Cheltenham Race Preview, 14/12/2019

Cheltenham
Saturday December 14th

Cheltenham 1.55
Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase Class 1 Grade 3
2m4f127y – Going: Soft (Good to Soft in places) –
Over the New Course – 14 runners

Cepage*
Made Frodon work for it in this race last year, good ground and went 2nd home turn under a push, every chance when in close to 2 out, ridden, in close to last, outpaced as Frodon asserted early on run-in, strong effort under pressure last 150 yards and closed on winner but too much ground to make up. Wasn’t seen again until his seasonal debut this term which was at Aintree and he chased Riders Onthe Storm home,  led 9th, was joined up front 12th, chased winner 4 out, ridden along, hard ridden from 3 out, stayed on, outpaced 2 out as winner went clear, looked held last, hard driven, stayed on last 150 yards and closed on winner last 75 yards but always held. Rather unfairly he was raised 8 lbs to 155 for that, but he’s still likely to run well
Keeper Hill
Spent last season over hurdles and won a Pertemps Qualifier at Warwick in January, picking off Oh Land Abloom at the last. Returned to fences this season – won two chases in 2017/18 but had a mountain of jumping issues as the season progressed, issues still present judged on his win in a graduation at Haydock last month, in touch, blundered 8th, nudged along before steadied into 10th, steadied into 11th then briefly pushed along, niggled along before and after 13th, ridden 4 out, last with 3 lengths to find 3 out, driven, stayed on, every chance 2 out, sustained effort, led last, soon challenged, hard driven, 1st 2 clear, found more for pressure last 100 yards, asserted close home from Midnight Shadow. The way he won that he could use a step up in trip (ran over no shorter than 2m7f last season) and for me he’s sure to be tapped for pace here
Riders Onthe Storm
 Non-runner
Secret Investor
Tall well-made sort who won two novice chases last season, in Future Champion at Ayr taking the measure of Louis’ Vac Pouch from the last for his best effort. Reappearance, too keen for his own good in Grade 2 event at Down Royal last month, led 2nd, raced freely, ridden 3 out, headed approaching 2 out, left behind, well held when mistake last, no more, 2nd beaten 14 lengths behind Real Steel. Seeing Cheltenham for the first time and off a mark of 150, looks 10 lbs too high in the weights 
Lalor
 Non-runner
Benatar
In the 2018 JLT at the Cheltenham Festival only 2 lengths down going to 2 out, outpaced under pressure between last 2, faded, well held when mistake last, hard driven and picked up again up the hill, decisively won thebattle for 3rd but no impression on Shattered Love. Rather surprisingly given he’s a free-goer, showed best form last season over 3m when 3rd to Valtor at Ascot a year ago, tracked leaders 4 out, ridden into 3 out, held a chance at this stage, hard ridden home turn, outpaced and hung right approaching 2 out, was 10 lengths 2nd jumping, kept on under a ride, was challenged for 2nd after last, lost the place last 100 yards. Paid the price for chasing Cyrname hardest at Ascot last January when last seen out, pushed along from 12th, no impression when in close to 3 out, hard ridden and weakened through field home turn. In a first-time hood and off a decent mark, chances despite this being his reappearance
Robin Des Foret
Won three novice chases in a busy first season over fences, but arguably should have added a fourth when last seen out in Grade 2 at Limerick in March, edged closer 11th, ridden into and mistake 13th, travelled comfortably as closed on leaders turning out of back straight, tracked leaders home turn, further ground and produced to challenge approaching 2 out, at most nudged along looking the winner as 1st 2 pulled clear approaching last, mistake, hard driven, no extra run-in, weakened markedly and was being closed on by the 3rd final strides. Having very much looked like winning this, he’d have been relegated to 3rd behind Burrows Saint in another 100 yards. A lot to do in this first handicap, seeing Cheltenham for the first time
