Known to many as the December Gold Cup, the Caspian Caviar is once again a frightfully competitive event this year and especially now that Master Tommytucker and Al Dancer have been aimed here rather than at Friday’s Peterborough Chase.
In a tight race this has been a hard one to call but nevertheless here is our shortlist of six and final selection for the £105,000, two-mile, four-and-a-half-furlong affair.
It’s hard to pick between two class acts in this race, Al Dancer and Master Tommytucker, as while this horse has beaten his rival off level weights the other has arguably improved more since they met.
That said, Al Dancer is progressing nicely himself and was sent off favourite for the Paddy Power Gold Cup over on the Old Course last month and the conditions of this event look ideal for him. Place chances at least.
Way overpriced at around 25/1 at the time of writing, Jonjo O’Neill’s mare has been coming along very nicely in her chase career and if she can put a fairly underwhelming seasonal return at Aintree behind her, she could look pretty well-handicapped for this event.
She is hard to assess in fairness; her three chase wins have come in very small fields and this is extremely different, however those small fields won’t have done much to show us what her true ability is and so a career high could be on the cards here.
To be truthful, Coole Cody came a little way down our list but as the winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup he cannot be discounted.
He may find this race tough with a slight change of underfoot conditions, the fact he’s gone up 6lbs for his big win and the fact that his improvement has been gradual rather than very steep, but he is at least a very solid contender who is clearly not afraid of big handicap conditions.
Good Boy Bobby
A most fascinating contender by top stallion Flemensfirth, sire of Imperial Commander, Lostintranslation et al.
A nicely maturing seven-year-old but with just six chases under his belt, Good Boy Bobby is improving very nicely giving him form figures over fences of 212512, the fifth place coming in a Grade 1.
His best run was arguably his second around this course and distance behind Mister Fisher, making his more recent win at Bangor and second to Master Tommytucker at Haydock seem more impressive given he prefers this course.
His current handicap mark of 146 would appear to severely underestimate him and with so many ticks in so many important boxes, he looks the best of this bunch at the weights on paper at an attractive price.
The second major contender rerouted from the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase, Paul Nicholls’ classy nine-year-old beat Good Boy Bobby by 15 lengths last time out and can get better yet.
That said, he has shown up well on flat tracks thus far and his rival now has an 11lb pull, making this task difficult off top weight. He is still right up there with the best of them however with the last remaining puzzle to be solved being whether or not Harry Cobden will attempt to make the running in such a competitive event.
Many horses improve not so much in their first run after a breathing operation but often on their second, which is we’re Brian Ellison is at with Windsor Avenue.
Before the wind surgery the eight-year-old had rather lost his form, but he shows up well at Carlisle which is a stiff track and did well to get to within 2½ lengths of Imperial Aura last time.
He could have rated even higher for us were it not for his profile appearing to show a liking for heavy ground, nonetheless he is up there with the best at the weights.
A hugely difficult race to make a strongly informed opinion on, however all things considered the smart and the value bet could be GOOD BOY BOBBY.
We like the form of the Graduation Chase at Haydock, and while he was beaten 15 lengths by second on the list Master Tommytucker he does have a handy weight pull for that distance and may be more likely to improve in this environment than his conqueror who has front-run and won easily in small fields.
Al Dancer and Annie Mc shouldn’t be too far away either, all going well.