Cheltenham’s December Gold Cup Winner – Look No Further …
The December Gold Cup at Cheltenham racecourse (renamed Steward Family Thank You Gold Cup) is the big handicap chase on offer this Saturday. It has been a punters race over the years with the winner found in the first four in the betting on 24 of the last 27 occasions. That is a very strong trend over a long time and one we will not try and beat.
The first four in the betting currently out of the likely 13 runner field are Johns Spirit, Colour Squadron, Grandioso & Attaglance. You will recognize no doubt that all bar Grandioso ran well to place 1st, 2nd & 4th respectively in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham last Month. The weights have changed a little this time round but a bigger change may be the fact that this race takes place on the new course which is more of a galloping track with a longer finishing straight.
I am a firm believer that Johns Spirit idled when in front too long in the Paddy Power chase and can finish in front of the flattered Colour Squadron once again. Attaglance was outpaced the last day before finishing well and will appreciate this stiffer course. However, as a three mile hurdler he looks sure to benefit from a step up in trip over the coming Months.
Grandioso has just the one run at Cheltenham finishing unplaced against the current Champion Hurdle favourite The New One. Grandioso was always going to make a better chaser than hurdler and he might make Johns Spirit work hardest to complete a famous Paddy Power December Gold Cup handicap double.
Eye Catchers for the Week ending 8th December
Felix Yonger – Trainer Willie Mullins – Jockey Ruby Walsh
Felix Yonger made it 3/3 over fences at Navan last weekend beating Trifolium by 15 lengths. He is a super jumper with a great turn of foot. Remember this horse finished 2nd to Simonsig in the Neptune Novices hurdle at the Cheltenham festival in 2012. He missed this year’s festivals but looks better over fences than hurdles already this season. The Arkle over a stiff 2 miles at Cheltenham is an option but Ruby mentioned after his latest win over 2m1f that he would not mind stepping him up in trip as he was flat to the boards for most of the race to keep tabs on Trifolium. The Jewson Chase promoted to Grade 1 status next year looks the most likely option. That will keep him from running against Champagne Fever who looks destined for the Arkle Chase. Felix Yonger is a very, very exciting novice chaser that has already reached a standard good enough to win at Cheltenham.
Talbot Road – Trainer Arthur Moore – Jockey David Casey
Talbot Road made a very satisfactory chasing debut over a trip short enough for him at Punchestown. He was flat to the boards to keep tabs with Bright New Dawn but finished off his race well having lost touch on the run to the penultimate fence. Talbot Road is a big staying chaser type who will appreciate a longer trip and softer conditions underfoot. Keep an eye out for him over further in a beginners chase over the Christmas period. He could end up good enough for the RSA chase or the four miler most likely at Cheltenham if sent across the pond.
The Game Changer – Trainer Charlie Swan – Jockey Davy Russell
The game changer put in a much improved run when winning snugly in a good novice hurdle at Punchestown. He had jumped poorly at Gowran Park previously not helped by the slow pace which caused him to run very free pulling for his head. Off a stronger pace at Punchestown he travelled on the bridle to the last hurdle before being asked to quicken and win his race. Most impressive for me was his slick jumping at pace as there is no doubt this 190k purchase has a good engine and gears for quick ground.
Rathvinden – Trainer Willie Mullins – Jockey Paul Townend
Rathvinden, a son of Heron Island won his maiden hurdle at Cork in a canter following up on his bumper win at the same course in mid-November. He looks a speedy type for an ex point to pointer who fell at the last when about to win his point to point. Rathvinden was recommended to Willie Mullins by Ian Ferguson following his bumper win at Downpatrick. It is no co incidence that he runs in the colours of Ronnie Bartlett as Ian Ferguson sold Simonsig too who is owned by Ronnie Bartlett. Rathvinden has a way to go to match Simonsig but he is open to any amount of improvement especially when upped in trip.
Twinlight – Trainer Willie Mullins – Jockey Paul Townend
Twinlight is a horse that went under most people’s radar last season despite winning some top class races. He beat Arkle second Baily Green in a Grade 2 at Punchestown as well as finishing a head second in a Grade 2 Chase to Buckers Bridge at Navan giving the winner 6lbs. This season he has improved again winning both his starts impressively. At Cork last weekend he won the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase by an eased down 6 lengths. Twinlight turns 7 in January and can win a Grade 1 this season over two miles or a furlong or two longer. He is rated just a few pounds below Arvika Ligeonniere and if both meet in the dial a bet chase at Leopardstown on the 27th twinlight will be over twice the price!
Bright New Dawn – Trainer Dessie Hughes – Jockey Bryan Cooper
Bright New Dawn was always a chaser in the making. This tall angular chasing type still managed to place in Grade 1 novice hurdle races last season behind the likes of Champagne fever & Jezki. However, over fences he can go right to the very top. The step up in trip for the 3 mile novice chase at Leopardstown will suit and his speed will be useful when quickening to win at the end of longer chases so long as he settles. That is a slight concern as he loves to be up with the pace. His jumping was good and despite a slower jump at the last than runner up Dogora he was always holding that horses challenge up the run in giving the runner up 12lbs.
Enjoy the weekend,