Vic ready for Caviar defence

View from connections ahead of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at the International at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Village Vic is in good form ahead of his title defence

Village Vic will have to defy a career-high mark if he is to become only the second horse to record back-to-back victories in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Philip Hobbs' charge took this prize 12 months ago off bottom weight of 10st with a rating of 136. Now he is up to a mark of 158 and is burdened with the steadier of 11st 12lb.

The handicapper raised him 3lb for a brave effort in the BetVictor Gold Cup here last month when he just failed by a neck to hold Taquin Du Seuil after trying to make all the running.

Hobbs is hoping Village Vic might improve for that first run of the campaign as he bids to emulate Poquelin, the winner in 2009 and 2010.

"He ran great at Cheltenham in the BetVictor and was just run out of it on the run-in," said the Minehead-based trainer.

"That was his first run of the season and hopefully he might have improved a bit for it since. He has been in good form since.

"The ground being good is a bit of an unknown as we know he goes well on soft. Maybe he won't be quite so effective on good, but that is only a maybe. We will just take our chance and go from there.

"He went up 3lb for the last run so hopefully it won't be beyond him."

The Paul Nicholls-trained pair of Bouvreuil and Frodon were fifth and last of the 10 finishers respectively in the BetVictor.

The champion trainer is seeking a fourth win in the last 10 years and admits he is struggling to split the pair.

"There's nothing between the two of them," the Ditcheat handler told Gloucestershire Live.

"Bouvreuil ran well at the last meeting. It was his first run of the season and better ground will suit him. I have seen he is now favourite but around five of them could be. He has a chance definitely, it's a competitive race.

"Frodon was travelling well last time at Cheltenham when he made a mistake and landed on the ditch and never recovered from that.

"That day I was running him a bit quick (seven days after winning the Wincanton Rising Stars Novices' Chase). He could go well, too."

Buywise tries again after putting in his usual late dash to take third place in the BetVictor.

"He lines up again and we'll give it another go," said trainer Evan Williams.

"The very nature of this track should suit him. It is a bit more of a galloping track, but he has run some of his best races on the other track."

Williams also declared King's Odyssey, but warns he will only take his chance if the rain arrives.

"He's a very nice horse, but he wants a bit of cut so we'd like to see a drop of rain for him," he said.

"We'd like to run him. It's a race that could be suited to this horse, so we want to give it every chance but if the rain doesn't come he won't run."

Venetia Williams would like to see the heavens open for Aso, who made an encouraging return after seven months off when fourth in the BetVictor.

"We could just do with a bit of rain. I'm not sure if it's going to be forthcoming, but he's in good order," said the King's Caple trainer.

Warren Greatrex has made it clear he will not run Aloomomo unless the rain arrives.

The six-year-old was an encouraging third at Ascot last month on his first race since the Cheltenham Festival.

"When you look at some forecasts, there's a chance they might get more rain than they first thought, so we'll see," said the Upper Lambourn handler.

"I think he deserves to take his chance in a race like this and if they do get the rain, I think he'd have a serious chance as he is in very good form.

"But as it is now, it wouldn't suit him and you want everything in your favour going into a race like this."

Harry Fry is looking forward to running Thomas Brown after the seven-year-old scored on his seasonal reappearance at Aintree five weeks ago.

"This has been the target pretty much since he crossed the line at Aintree. He surprised us that day in that he handled the drop down in trip, hence targeting this race," said the Seaborough trainer.

"He seems fresh and well at home. He has got a 5lb rise for his win, but hopefully he can go well. The ground should be fine and any rain won't be an inconvenience."

Colin Tizzard is double-handed with Quite By Chance and Sizing Codelco as he bids to continue his fine season.

"We just happened to run Quite By Chance over two miles first time this season at Ascot and he went and won it easy, so he went back to Ascot and ran just as well if not better to finish second to Sire De Grugy," said the Dorset handler.

"We thought he was a two-and-a-half-miler last year, so that's why we are going back to that trip.

"Sizing Codelco was favourite in a two-mile handicap here last time but he was not fast enough. It does look as though he wants a trip and this was the next step."

Nicky Henderson expects Full Shift to do himself justice despite being 2lb wrong in the weights.

"He ran better at Newbury and we are going to put some cheekpieces on him on Saturday," said the Seven Barrows handler.

"He loves good ground and we don't dare wait any longer. He is out of the handicap, which is not ideal, but he has to go there. Two-and-a-half on good ground is a great place for him."

Roman Flight is set for a well-deserved winter break after this race as he has been on the go since May.

With ground conditions still in the eight-year-old's favour, trainer David Dennis believes his charge has earned a crack at a big prize after winning at Newbury last time.

"This is a big step up, but he's worthy of his place in the line-up," said Dennis.

"Good ground is a big help to him. He's had a busy enough campaign during the summer and autumn months, but this will be his last run before he has a break through the winter."

Read More at Sporting Life

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