BetVictor Gold Cup: Horse-by-horse
Check out our guide to each and every runner in line for a crack at Saturday's BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
More Of That and As De Mee (right) locks horns once more this weekend
The BetVictor Gold Cup (click for full racecard), formerly known as the Paddy Power Gold Cup, is the feature contest on the second day of Cheltenham's Open Meeting, which runs between Friday November 11 and Sunday November 13.
There is a total prize fund of £160,000 up for grabs in the Grade Three handicap chase run over two miles, four furlongs and 78 yards of the Old Course at the home of National Hunt racing.
The race is traditionally won by one of the many unexposed, second-season chasers it tends to attract and Nigel Twiston-Davies' 2008 hero Imperial Commander went on to taste further Cheltenham glory in the Ryanair Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup at the Festival in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Twiston-Davies also sent out Little Josh to take the Open highlight in 2010, while Jonjo O'Neill and champion trainer Paul Nicholls are other leading trainers to have saddled two winners of the race in the past 10 years.
Nicholls is set to have another strong hand this season and bids to create a little bit of history with novice Frodon, who would become the first four-year-old to take top spot in the race's prestigious history.
Local handler O'Neill is also gunning for more gold and is responsible for Taquin Du Seuil and warm favourite More Of That, who has won four of his five career starts at Cheltenham.
He tops the betting with Sky Bet, but it's a hugely competitive field and here we run through all the contenders in a bid to find the winner…
The Pipe name is synonymous with this race and the prevailing ground certainly looks in his favour. Not a mass amount of wriggle-room from his lofty perch of 157 but he's a classy operator when on song and finished a highly creditable second off the same mark when last seen in a Market Rasen handicap in July.
Has also had a lofty reputation but yet to quite scale the heights those closest to him had hoped he might achieve. Running out of time slightly given he's nine, going on 10, but did win well over this kind of trip off just 4lb lower at Warwick back in February and his comeback run over hurdles was most eye-catching. However, a spot of rain could be essential to his chances of figuring prominently.
Last year's winner returns for another crack at the prize off a 9lb higher handicap mark but he did go in again at this track from just 5lb lower in January. Can be forgiven last run when thrashed by Vautour in the Ryanair Chase but genuinely quick ground could be enough to scupper his follow-up hopes.
One of the few in the line-up who absolutely craves good ground and if it's not too wet then he must be there or thereabouts. Said to have been a bit too immature for his own good when only sixth in this event 12 months ago but he looks to have grown up since, winning his last two starts, and although now up in the weights he commands maximum respect after beating Double Shuffle in Chepstow prep race.
A real revelation last autumn, bagging four valuable handicap chases on the spin, including what is essentially the December version of this race on the New Course. Struggled at the major Festival in the spring as a result of new status but every chance he's been primed for this time of the year once more and he's a joy to behold when getting into a rhythm at the head of affairs. A big danger to all.
Tremendous record of seven wins from nine career outings and his World Hurdle victory over Annie Power at the 2014 Festival had everyone dreaming of a potential Gold Cup challenge. Off for a year following a wretched comeback run in November of the same year but took to fences well with two course wins this time last year and no real disgrace in his RSA Chase third, though he did reportedly finish a little distressed. Current chase mark looks eminently exploitable but he missed an intended run at Carlisle because of fast ground and the fear over his reaction to a battle is enough of a deterrent at current prices.
Stable has received a significant boost this summer and he's one of the newbies fancied to have a very decent campaign. Handicap mark looks stiff enough on the face of it but the new surroundings may just perk him up and he's a major payer based on his Grade One novice success over God's Own at Aintree in 2015. Never raced beyond two miles, one furlong over fences but has always shaped like a possible stayer and looks open to improvement at the trip.
A proper enigma who delights and frustrates in equal measure. Stayed on in eye-catching fashion over hurdles last month on first start of the season – as is his wont – and given he's only 2lb higher than when beaten half a length by Annacotty in this race last year then he's obviously got a massive chance from a handicapping perspective. Will rightly attract plenty of each-way support but win hopes probably pinned on the ground being on the fast side.