Imperial Presence
Best effort last season when 4th to Mister Whitaker in Silver Trophy over this c/d in April, led, clear, steadied into 5th, in close to 8th, not so far ahead 9th, was joined after 13th, narrow advantage after 3 out, mistake and headed 2 out, faded, ridden, kept on approaching last, no extra under pressure up the hill, stuck to task. Prominent when fell 7th on reappearance at Ascot in race won by Diego Du Charmil – it was this one running loose that Diego Du Charmil tried to follow round the last, when he took out Capeland that time – and cut no ice returned to Ascot behind both those rivals on November 23rd, led, 1st 3 clear, mistake 7th, headed 9th, started to lose place 4 out and swallowed up by the main group, dropped rear home turn, no more, well held. Paid the price for overdoing the pace. Looks best in the warmer months and little expected
Spiritofthegames
Nothing in two starts this season, in Betvictor Gold Cup last month mistake 11th and pushed along away from it, headway 12th though niggled, pushed along at the top of the hill, vigorously pushed along passing omittted 3 out and soon came under pressure approaching home turn, weakened, dropping away and tailing off when pulled up before 2 out, and last time out at Newbury behind Oldgrangewood niggled along from 7th, mistake 8th, firmly pushed along from 10th, started to tail off 5 out, hopeless 4 out. Best watched for now
Knocknanuss
After a good 3rd to Saint Calvados at Cheltenham over 2m on reappearance, a long way off that when 6th to Capeland at Ascot last time, ridden into and disputed lead 9th, chased leader from 4 out and firmly pushed along to hold place, readily swallowed up home turn, no more from 2 out, well held.  Paid a price for overdoing the pace, as did Imperial Presence, but the worry here for this one is the trip – he tends to race keenly and has no wins at further than 2m1f, at Plumpton last January going from 3 lengths ahead of Master Dino turning out of the back straight to a 7-length defeat, and not for me going this trip round Cheltenham
Clondaw Castle*
Was 4th to Duc Des Genievres in the Arkle back in March, firmly pushed along as winner asserted on straightening, looked held 2 out, hard ridden, faded, driven after last, looked heavy-legged and tired, weakened, but with conditions maybe playing a part it was a better run than his distant 4th-placing would suggest. On reappearance stepped up on his novice form when 2nd, albeit luckily given the well-documented circumstances, at Ascot in early November; prominent, a little keen, taken back and midfield 2nd, a little ground and prominent to midfield before reached for 6th and slight stumble on landing, briefly niggled along after, in close to 9th, lost ground before 10th, ridden and headway 3 out, ridden along home turn, no impression, looked held in 8 lengths 4th approaching 2 out, kept on, hard ridden disputing 10 to 12 lengths 3rd between last 2, suddenly presented with every chance when Diego Du Charmil tried to run out last, hard driven, stayed on well under pressure, took 2nd final 75 yards, arguably going away from 3rd Champagne At Tara but not reach winner. It would have been a perfectly reasonable 3rd had nothing untoward occurred, and nothing in it to suggest that he won’t stay 2m4f: contender
Brelan D’As*
