Sodexo Gold Cup: Horse-by-horse

Matt Brocklebank previews Saturday's Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot with a guide to the 12-runner field.

Killala Quay: Looks worth chancing

Tea For Two

Disappointing third of four at Sandown when last seen in February but subsequent layoff suggests he wasn't right that day and he'd created a big impression in winning Kempton's Grade One Kauto Star Novices' Chase over Christmas. Obviously has loads of class but that will need to be the case under top weight and fitness also has to be taken on trust so there are enough question marks over his profile to suggest he's worth taking on.

Saphir Du Rheu

Shot to prominence with easy win in Aintree Grade One the spring before last and looked to have the chasing world at his feet after a seasonal reappearance success at Carlisle. No disgrace in his fifth in the Hennessy last November but the wheels came off from that point, over hurdles and fences. Lots to prove now but the assessor has given him a real chance with a mark of 152 (highest hurdles rating 165) and interesting that he comes here instead of taking up alternative engagement at Wetherby.

Voix D'Eau

Looked a little rusty in the jumping department on his seasonal return at Chepstow but he wasn't beaten too far in a race that could work out well. Enjoys good ground so now might be the time to catch him, though a career-high mark of 149 won't be easy to overcome and looks a shade high on the face of it.

Junction Fourteen

Good record over fences with three wins from six attempts but he'll need to improve a lot on his comeback run (well behind Voix D'Eau) at Chepstow earlier this month if he's going to add to that tally. Only 6lb higher than when successful in a novices' handicap at Sandown in April and still has time on his side, with a move back up to three miles another potential angle for improvement.

Un Ace

Stable going well and this previous course winner must be taken seriously on his seasonal return. Tipped up at Uttoxeter when last sighted in April but soft going a legitimate excuse there and had previously run very well when eighth in the Pertemps Final over hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival. The problem is his chase mark is a bit higher and he looks a touch vulnerable to less exposed rivals despite having conditions to suit.

Hadrian's Approach

Not on the scoresheet since taking 2014 running of the bet365 Gold Cup and only 5lb lower than for that success. Last season didn't really get going but some of his trainer's horses weren't quite firing and he did sign off with a fairly encouraging sixth in the same Sandown race. Has won over hurdles and fences at Ascot and good ground is no issue but on balance others look more likely for top spot.

Place your bets on the Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase right here!

A Good Skin

Ran several game races in defeat last season, including a second at the Cheltenham Festival, and resumed with another solid display when third at Chepstow earlier this month. Doesn't get much help from the handicapper as he's so consistent but he's impossible to ignore and rates a fair each-way alternative to some of the market leaders.

Buckhorn Timothy

Not overly big but a neat jumper nevertheless and his was a very pleasing reappearance run when second at Chepstow. Handicapper has raised him 3lb for that one-length defeat which means he now needs another career-best but there is scope for further progress over this kind of trip and his yard could hardly be in better form.

Killala Quay

Stable continues in great shape so it would come as no surprise to see him leave his recent reappearance run well behind, especially as he spread a plate that day before being pulled up. The pick of last year's form, namely a Grade Two novice chase win at Kempton, brings him right into the mix off a mark of 138 and he's definitely another for the shortlist.

Fourth Act

Stablemate of Buckthorn Timothy but doesn't have race fitness on his side like that horse. Pulled up at the Cheltenham Festival in March in an otherwise decent campaign which yielded two chase wins and a couple of places. Things could be a bit tougher this time around and he's probably best watched for the time being.

Workbench

Took adavantage of an ease in the weights to win from a mark of 132 at Fontwell in September but failed to follow up off this rating since at Fakenham. Clearly up against it in a race as deep and competitve as this one, while he's also anything but a guaranteed stayer.

Anthony

Showed some promising signs in his novice chase campaign last season and delivered with a clear-cut win at Fontwell on his return to action at the start of the month. Trainer wasn't all that impressed and reckons he's still got plenty more to offer so a 3lb rise in the ratings doesn't look too harsh. He could be very dangerous to leave from calculations right at the bottom of the weights, though a step up to three miles isn't certain to help him take the next step up.

CONCLUSION:

Loads in with chances but Saphir Du Rheu could leave them standing if resuming at the peak of his powers. He's fairly treated and goes well fresh but it's tempting to oppose the likely market leader with KILLALA QUAY. He has the benefit of a recent run, the form of which is probably best ignored and based on his Grade Two success last season looks potentially really well treated. Anthony is also an interesting contender who looks likely to take higher rank at the season progresses.

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