The £130,000 December Gold Cup is one of the biggest and most important handicap chases this side of the Cheltenham Festival.
Run over 2 miles, 4½ furlongs of the New Course, it features 17 fences for this field of fifteen horses to take.
Wins in recent years for the likes of Frodon and Coole Cody show that this event can be a terrific stepping-stone to the festival, but in its own right it is a fantastic affair and these are the six horses we like best in it:
Deyrann De Carjac
A number of runners in this line-up, unsurprisingly, represent last month’s Paddy Power Gold Cup form including four on our shortlist.
Deyrann De Carjac is one of them, Alan King’s runner having finished fifth in that and showing signs of returning to something closer to his best form.
A step forward from that performance entitles him to have a big say in this race off his current handicap mark and conditions are fine for him.
Nicky Henderson’s mare is three from six over fences and is obviously taking an upward trajectory in her career.
She hasn’t tackled Cheltenham yet, but did stay on beautifully to win her Listed mares’ chase at Market Rasen last time out, that form having been franked nicely since.
She was a good ground winner at Doncaster last year and it could be argued she likes a quicker surface, so she may well improve again to have a major hand in this.
Paul Nicholls’ Il Ridoto finish fourth in the Paddy Power, just three quarters of a length ahead of Deyrann Du Carjac in fact.
That run was about on par with what we’d expect from him at this stage. That’s a positive, as is the fact that he is generally quite progressive, however he hasn’t been done massive favours by the handicapper in all truth and this is once again a very competitive race in which every pound counts.
Simply The Betts
Simply The Betts loves Cheltenham and is a very important horse in this race.
He has a chance in his own right, hence his place on this list, but he also brings in two specific form lines for us to look at.
Only a few pounds below his best, he ran 7th in the Paddy Power Gold Cup last time out and we know that race is important in the context of this one.
More pertinent potentially is the fact that he chased home Stolen Silver in the Silver Trophy around here in April. There is a weight turnaround now, but if we think Simply The Betts has any sort of chance in this contest it shows what an opportunity his improving conqueror has.
Onto Stolen Silver then, that very impressive Cheltenham winner in the spring. He simply cleared away that day over this very same course and distance and looked like he was loving it.
He was fourth at the Cheltenham Festival before that too and he appears to adore the conditions he’s likely to get this weekend.
Going up 7lbs for that April win isn’t harsh at all for an improving horse, especially for an 11-length win. He will have improved over the summer and, crucially, he was only 4/1 for the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November.
He did fall last time, but by this time of year he should be even better and he looks nicely handicapped even off top weight.
War Lord has won 3 of his seven chases to date. He’s the sort of horse you’d think should still be going the right way and if he is, then he has a massive chance which is why he’s shortlisted. His most recent form however is less impressive so enthusiasm is dampened just a tad.
The Paddy Power Gold Cup form is usually important in this race for obvious reasons and it should be once again.
Deyrann De Carjac may just get the better of Il Ridoto this time around if he steps forward as we think, while that form is also represented by others in the race, none more important than STOLEN SILVER.
There is no doubt he is on the improve and may well have won the Paddy Power for all we know. He was in fact favourite for the race. He is likely better again now but still runs off the same handicap mark, so he gets the nod to score off 12 stone.
Away from that form line, Fantastic Lady is more than a little interesting and may well run into a place herself for the Henderson team though her ability is not unnoticed and he single-figure price is a little skinny.