There is some great racing on Saturday at Cheltenham and Doncaster, where Cepage can go one better in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, and Windsor Avenue can overturn Sam Spinner at Doncaster.
Caspian Caviar Gold Cup
Riders Onthe Storm had been all the rage for this in recent days and understandably so, given how well he won on Brittish at Aintree. That win didn’t go unnoticed by the handicapper but there could be more to come from this talented individual. It emerged on Friday morning that he was declared as a non-runner by accident and will now not line-up.
I have always liked Secret Investor as I think he’s a horse that just needed time. Paul Nicholls charge was a Grade 2 winner on his last of the season and began the current campaign with a fine second at Down Royal. He should have come on plenty for that run and must be considered.
Cepage finished runner-up in this contest twelve months ago behind Frodon and wasn’t seen again before finishing runner-up to the aforementioned Riders Onthe storm at Aintree. Given the length of his lay-off he should improve more for the run and on the bok should reverse the form.
Another horse to note is Clondaw Castle who produced a career-best to finish fourth in the Arkle last season. He began this season by finishing just behind Diego Du Charmil and off the same mark he must be feared.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Champagne Well was Grade 3 placed last season and has already shown a high level of form this season with a close runner-up finish behind Thyme Hill at Cheltenham. The step-up in trip should suit the stoutly bred son of Gold Well and he’s the one to beat.
Nicky’s Valtor has won two of his four starts for the Seven Barrows handler including last time at Ascot. He’s a classy individual but at the age of 10, I can’t see him winning this.
it took The Mulcair three attempts to get his head in front in the point-to-point field but he made no mistake first time of asking for the Skelton operation. This represents a huge jump in class but he could be a surprise package.
Selection: Champagne Well
This race surrounds last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills who back that victory up at Aintree. He’s now unbeaten in three starts over timber and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares against seasoned rivals.
We haven’t seen Elixir De Nutz since his Tolworth victory nearly twelve months ago. He’s a very exciting prospect for the Tizzard yard and could be anything.
Ch’tibello landed a bit of a gamble when winning the County Hurdle last season at the Cheltenham festival. Dan Skelton’s charge backed this up by finishing third in a Grade 1 at Aintree so should be on the premises.
Of the others, Call Me Lord and Monsieur Lecoq must enter calculations.
Selection: Elixir De Nutz
Park Mares’ Handicap Hurdle
I find it hard to look past Dame De Compagnie who after getting outpaced, stayed on well up the hill here in November. She runs off the same mark and with the extra distance playing to her strengths, I think she’ll win.
There is nothing scarier for bookies than an improving Pipe handicapper and they could have another one in the shape of Queens Cave. She won a novice event at Exeter in good style and this could be the start of a winning run.
Misty Bloom has won a third of her career starts over hurdles and although she’ll run well there are more improving types in the field.
Selection: Dame De Compagnie
December Novices’ Chase
Just the three face the starter her with fan favourite Sam Spinner heads the market having won both his chase starts to date. He was a Grade 1 winner over hurdles but, I’m not convinced that he’s a natural over the fences and he could be vulnerable.
The opposite is true of Windsor Avenue who looks made for fences and jumps like a stag. He was a smart hurdles horse but can reach new heights over fences.
The biggest priced runner is Aye Right who is a model of consistency and progressed nicely last season. He has shown even better form this year and could sneak into the places.
Selection: Windsor Avenue
Summit Juvenile Hurdle
French-bred horses are typically more forward than their English counterparts and Tombee Du Ciel makes his Brittish debut here for Nicky Henderson. A third-place finish in a listed race on his last start in his home country makes him a leading contender here.
Donald McCain has a nice team of juveniles this season and Navajo Pass may just be the best of them given how well he won on hurdling debut and then had to do all the donkey work when just losing out to Tavus at Newcastle. If he gets an honest pace then he can regain the winning thread.
Lord Lamington is another horse putting their unbeaten hurdling record on the line having won on debut and although he’s open to more progression, I doubt he’s got the class to win.
Selection: Navajo Pass
Doncaster Handicap Chase
Scottish National third Cloth Cap showed the benefit of his comeback run when finishing third at Ascot. He’s still eleven-pounds higher than his last winning mark but should run well.
The lightly-raced My Old Gold finished out of the “first two” for the first time on his comeback run over fences at Carlisle. That came behind leading Gold Cup hope Lostintranslation and he can get his head in front here.
The royal runner Forth Bridge doesn’t get his head in front too often but does run well most days. That being said there are better-treated horses in here.
Selection: My Old Gold