A-Z Guide: Caspian Caviar Gold Cup
Check out our A-Z guide to the 16 runners declared for Saturday's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.
Aso (right): Worthy of support in Saturday's feature
The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, commonly referred to as the December Gold Cup, is the first big handicap chase of the season to be run on Cheltenham's New Course, which comes into play for the first time each year at the two-day International meeting.
The Grade Three contest is run over a distance of two miles, four furlongs and 166 yards, which is precisely 101 yards longer than the trip of last month's BetVictor Gold Cup on the Old Course.
The race has had several title changes since its inception as the Massey Ferguson Gold Cup in 1963 and in 2010 was run as the Vote A P Gold Cup as part of a successful campaign to encourage racegoers to vote for Tony McCoy in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Poquelin (2009, 2010) is the only dual winner of the race, while current champion jumps jockey Richard Johnson has a record three wins and will be going for back-to-back victories on Philip Hobbs' top weight Village Vic this time around.
He is a leading contender once more and sits near the head of Sky Bet's betting market, along with the Nicholls-trained Bouvreuil, Warren Greatrex's Aloomomo and Aso from the yard of Venetia Williams.
Harry Fry is set to rely on Thomas Brown, while trainer-of-the-moment Colin Tizzard saddles duo Quite By Chance and Sizing Codelco.
Here, we run the rule over the entire field in the hoping of unearthing the winner…
Fantastic front-runner who has built a special bond with the place having won this event 12 months ago and followed up in similarly impressive fashion over the same course and distance in January. Made a bold fist of things, despite an elevated handicap mark, when just missing out in last month's BetVictor Gold Cup and while a further 3lb rise means he now shoulders top weight, he wears his heart on his sleeve and is bound to be there or thereabouts at the business end of proceedings.
Triple hurdles winner who opened his account at the second time of asking over fences and never looked back with four more impressive wins, admittedly in smaller fields. His final win came in a Grade One over this trip at Fairyhouse in March and he took another step up if anything when just missing out in a high-class handicap at Ascot last month. Entitled to come on for that run and no change to his official rating could be a rare slice of leniency from the assessor. Like so many of these runners, could do with a few heavy showers.
Ran the kind of race we've come to expect of him when third in last month's BetVictor Gold Cup, looking in trouble and almost detached when the tempo increased before flying home up the hill the grab a place. Did something similar when fourth to Village Vic in this race last year and while his loyal each-way followers have no doubt had a lot of fun with him, he remains desperately difficult to recommend for a win bet.
Arguably one of the classiest horses in the race based on his Grade Two victory at Newbury in 2014 and third place in the Queen Mother Champion Chase that year. Restricted to just the one public outing across the past two years and he was well held over two mile here last month, but stepping back up in trip and down in class could result in a much more positive display. From a mark of 149 he's certainly in with a chance if in-form trainer Tom George can rekindle the old flames.
Quietly progressive in handicap chases at two and two and a half miles last season and his six-length at Ascot on his first start this term was a career-best effort by some way. At least matched that level of form when second to Sire De Grugy last time and the form has obviously worked out well. The way he was staying on at the finish also left the impression he was dying for a step back up in trip and that could be enough for him to defy his 4lb higher mark.
Tad disappointing on the face of it at Haydock last month but his first outing of the season smacked of a prep run for this as he signed off last season with an impressive course and distance victory. Moving back up to two and a half miles and the return to handicap company both obviously in his favour but one thing connections won't have counted on is the prospect of the ground being too quick. Badly needs the heavy to open on Saturday morning and could see him being pulled out otherwise.
Laid out for the big novices' handicap chase at the Festiva in March and gave a fine account in the second. Back on song with pleasing reappearance behind a couple of these rivals in last month's BetVictor Gold Cup and every reason to believe he could go on from there. Conditions may be more suitable on this occasion, while it's no surprise to see Barry Geraghty taking over in the saddle. Obvious place claims at least though whether he represents value is another matter as he strictly has a bit to find.
Significant market mover earlier in the week and no great surprise given his sound course record. Was going well before bad blunder put paid to his chances here a couple of years ago, while he stormed to victory in the Grand Annual at the Festival in March earlier this year. No impact on recent seasonal bow over two miles at Ascot but eased 4lb on the back of that which puts him just 5lb higher than that Grand Annual triumph. Switch from Paul Nicholls to the yard of Christopher Kellett may be unfashionable but worthy of consideration given the odds on offer.
Fourth in the BetVictor Gold Cup here last month a really encouraging return to competitive action and could easily be sent off favourite if there's some rain around. That doesn't look too likely if the forecast is correct so others may be better suited by conditions but he's got some strong form on good to soft and looks worth chancing nevertheless given he's only six and open to improvement for a trainer with a previous win to her name in this particular race (Niceonefrankie, 2014).
Been kept on the go during the summer and has had a fairly busy time with connections looking to cash in before the ground turns against him. Won two of his last three, both of which came at this sort of trip and conditions don't look like being an issue for him again. Latest 2lb rise looks fair following narrow Newbury triumph and every reason to expect another bold show from this consistency chaser.
Lost his way for Willie Mullins and has joined the yard of Paul Henderson this season. Made an inauspicious start for new connections when pulled-up in handicap hurdle from much lower mark at Uttoxeter last month and while that run may have blown away a few cobwebs, it's hard to envisage him suddenly finding enough improvement to play a leading role in a red-hot contest of this nature.
Maintained his excellent record when fresh by scoring over this distance at Aintree last month and a 5lb rise doesn't look too harsh on the face of it. Was clearly considered a well-handicapped novice last season having been sent off one of the favourites at the Festival and didn't perform badly at all but he does need to take another step up to take top spot.
Looked to be getting into a nice rhythm before bad mistake four from home effectively ruined his chances in the BetVictor Gold Cup and worth recalling he went off a well-backed 6/1 chance there. It also came just seven days after his Wincanton win so could be a little sharper here having had 28 days to recover. Sam Twiston-Davies – who gets on well with the horse – takes over from Harry Cobden in the saddle and he may have been underestimated a little given he's trained by the champion trainer who win this event with a four-year-old in 2012.
Very warm favourite for the novices' handicap at the Festival but trainer suggested the ground may have been a touch lively for him there so no surprise to see him issue a public warning earlier in the week. Eyes on the skies, obviously, but nothing wrong with his comeback spin over hurdles at Ascot and he looks a young horse who could take much higher rank as the season goes on.
Among the bath of horses sent from Henry De Bromhead's yard to that of the all-conquering Colin Tizzard but unlike most of them he was bitterly disappointing on his stable bow over two miles here last month. Looked a little one-paced after a mistake around halfway so no surprise to see connections move up in trip with him but clearly questions to ask, despite the fact he sneaks in here under an attractive racing weight.
Connections reach for cheekpieces for the first time which tells a tale in itself and he's evidently been a bit of a frustrating horse to train. Faint signs of a revival when sixth of 16 at Newbury last month but the official assessor wasn't too impressed having eased him another 3lb and it's slightly surprising to see him so short in the betting (generally 16/1 at the time of writing).
Colin Tizzard's dream run of form could certainly continue here, with Quite By Chance's Ascot form looking strong following the Tingle Creek last weekend. Stablemate Sizing Codelco is coming in for support and could benefit from stepping up from two miles, while four-year-old novice Frodon looks the underestimated one of the Paul Nicholls-trained duo. However, preference is for ASO, who was a massive eyecatching in the BetVictor, travelling smoothly into contention for Charlie Deutsch before shaping like he'd benefit significantly for the run when tiring after a mistake two-out. He can reverse the form with Village Vic on marginally better terms.