After winning a novice chase at Fakenham went for the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival and did well, made ground from 4 out and chased Croco Bay approaching 3 out, travelled comfortably approaching home turn, shaken up on straightening, carried head high under a ride, brushed 2 out, hard ridden, one pace between last 2, disputed 3rd last, hard driven, stayed on, no impression on 1st 2, stuck to task and got the best of battle for 3rd last 100 yards. Unseated the rider at the ditch at the top of the hill in race won by Saint Calvados on reappearance in October then runner-up in Betvictor Gold Cup last month, good ground going comfortably down the hill past omitted 3 out, pushed along home turn, chased winner 2 out, every chance, stayed on, a neck down last, hard driven, stayed on, effort last 75 yards and closed on Happy Diva, never quite getting there under a strong ride. Had a hard race, but stayed the trip, and in the mix for this race as a result despite a 5-lb rise
Good Man Pat
Best effort in novice chase season when 5th to Larry in novices’ handicap chase at Sandown on the last day of the season. Trying a new trip on reappearance, didn’t do at all badly behind Militarian over 2m7f at Ascot last month, headway 4 out, disputed 3rd 3 out, pushed along home turn, challenging for 2nd approaching 2 out, hard driven, stayed on till faded approaching last, pushed out but couldn’t go on and was being closed on a little by the 5th final strides. Arguably didn’t quite see out the trip, 11 lengths 4th in the end. On his only previous visit to this track he made several mistakes before being pulled up in the novices’ handicap chase at the Festival, and with all his wins – fences and hurdles – coming in fields of four or less, not for me
Generous Day
Modest effort over hurdles on reappearance, but stepped up on that to take Class 3 handicap chase at Kempton last month (SP 33/1), prominent 4th, further ground and disputed lead 9th, not fluent 11th and niggled along, steadied into 4 out, niggled along but just about moved best home turn, shaken up, effort and led 3 out, hard ridden, was joined 2 out, 1st 2 pulled clear approaching last, the better jump, ridden out, stayed on well to pull further clear of Doctor Dex. Seeing Cheltenham for the first time, but having posted improvement from nowhere on all previous form, this one can’t entirely be discounted
Warthog
Didn’t do well in the National Hunt Chase at the last Cheltenham Festival, prominent 4th, further ground and disputed lead 9th, not fluent 11th and niggled along, steadied into 4 out, niggled along but just about moved best home turn, shaken up, effort and led 3 out, hard ridden, was joined 2 out, 1st 2 pulled clear approaching last, the better jump, ridden out, stayed on well to pull further clear. On reappearance and going off 33/1, did much better in Betvictor Gold Cup last month, chased leader, led 12th, moved comfortably till pushed along home turn and soon strongly challenged, not totally done with when left 3rd 2 out, ridden, weakened before and after last, no more. Good effort, never out of the first two until the second last, and beaten 8 lengths behind Happy Diva and Brelan D’As. Although his win-to-run ratio is poor, a reproduction of what he did last month would get him in contention here
Not That Fuisse
Would have finished in midfield but for falling at the last in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle at the Festival back in March. Staying-on 2nd to Al Dancer in 2m novice chase at the October meeting promised more to come, held up last and detached, mistake 2nd, closer order 8th, became detached again and niggled along 9th, steadied into and slow 10th, mistake 3 out, hard ridden and struggling approaching home turn, had 6 lengths to find home turn, stayed on under a hand ride approaching 2 out, 8 lengths down last, stayed on up the hill, took 3rd and finished well to go 2nd close home, closing on Al Dancer final 75 yards but never getting there – shaped as though wanting further, but also needed to improve his jumping. Was weak in the market and ran worse when 4th to Torpillo at Warwick when last seen out, closed on 1st 2 approaching 6th, not fluent 7th, started to struggle 8th, lost place 9th, well held 3 out, pushed along home turn, no impression. Not progressing, yet to win over fences and best watched

