Finally, we get to enjoy Cheltenham after the opening day got rained off on Friday. The BetVictor Gold Cup is the feature race on Saturday where Slate House will be looking to follow up his victory at Prestbury Park last month. I’m siding with a past winner of the race Splash Of Ginge who has been laid out for this. Other runners of note on the card include fan favourite Tobefair and soft ground specialist and Ramses De Teillee.
Elsewhere there are two fast track qualifiers at Lingfield, where Lord North should take all the beating in the Churchill Stakes and I think Beckford can recapture some of his old sparkle in the Golden Rose Stakes.
Smartcard Handicap Chase
Soft-ground specialist Ramses De Teillee should excel on the forecasted underfoot condition and won well at Cheltenham in October. David Pipe’s inmate got six-pounds for that victory but has been competitive off similar marks in the past and should go well again.
Big River ran an absolute cracker to finish fourth in the Ultima at the festival and followed that up with a fifth in the Scottish National. He’s got a great record when fresh and must enter calculations.
Jack Quinlan landed a big race double last weekend and partners Potters Legend who’s run well off higher marks in the past and ran well on seasonal debut last month. He’s got a nice racing weight and should go close.
Pop Rockstar has risen sharply in the weights of late with victories at Chepstow and Carlisle. He now runs off a twenty-pound higher mark but looks like a horse to stay on the right side of.
Selection: Big River
BetVictor Gold Cup
It’s worth looking in the second half of the weights with 9 of the last 11 winners carrying 11 stone or less and with the testing ground it’ll make it even tougher for those carrying big weights. Bearing that in mind let’s start with the ante-post gamble Slate House who’ll carry 11-00. Colin Tizzard’s charge who was a Grade 2 winning novice hurdler but never got going last season. He benefited from a wind-op when winning easily over course and distance last month.
The Nigel Twiston=Davies yard has been in red-hot form of late and Count Meribel ran when if somewhat outclassed behind Lostintranslation at Carlisle. He ran well in the RSA last season and should go well.
Another Twiston-Davies runner of interest is Splash Of Ginge who took this race back in 2017 and has an identical preparation this season when finishing behind Guitar Pete at Wetherby. He’s four-pounds lower this season and with just ten stone on his back, he could prove value.
The aforementioned Guitar Pete finished third in this contest last year and won well on seasonal debut at Wetherby. That win means he runs off a career-high 141 which could be enough to stop him.
Selection: Splash Of Ginge – E/W
Big Bucks Handicap Hurdle
Tobefair has been the horse of a lifetime for Debra Hamer and his owners and came back to form toughing it out over course and distance in October. He’s got a particular liking for Cheltenham and is teh horse to beat off five-pounds higher.
Olly Muphy’s Smackwater Jack seemed to improve for the step-up in distance at Aintree on seasonal debut. He showed improve form that day and off a four-pound higher mark he can progress further.
The lightly-raced Hear No Evil has always had a big reputation and ran well after a lay-off last month at Aintree. He’ll undoubtedly have needed that run and I find it hard to see him out of the places.
Eva’s Oskar is chasing a four-timer here with victories at Hexham, Warwick and Chepstow, He got an eight-pound hike for the latest of these victories and he needs to find further improvement to feature.
Selection: Hear No Evil – E/W
Intermediate Handicap Hurdle
Jatiluwih has been on a roll winning his last four starts but consequently carries plenty of weight here. Phillip Hobbs’ inmate is definitely on an upward curve and had plenty good from when based in France. That being said I think he’ll struggle to carry the weight.
Rebecca Curtis’s Legends Gold has only been out of the first three once in eight starts o the track. That came at this meeting last year in a listed bumper. This race isn’t as hot and he’s been a cosy winner on both starts over hurdles thus far.
Nicky’s Falco Blitz finally made the breakthrough at Fakenham last month. I think he may be better over shorter but he’s a nice type and should hit the frame.
Selection: Legends Gold
This fast track qualifier looks at the mercy of Cambridgeshire winner Lord North who was very impressive when winning a listed race at Newmarket earlier in the month. This will be his run at Lingfield but he was a winner at Newcastle in April, which makes him the one to beat.
Richard Hannon’s Kuwait Currency has been a model of consistency all season and has gone up 11 pounds since August. It’s encouraging that he’s won on his only start at Lingfield and can chase home Lord North.
Of the remainder, Pactolus shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s a course and distance winner and finished third in both the Winter Derby and Easter Classic last season over course and distance. This form is rock solid and should again run well at his favoured Lingfield.
Selection: Lord North
Golden Rose Stakes
Gifted Master showed real spark on his first run since the Wokingham when finishing second at Lingfield last month. He took this contest back in 2017 and with that pipe opener under his belt, he’ll prove difficult to beat.
David Barron has kept Above The Rest busy this year with his now eight-year-old having his twelveth start of 2019. He was only a head behind Gifted Master when they met last month but I don’t see him reversing the form.
The interesting runner for me is Beckford who was a very class two-year-old being placed twice in Group 1 company. He achieved a career high-mark off 113 before making the move to the States. Although things didn’t quite work out for him and even though he’s yet to feature since returning to Gordon, he’s not been disgraced and off a mark of 99, he should be competitive.
Selection: Beckford – E/W