A look at the Greatwood Gold Cup and some Cheltenham Festival pointers

Brian Ellison saddles a leading contender in the Greatwood Gold Cup.
Brian Ellison saddles a leading contender in the Greatwood Gold Cup.

Our resident columnist Tanya Stevenson takes an in-depth look at the Greatwood Gold Cup, and discusses some lively Cheltenham Festival and Grand National runners lining up this weekend...

Paul Nicholls has monopolised the Greatwood Gold Cup.  Since its inception in 2004 the Ditcheat trainer has had 28 runners across 15 runnings and won it nine times, simply awesome.  So it seems folly to divert away from Grand Sancy or even Capeland.  Time to pile it on further as Paul Nicholls is 1million pounds ahead of his nearest rival in the Trainers Championship and Bryony Frost is aboard Grand Sancy also.  

This is a horse who won the Kingwell Hurdle before going on to be 11th in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2019, he progressed nicely running his last race over hurdles in November of that year when second in the Elite Hurdle to Fusil Raffles.  The transition was then made to the bigger obstacles, his first race was the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase when third to Espirit Du Large, he has done well considering he has been kept to such a high level.  His maiden victory over the bigger obstacles was a three-runner affair at Fontwell in February 20, after wind surgery he followed it up 230 days later at Chepstow similarly against two rivals.  The last we saw of him was tailing off at Wincanton in November at odds-on.  Harry Cobden reported he had a respiratory issue.  119 days on, he is back.

Plenty has to be taken on trust, his achievements are there to see, and he is weighted right up to them amongst today’s rivals.  Plus, his best runs have come amidst small intimate fields, I sense he has to get out in front here away from any crowding and thus why Bryony is the best to ride him and settle him, yet at the price and despite the trainer’s record he is not value.  Of course, its hard not to be enticed but I’m seeking value elsewhere.  

I know it’s a race where favourites have faired pretty well, five times they’ve won and you would have shown a small level stake profit if backing each one.  Stats highlight that its not a race for your elders, as over the last ten years only one horse over eight has won from a pool of over 40!

Only one winner won on their previous start which was Isio right back in 2004!  And only six of the 15 winners had won in any of their previous three runs.

Cheltenham Festival Tips

I’m going for payback, or compensation, oh how so close I came with Crossley Tender in the Eider last week, the horse who just stayed better was Sam’s Adventure trained by Brian Ellison.  Ironic then that Brian trains one of the outsiders I like in the Newbury contest, Windsor Avenue.  The trainer is a rare visitor from North Yorkshire to Newbury so worth taking note and this will be only a second ride at the course for Theo Gillard, whose five pound claim may be the difference required here!

Over hurdles Windsor Avenue finished in close proximity to Al Dancer and latterly Rouge Vif in a Grade 2, he made an immediate mark over fences winning his first two Novice Chases at Sedgefield and Carlisle, before coming across a well equipped Sam Spinner over a stamina sapping  three miles.  When dropped back in trip he fell when in contention two out at Haydock in a Grade 2, then since he has done well.  Second to Imperial Aura at Carlisle in November stands out.  Nothing went right in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and he soon pulled up.  He ran a blinder in the Rowland Meyrick, once again over three miles, too far in my mind.  Though he conceded weight and almost reeled in Canelo and Snow Leopardess.  Then he would have been always playing catch up behind Dashel Drasher at Ascot last time!  This will be run at a much more sedate tempo and the trip will suit.  He has to be each-way value at around the 16-1 mark.

Another I’m going to keep an eye on is The Big Bite, wherever Ibleo runs at the Cheltenham Festival I’m on he is my nap of the meeting.  He just looked spot on last time at Doncaster.  So it figures I have to follow the horse who gave him most to worry about and that happens to be The Big Bite.  Henry Oliver has a nice horse here.  He wasn’t that far behind Grand Sancy in the 2019 Supreme and he has already beaten Senior Citizen easily off level weights!  The task for him is that he will be running off his highest ever mark, he is up to it but there are others like Windsor Avenue who might have more room for manoeuvre.

Greatwood Gold Cup
Windsor Avenue silk

Windsor Avenue

Greatwood Gold Cup
The Big Bite silk

The Big Bite

Cheltenham Festival Races

There are Cheltenham and Grand National clues aplenty, starting with the latter all eyes will be at Kelso.  Trevor Hemmings loves having runners in the Premier Chase I note, with Cloudy Lane falling in 2009, Ballabriggs ran it a number of times including 2nd the year he went on to win the National and Many Clouds won the Kelso race after he won the National.  This year he has Cloth Cap who current heads the market for Aintree, we haven’t seen him since his procession in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November and no doubt Jonjo O’Neill feels that this is the right date to give him a run before April 10th.  Trevor Hemmings can have the 1-2 as carrying the second colours will be Lake View Lad, who didn’t really like his trip to Sandown but does come right at this time of the year and we know Kelso suits.  

Another Aintree pointer is this year’s Grimthorpe Chase, Alan King’s Canelo is a warm order and no surprise after his encouraging fourth in the Sky Bet Chase, he’d won the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby prior to that.  Numerically there’s a disappointing turnout for Doncaster but for Alan King this is an ideal prep for Canelo and much like Cloth Cap if you fancy them for the Grand National I’d consider supporting them before their respective races on Saturday.

Tegerek is a lively contender for the County Hurdle, he ran such a belter when we last saw him in November when chasing home The Shunter in the Greatwood Hurdle.  Kevin Brogan did all he could to try and navigate a clear passage through but just failed to pick up two better rivals, Tegerek would have come on immensely for that run and is worth looking at in the Newbury 2.30, as is The Shunter in Kelso’s 3.15 for he and all his rivals are lured in by the £100,000 bonus for any horse to win the Morebattle and at the Festival.  He has many entries at Cheltenham and you’d fancy him to go close in any of them.  Emmet Mullins his trainer has won six races from his last 14 runners here including Cape Gentleman last Saturday at Kempton.

Finally my last word goes to My Drogo, the what ifs are flowing as he sadly doesn’t go to Cheltenham for had he done so he would have been my nap of the meeting not Ibleo!  Still his talents will be showcased in Kelso’s 1.30, after which I sense he will either go to Aintree or be saved for next season.

Cheltenham Gold Cup
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