Loves soft ground which doesn't look like materialising and although he ran fine races in three quality races here around the turn of the year, the assessor took a bit of a dim view and he's consequently in need of more improvement this term if he's going to enhance his 3-19 record over fences. Looks an unlikely winner on balance.
Promising five-year-old representing champion trainer and world-famous owner, so no surprise he's attracted support in the ante-post markets. Laid out for the big novices' handicap chase at the Festival back in March and looked to have nailed top spot jumping the last only to be edged out on the run-in. Can be excused subsequent effort in small-field Grade One at Aintree and will be more at home here, though he did take a couple of runs to shake off the rust last season and, unlike his stablemates, comes here fresh.
Steadily progressive profile and highly unlikely we've seen his career highlights just yet. Third at the Festival in March was a hugely promising run and back to form with head second to Art Mauresque on his recent seasonal debut at Chepstow. Suspicion is he'll develop into a stayer this season and the relatively sharp nature of the New Course may not play to his strengths, but every chance he has something in hand from a handicap mark of 145.
Jumping was a tad sticky initially but he got there in the end and his victory over subsequent Festival winner Ballyalton stands out in the form book. Also good to see him get his head in front again for a confidence-boosting victory when last seen in April and, like so many others in the race, this could be a really big season for him. Possible negatives are the going (most wins on deep ground) and the fact he hasn't had a run to blow away the cobwebs.
Not won over fences since scoring on his first two chase starts last summer but made a pleasing debut for new trainer when second to runaway winner Fox Norton at the Showcase here last month. Subsequent 2lb rise looks fair enough but he needs a career best if he's to trouble the pick of these rivals.
Highly promising French recruit who bids to become the first four-year-old winner in the race's history. Ran well in juvenile hurdles last term, finishing fifth in the Triumph, but fast-tracked to fences this season and he's reaping the reward. Three from three so far (as a novice he needed to run three times to qualify for this) and his jumping has looked a serious asset. It'll be put under more pressure here but the 9lb weight for age allowance makes him a tempting prospect under fine 3lb claimer Harry Cobden.
A springer in the market in midweek and it's not hard to see him proving quite nicely treated from a mark of 141 as he was hotly-fancied for the Festival Plate off 1lb higher back in March, only to fall early on. Always a bit of a turn-off when sole previous course run over fences ended with him on the deck, while he was last of three when letting down-favourite backers when last seen in April. Has left Paul Nicholls to join Johnny Farrelly and clearly has a few questions to answer on his seasonal reappearance.
Another from the all-conquering Nicholls yard and it's impossible to over-play the importance of his recent seasonal debut win at Fontwell. The outing is bound to have done him good physically, the fact he got his head in front should also work wonders regarding his confidence and the handicapper has quite generously left him alone on a very attractive mark of 139. Based on his second to More Of That here this time last year, he's entitled to have a major say.
Ended last season on a bit of a low note, pulling up at the Festival and again at Newbury in April but back in the groove with novice hurdle and Listed handicap chase success in September, the latter from a 9lb lower mark. Ran well on unfavourable terms in small field at Newton Abbot since and could run a big race at rewarding odds, for all his course record leaves plenty to be desired (unplaced in four appearances, failing to complete twice).
A regular in these parts over the past few seasons, winning two handicap hurdles here in the 2013/14 season, but sole success since then came in a handicap chase at Newbury in April this year. Finds himself competing off exactly the same mark here following some indifferent performances during the interim but little sign of a revival at Ascot last month and chances are he's not going to spring a shock in a race as fiercely-contested as this.
Quite a lightly-raced nine-year-old who produced a career best performance when winning a warm handicap chase at Chepstow last month on his first public outing since April. That came over the best part of three miles, after which connections declared the Grand National may be his ultimate target this term so impossible to envisage him possessing the requisite speed and class for this contest.
CONCLUSION: More Of That and AS DE MEE clashed at this meeting 12 months ago, with the former emerging on top to the tune of two and half lengths. His World Hurdle form makes him the stand out in this field but his physical frailties are a concern and at the prices Paul Nicholls' race-fit rival looks the value call to down the favourite on 15lb better terms. Nicholls has a fine chance of winning, enhanced by the presence of Art Mauresque, Bouvreuil and four-year-old Frodon.
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