For many this is the start of the jumps season. The first big handicap race at Cheltenham which was formally known as the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Over the years this race has attracted some very big names which include Long Run, Imperial Commander, Al Ferof and Exotic Dancer just to name a few.
So what do I look for when trying to find a winner in this race?
It’s simple really, I want a horse who I believe is ahead of the handicapper but at the same time has a touch of class, possibly improving or hasn’t reached the heights they are capable of.
I have been through the race a dozen times and I have drawn up a shortlist of which horses I believe have the best chance.
I am going to start with FRODON who is trained by Paul Nicholls. He is as low as 9/2 but best priced 6/1 (at the time of writing). FRODON is a 4 year old so he would have to defy the stats and become the youngest horse to win the race. Saying that I can’t imagine many 4 year olds have run in this race, if any so the stat/trend becomes irrelevant if you have nothing to compare it to. FRODON has had 3 starts over fences this season and is so far unbeaten. He has looked very good in all starts particularly on his last start at Wincanton on Saturday. He travels through his races really well, jumps for fun and has a huge future ahead of him. The problem I have with this horse is his age. He is still a baby really and he is being sent into the deep end against seasoned handicappers. Personally I think it is a huge ask to win this race with little experience in racing as this race is often won by a tough horse who don’t mind the hustle and bustle of the race. FRODON does have the talent to win this race but for me it is too much too soon.
Next we have MORE OF THAT who is trained by Jonjo O’Neil. MORE OF THAT is rated 154 by the handicapper which could look lenient if you go by his hurdle mark which is 167. No doubt about it, MORE OF THAT is the classiest horse in the race, being a former World Hurdle winner and the only horse to beat Annie Power. His Cheltenham record stands out as he has been to the course 5 times and has 4 wins to his name. His only defeat came in the RSA Chase last season when finishing 3rd but trainer stated the horse was struggling to breath which caused a bleed. To finish 3rd whilst struggling to breath and bleeding is some effort in hindsight. MORE OF THAT is available at a best price of 11/2 (at the time time of writing).
TAQUIN DE SEUIL is another classy horse who is trained by Jonjo O’Neil. He is rated 156 and on his day is a very good horse. He does go well around Cheltenham having previously won the JLT Novice Chase. He can’t be ruled out as class is key but Jonjo O’Neil has said in an interview he is not as speedy as More Of That, yet gives him 2lb. 10/1 is available (at the time of writing)
AS DE MEE could be thrown in on a handicap mark of 139. Sean Bowen takes the ride and he is a jockey I like a lot. AS DE MEE is trained by Paul Nicholls and was a winner on his first start of the season in easy fashion. He was rated 139 that day and I was surprised the handicapper kept him on the same mark as he never came out of 2nd gear. I think this horse would’ve grown up a lot of the summer and we will see further improvement this season. He could make a mockery of his handicap mark as I think 139 is underestimating him. 12/1 is the current best price.
Of The Rest?
You can’t rule out last years winner ANNACOTTY but he has to carry 9lbs more this year and I think it is a better race. ART MAURESQUE beat DOUBLE SHUFFLE last time out and both seem to be improving. VILLAGE VIC won twice at Cheltenham last season but has rocketed up the handicap since. BOUVREUIL is a dark horse who is now owned by JP McManus. We are likely to see further improvement as he is only a 5 year old.
I can’t see past MORE OF THAT and I am very confident of a big run. 11/2 is sizable for a former World Hurdle winner. He is also the only horse to beat Annie Power and I honestly think MORE OF THAT is actually a proper Cheltenham Gold Cup horse. This is a handicap race and I think his class will tell. I am sure he is a better horse than his rating of 154.
Jonjo O’Neil has given the horse a breathing operation and I am sure with a horse of his quality it would’ve worked. I honestly think he could win this race quite easily and on the day we will be looking at a 3/1 shot.