Antepost Angle: Wake-up Bou!
Our Matt Brocklebank starts his new National Hunt antepost tipping column with a 25/1 selection in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on November 12.
Bouvreuil (left): Has a new owner in J P McManus
The name isn't the only new development National Hunt fans have to do battle with ahead of the BetVictor Gold Cup – formerly the Mackeson, the Murphy's, the Thomas Pink and more recently the Paddy Power; David Pipe and champion trainer Paul Nicholls, both closely associated with the race already, having each decided to aim a promising four-year-old at the contest in the hope of bagging a share of the £160,000 prize fund.
And it may come as little surprise to see the horses in question towards the head of the antepost market for the November 12 handicap chase on Cheltenham's Old Course.
Pipe, whose father enjoyed top spot a record eight times in the race's various guises between 1987 and 2005, sent out his own winner five years ago in Great Endeavour and is on record as describing this year's main contender as "exciting".
French recruit King's Socks, like Nicholls' youngster Frodon, has a lot going for him and the conditions of the race also lend them both a generous helping hand with a 9lb weight allowance in relation to their elder rivals.
Will that be enough to counter the distinct lack of experience? There's obviously an element of guesswork at play as no four-year-old has ever lined up in the race but it's worth pointing out Nicholls won the 2012 running of the 'December Gold Cup' at this track (New Course) with four-year-old novice Unioniste, while Pipe also has previous to some extent having won this meeting's principal handicap hurdle – the Greatwood – with four-year-old, UK debutant Dell' Arca three years ago.
Frodon is a novice in the traditional sense, having had one unsuccessful chase attempt in France before impressive back-to-back wins for his new handler at Newton Abbot and Fontwell last month, whereas King's Socks (technically a second-season chaser) very much fits the Pipe mould, coming straight here having had his three qualifying runs in his native land earlier in the year. Not only did he perform well in those events, winning once and filling the runner-up spot in the other two, but he went on to score in good style over the brush hurdles at Enghien in May before an excellent second to Willie Mullins' Footpad in a Grade One novice hurdle at Auteuil the following month.
King's Socks' UK rating has yet to be revealed but while both four-year-olds have the potential to be quite nicely handicapped at such an early stage in their careers, what's equally important to acknowledge is that they are not alone in that regard.
If there's an outrageously well-treated one then that is most likely More Of That, whose entry appeared to come out of left-field (no bookmaker had priced him up) but makes perfect sense given he started last season with a course and distance victory over As De Mee, who could reoppose, and followed up with another Cheltenham victory in December.
The last seven winners all ran at the Festival in March of the same year and all seven of them met with defeat (one fell), so the fact More Of That proved a bit disappointing when third in the RSA Chase when last seen in public shouldn't be seen as such a negative.
His trainer Jonjo O'Neill, another with a good record in the race, is planning on running his eight-year-old at Carlisle at the weekend, a venue he used as a prep for his 2006 winner Exotic Dancer, though the Betfair Chase at Haydock is also reportedly under consideration for More Of That and that's enough to temper enthusiasm in relation to backing the general market leader at this stage.
His stablemate Taquin Du Seuil made a very eye-catching return to action over hurdles at Chepstow recently and the 2014 JLT Novices' Chase winner reminded us all he could still be seriously competitive from a mark in the 150s when winning over fences at Warwick back in February.
He wasn't disgraced in the face of very tough tasks at Cheltenham and Aintree subsequently and would have to come under consideration closer to the event if there was a deluge of rain.
Art Mauresque is quite the opposite and wants to hear his hooves rattle, while course specialist Garde La Victoire and Bristol De Mai are others of note near the top of the weights, despite the latter looking far from certain to take up his engagement.
Colin Tizzard's recent arrival Shanahan's Turn is an interesting prospect having been dropped 10lb on the back of two runs in Ireland since finishing down the field in the Ultima Handicap over three miles, one furlong in March but it's another runner set to debut for new connections that makes greater appeal.
BOUVREUIL, formerly owned by Potensis Bloodstock, has joined the JP McManus roster during the summer but remains in the care of Nicholls, for whom he won one of his five starts over fences last season and came close to a second when beaten half a length by Ballyalton in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase at the Festival.
He found Arzal and company too strong when fourth of eight in a Grade One at Aintree on his final run of the campaign but that can be excused after a long novice season geared around getting him finely tuned and nicely treated for Cheltenham, and it's in big-field handicaps where this gelding will be seen to best effect anyway.
He's always travelled well in his races and has now filled the runner-up spot at back-to-back Festivals after finding only stable companion Qualando too good in the 2015 Fred Winter, while he is versatile in regards to ground conditions having won on soft at Doncaster in January.
Bouvreuil's overall profile is a fairly patchy one but he was clearly getting his act together towards the end of last season and there's every chance the six-year-old will take another major step forward with another summer on his back at Ditcheat.
He may not be the Nicholls number one according to the layers, but with all eyes on the four-year-olds he looks to have slipped under the radar and he's also considerably over-priced in relation to general 12/1 chance Double Shuffle, who is only 1lb better off despite finishing four and a half lengths behind him in March.
Bouvreuil is one of eight entries for his trainer which could complicate matters slightly, though the potential for him to be diverted elsewhere also appears well factored into the price.
That said, his new owner invariably ensures that a valuable handicap at Cheltenham is likely to be considered the perfect starting point for his 2016/17 campaign.
Posted at 1800 BST on 26/10/16.
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