BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase Preview
The National Hunt season moves into top gear at Cheltenham on Saturday with BetVictor Gold Cup at 2.25 pm.
That is, pending the weather. As I write Fridays meeting has been abandoned due to waterlogging. The reports coming out of Cheltenham seem fairly positive for racing going ahead on Saturday and or Sunday. Let’s hope so, this year’s renewal looks well up to standard.
The BetVictor Gold Cup is a meeting point for seasoned handicappers and the up and coming second season chasers. Last year, Baron Alco defeated the subsequent Ryanair Chase winner Frodon. It’s a high-class event that will have a bearing on future top-class races throughout the 2019/20 National Hunt season.
Opposing the BetVictor Gold Cup favourites
I like the betting shape of the race, primarily because of the position at the head of the market of Slate House and Siruh Du Lac. I don’t have either on a winning handicap mark, particularly Slate House.
At the current prices, 5/1 the pair, they take up 33% of the book. It’s 2/1 that either Slate House or Siruh Du Lac wins. You need to decide whether you want to be for or against that outcome at 2/1?
In as competitive a race as this is, I want to be against that happening and I’m happy to look elsewhere for value.
Based on their chance at the weights on previous runs. In order, my top 3 and initial shortlist of horses to focus on were.
All 3 being second season chasers.
The extreme weather conditions are likely to be a key factor in the outcome of this race. Whoever wins this is going to need to be able to perform to their best on heavy ground.
To give it some perspective on how this changes the race. In 2017 when Splash Of Ginge won the BetVictor Gold Cup, run on officially ‘soft’ ground. According to the Racing Post, the finishing time against their standard time for the distance was 26.50 seconds slow. That 26 seconds equates to around 2 furlongs in distance.
Should this Saturday’s race go ahead, the ground is likely to ride even slower. As a test of stamina, the race will take the time it would on good ground to run a race of nearer 2 miles 6 furlongs plus. Stamina will be a key factor for the winning horse.
Top 3 rated horses on form
Going back to my original top 3. There are concerns for some about their effectiveness over the trip.
Top-rated Us Or Them has done his winning at 2 miles. His best performance over fences came around Aintree, a track with an emphasis on speed. He’s shown he handles the soft ground, he just hasn’t been tested at 2 miles 4 furlongs and on heavy ground. It’s an unknown on past form and leaves a few unanswered questions.
I’ve little doubt he has been primed for this race, his trainer Joseph O’Brien has been upbeat about his chances. I think he’s the best horse at the weights, there is just the question mark around him being as effective as he has shown over shorter distances in Saturday’s test.
Every horse has a price, he doesn’t scream value at the current 9/1 and I’m inclined to pass.
Highway One O One has a really strong piece of form from the Henry VIII Chase at Sandown last December. That race was run on underfoot conditions that are going to be similar to Saturday. He’s proved effective at Saturday’s trip too.
He’s had a prep race over hurdles last month and looks a player here. Current best price is 18/1.
Count Meribel has the form on the ground and has form over further than 2 miles 4 furlongs. His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has done well in this race, winning it twice in the last 10 years.
Count Meribel has had a prep race, chasing home the very classy Lostintranslation 2 weeks ago. He certainly looks likely to be ready and suited by the test on Saturday. Current best price is 10/1.
BetVictor Gold Cup contenders proven on heavy going
Given the forecast going, it’s worth considering those who’ve proved in the past to be at their best on heavy ground. Albeit, they may not be the best handicapped. Conditions on Saturday could level the playing field, the best-handicapped horses may underperform, opening this up for a proven mudlark.
Top weight Saint Calvados will relish the ground conditions. He comes here in good form but I feel has too much weight against some up and coming rivals. To win here, he would need to produce lifetime best and a rating associated with a Champion Chase player.
That’s not inconceivable, but he would need to run 7 – 10 lbs above his previous best and at 12/1 that looks to offer no value.
Happy Diva is interesting. The mare has posted her optimum performances on soft/heavy ground. Additionally, she has proved her stamina in the conditions, plus winning over 3 miles. While on ratings she is 5 lbs behind the best in this race, it is not insurmountable. She looks likely to run her race.
There is still a bit of 20/1 available on Happy Diva and that looks a reasonable price.
The final horse worth a mention is Springtown Lake. 2 miles 4 furlongs on heavy ground are his ideal conditions. I’d just have a question mark as to whether he is on a winning mark on 137. He’s likely to run to his best form, but I’m not certain that he may not be quite good enough off this weight.
BetVictor Gold Cup fancies
A fascinating puzzle, hopefully, the race survives the weather. I’ve not had a bet at this stage, for me, it’s probably a race to watch and enjoy rather than bet in.
I think the most likely winner is Count Meribel with Happy Diva and Highway One O One warranting inspection at each-way prices.