Five key questions ahead of the Greatwood Gold Cup

San Benedeto bids for back-to-back wins in the Greatwood Gold Cup
San Benedeto bids for back-to-back wins in the Greatwood Gold Cup

Alex Stearn discusses the weekend action and picks out five key talking points which include the Greatwood Gold Cup and a potential Grand National contender running on Saturday..

Who can dethrone Nicholls? 

Since it’s addition to the programme book back in 2004, the Greatwood Gold Cup has been a race that Paul Nicholls has made his own. From the 15 runnings to date, he has been successful in nine of those and saddles San Benedeto in a repeat bid, but his three runners in this year’s renewal will all have questions to answer. 

San Benedeto is challenging for favouritism after two respectable efforts this campaign, with the latest being over this C&D, seeing him finish fourth behind Oldgrangewood. That form has turned out to be strong with his conqueror going close at Cheltenham since. However, he is having to come into this year’s renewal off the back of an extended break and whilst that can be a good thing for some, it’s never done him much good and his performances haven’t quite been of the same level as when he is race fit - with the addition of forecast soft ground in the equation as well, it leaves him vulnerable. 

Nicholls’ other pair, Secret Investor and Mont Des Avaloirs are difficult to split but can both come up short for win purposes. The latter looks to be the first choice on jockey bookings with Bryony Frost taking the ride on Mont Des Avaloirs on his first venture outside of novice company over fences. The form of his fourth behind Champ over C&D would make him thrown in off a mark of 143 but his latest start would need improving on plenty to take a hand. 

Also, there’s no doubting that Secret Investor has the ability to make his presence felt at this level, the question is whether top weight will put an end to his chances. This will be his first attempt at handicaps in his career but he’s been kept to a sound surface for most of that and the forecast ground will be an issue, paving the way for another trainer to get their name of the roll of honour. 

Tom George has his string in fine form at the minute – operating at a near 30% strike rate - and Clondaw Castle can be the spoiler of Nicholls’ party. The son of Oscar lowered the flag of the well-fancied Two Taffs at Warwick on his latest start and whilst he is raised 6 lb for that success, it did look very comfortable and he could have plenty more to come, especially owing to the fact that he finished last season with respectable efforts at Grade 1 company, making him the one that I would side with.

A matter of how far? 

Cill Anna will make the cross-country journey from her Ditcheat base to Doncaster on Saturday and she looks to be a class above the rest of the field in the Listed Mares Novices' Hurdle at 3.00pm. The Stewart Family-owned mare hailed from the point-to-point sphere and off the back of just one successful start, fetched £115,000 at the sales. 

She didn’t cut much ice in bumpers where she seemed to lack the speed needed for those contests but connections weren’t shy in what they thought of her, sending her to Aintree and Cheltenham for those engagements with the second coming in listed company. This daughter of Imperial Monarch soon stepped up in trip for her debut over obstacles and after being beaten on debut where match practice over hurdles seemed to tell, she soon stepped forward on that form in both her subsequent starts.

Both of those saw her lower the flag of short-priced favourites and after having Emma Joy’s, who has since been impressive in Listed company, behind her at Warwick she can add her own black-type to her pedigree. She has plenty in hand on official ratings compared to the rest of the field and although she won’t be much of a punting price, I’d be shocked if anything can lay a glove on her, with it likely that it will be double-figure lengths between her and the rest.

Will this be a public schooling session for Definitly Red? 

Brian Ellison has been careful in his handling of Definitly Red this campaign to make sure that he gets to Liverpool in top form. He has double declared his Grand National contender but made Kelso his first preference. Often seen as one of the key trials for April, it has attracted a disappointing field of five with only Definitly Red and Saint Xavier holding entries in the Grand National. 

This has all the makings of a match race in all but name on paper but realistically, it is more likely to be a racecourse schooling session for Ellison’s charge. He did have the option of heading to Doncaster for the Grimthorpe Chase but was weary of giving him too hard of a race with only five weeks until the big day. Victory isn’t guaranteed as Saint Xavier has the class to get involved switched back to fences, but I don’t think the result will be that important to connections of Definitly Red – as long as he gets round safely whilst bringing himself forward fitness-wise, they’ll consider themselves the winner with all roads leading to Liverpool. 

A fruitless trip for Sam Twiston-Davies? 

Sam Twiston-Davies isn’t employed by his Dad, Nigel, on Saturday and therefore has found himself with a pair of rides for old boss Paul Nicholls and will be hoping that the near 12-hour round trip up to Kelso will yield a winner to make the journey all the more tolerable.

First up is Moabit in the novices' handicap chase at 2.12pm. He hasn’t achieved the same levels over fences that he did over hurdles but is only having his second start in this sphere and might now get competitive off a mark of 123. His chase debut came at Plumpton nearly three-weeks ago and can only improve for that experience. He raced too keen early on before then struggling to keep up as the race quickened but did stick to his task to finish third. This sharper test will probably suit based on that run but is that enough to see off Albert’s Back or Dali Mail? I don’t think so.