Shortlist: Cepage, Clondaw Castle, Brelan D’As

Cheltenham 3.05
Unibet International Hurdle Class 1 Grade 2
2m179y – Going: Soft (Good to Soft in places) –
Over the New Course – 8 runners

Ch’tibello*
High-class form when winning last year’s County Hurdle, pushed along in 9th some 7 lengths down on leader coming off the bend, effort and passed several approaching last, led and not fluent, hard driven, stayed on well up the hill, maintained advantage over We Have A Dream last 150 yards; also ran very well on last start in Aintree Hurdle, every chance last but ridden and no extra when 3rd to Supasundae and Buveur D’Air. In a renewal of the International lacking a top-class one, this is the pick on form (albeit by just a lb from Call Me Lord)
Gumball
Fine performances to win at Ascot early in November and when runner-up in Greatwood over the Old Course here 15 days later, tracked leaders after 5th, produced to challenge and disputed lead 2 out, ridden and initially didn’t go with leaders home turn, put under pressure, came wide, stayed on approaching last, steadied into it, hard driven, every chance final furlong, strong effort last 75 yards, took 2nd, just held post. Cracking run and a bit unfortunate to have Harambe come from behind and steal it: tends not to go from the front nowadays and not out of it
Le Patriote
Completed a hattrick on good ground when taking Swinton at Haydock back in May, prominent in main group after 5th, niggled along 3 out, good ground to pass a couple of rivals and challenging for 2nd 2 out where mistake, hard ridden, effort approaching last, found extra run-in and led 200 yards out, drew clear, ridden out, was closed on by Project Bluebook last 150 yards but never in danger. Below form in Ascot Hurdle on reappearance behind if The Cap Fits and Call Me Lord, nudged along and headway from 4 out, in touch 3 out, pushed along approaching home turn, no extra from approaching 2 out, carried head to one side, weakened approaching last, no more. Has won on soft and chance at best
Elixir De Nutz
Not seen out since winning the Tolworth at Sandown back in January, made all, ridden 2 out, arguably not going best approaching last, driven out run-in, kept finding last 200 yards, genuine effort to beat Grand Sancy, in the process landing a hattrick after two novice hurdle wins at Cheltenham, over the Old Course in November and the New on the Friday of this meeting . For me, something to find in this company
Pentland Hills
Three out of three over hurdles, including the Triumph over this course and distance back in March, held up, keen, overjumped 1st, stumbled on landing and nearly unseated, more settled 2nd, slightly hampered after 4th, closer order 5th, effort delayed and still waited with in rear of main group going down the hill to 2 out, closed on them approaching home turn, headway through runners to track leaders approaching last, pushed along and a length down jumping it, put under pressure, stayed on well up the hill, pulled clear, ridden out, workmanlike and decisive by 3 lengths from Coeur Sublime; followed up in Anniversary at Aintree by a neck from Fakir D’Oudairies.  Always difficult for last season’s juveniles and I’m worried he might not settle
Ballyandy*
In fine form last season, won at Uttoxeter and good placed efforts in better handicaps at Ascot and at the Cheltenham Festival in the Coral Cup, made ground 5th, ridden into 6th and 7th, further ground going well and tracked leaders 3 out, nudged along approaching 2 out, moved better than most till shaken up home turn, hard ridden and stayed on to hold every chance approaching last, was half a length down jumping, put under pressure, stayed on, no extra last 125 yards, stuck to task and went down with honours, 3rd beaten half a length behind William Henry. Below form in Silver Trophy at Chepstow and West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on first two starts this season, expect this one to be where the pace comes from on a rare outing over the minimum trip. Both the official and my ratings give him a squeak
Big Blue
 Non-runner
Call Me Lord*
Until reappearance this season had seemed to reserve his best for Sandown, 3rd to Malaya in Imperial Cup there in March his best effort of 2018/19. Said seasonal debut was in the Ascot Hurdle and he ran a best-to-date on my ratings, held up in touch, headway and tracked leaders after 2nd, jumped soundly, chased new leader after 3 out and moved comfortably, arguably moved best home turn, pushed along approaching 2 out, led there, moved up to 2 lengths clear, put under pressure, was closed on, joined and headed last, hard driven, kept on under pressure till no extra last 100 yards, stuck to task under hard driving but beaten half a length by If The Cap Fits. Even though he moved best and didn’t win I don’t think it was a found-little, he just came up against a resolute rival. Although it’s his first left-handed start in Britain he’d won this way round in France (at Cagnes-sur-Mer and Compiegne), and he’s one of the picks on form
Monsieur Lecoq
At first glance well held behind Ch’tibello in the County back in March but, having ended up in rear, he passed several under a ride and was nearest at the finish, never able to challenge. Successful reappearance when short-heading Le Prezien in Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las then stepped up on that when a close 3rd in Greatwood at Cheltenham last month, prominent, keen, chased leader after 3rd as pace picked up, led 4th, ridden going down the hill and disputed lead 2 out, led a neck home turn, hard ridden, stayed on, led a length last, hard driven, stayed on, was challenged inside final 150 yards, just holding on till headed three strides from the post, lost 2nd to Gumball final stride, beaten half a length behind Harambe. Anyone fancying Gumball shouldn’t discount this one

Shortlist: Ch’tibello, Ballyandy, Call Me Lord

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