Twiston-Davies won’t have to wait long for his next ride though and will get the leg up on Calva d’Auge for the same connections in the Grade 2 novices' hurdle. He was last seen on the same day at Plumpton as Moabit but had a better result – seeing off the useful Fraser Island in minor company. This is obviously a big step up in class but his rating of 139 suggests that this contest could be within his scope. However, he does have to give weight to Clondaw Caitlin, who looks as if she can pose the biggest threat. She boasts an unbeaten record over timber to date without having to really show the ceiling of her ability – making it possible she can spoil the afternoon for Sam Twiston-Davies. 

Surely this is the day for Singlefarmpayment? 

It’s hard not to develop favourites in this game and whilst the lights of Altior and Native River are top of plenty of people’s lists for obvious reasons – Singlefarmpayment is one of my absolute favourites despite being responsible for plenty of losing wagers – the most agonising being the short head defeat in the Ultima Handicap Chase back in 2017.  He always seems to run his race and when he returned to Cheltenham in the middle of December 2019, I was confident that he would finally get a second win on the board for Tom George and when he travelled into the straight still cruising it looked as if being a formality. However, he didn’t go through with his effort and was another case of so near yet so far. 

The hooded hero Singlefarmpayment heads to Newbury on Saturday and makes his debut in the veterans series. The trip, track and going will be ideal for this gelding and with it being a slight drop in grade, he definitely has the ability to play a part in the finish on Saturday. The likes of Horatio Hornblower and Theatre Guide look like posing the most serious challenge, with the second a tough sort if getting in a battle, but without sounding like a broken record, Saturday is the day for Singlefarmpayment…surely?!

The Cheltenham Festival
Advert Disclaimer is a free online resource which endeavour to provide helpful and useful content and odds comparison to its visitors. Please be advised that accepts affiliate commission from the companies appearing on the site, and agreed commission levels impact the location and order in which the companies (and/or their products) are presented on the website. Any ratings that appear on this site is determined by our subjective opinion of the brand but also based on market share and reputation, each brand's conversion rates, commission paid to us and general consumer interest. Company listings on this page don't imply our endorsement. We do not feature all providers on the market. Except as expressly set forth in our terms and conditions, all statements and warranties regarding the information presented on this page are disclaimed. The information, including odds, which appear on this site is subject to change at any time.

100% Up To £50 Welcome Bonus + 25 Spins

#AD 18+; New bettors get 100% of deposit up to £50; Once per household; Min deposit £15 (no Skrill/Neteller); Wager a total of 8 times deposit + bonus, with max qualifying bet stake equal to your initial bonus amount; Bonus expires after 60 days; Min odds of 4/5 on singles, or 2/5 per leg for acca; Some bet types excluded; Free spins validity: 7 days; Free spins max. winnings = £100; See full terms; Terms apply.
Bet £10 Get £30 In Free Bets
#AD 18+. Play Safe. New customers using Promo code H30 only, Min £10/€10 stake,  min odds 1/2, free bets paid as 2 x £15/€15, free bets credited after  settlement of first qualifying bet, free bets will expire 30 days after  the qualifying bet is placed, payment method/player/country restrictions apply.
Bet £10 Get £30 Free Bets (APP Only)
#AD New UK, IE & Malta customers only. 18+. Min £10/€10 first deposit using Debit Card or Trustly. Place a bet of £10 at min odds of 1.5. Free bets expire in 90 days. Full T&Cs apply.
Welcome Offer
#AD Bet £10 & Get £50 in Free Bets for new customers at bet365. Min deposit requirement. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits and are available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply.
Bet £10 Get £60 in Bonuses
#AD New UK customers only. Register using the promo code BETFRED60, deposit and place first bet of £10+ on Sports (cumulative Evens+) within 7 days of registration. First bet must be on Sports. £20 in Free Bets to be used on Sports, £10 in Free Bets to be used on Lotto and 50 Free Spins (20p per spin) credited within 48 hours of bet settlement. Further £20 in Free Bets credited 5 days after settlement. Bonuses have a 7-day expiry. Payment restrictions apply. SMS verification and/or Proof of I.D and address may be required. Full T&Cs apply.
Bet £20 & Get It Back As CASH If It Loses
#AD New customers only. Place your FIRST bet on any Horse Racing market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is £20. Only deposits made using cards will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply.
Money Back As Cash Up To £20
#AD Max £20 refund on first bet. Bet must be placed in first 7 days of account opening. Only deposits made via Debit Card will be eligible for the promotion. T&Cs apply. 18+
Bet £10 Get £30 Free Bets + £10 Casino Bonus
#AD Minimum deposit of £10 using deposit code 30F - A qualifying bet is a ‘real money’ stake of at least £10 placed on any sports market - Minimum odds of 1/2 (1.5) - Free bets credited upon qualifying bet settlement and expire after 7 days - Free bet stakes not included in returns - Casino Bonus must be claimed within 7 days • To withdraw bonus/related wins, wager bonus amount x40 within 14 days • Wagering req. vary by game • Withdrawal restrictions and Full T&C’s apply. 18+
Bet £10 Get £30 Free Bets
#AD Offer includes a free £1 Race Index spread bet to try out our exciting 50-25-10 race markets. Place a £10 fixed odds bet at minimum odds of 1/2. Get 2 x £10 free fixed odds bets + 2 x £5 free Winning Favourites spread bets. Bet with live streaming on all racing and greyhounds! Ts&Cs Apply. 18+
Bet £10 Get £20 In Free Bets
#AD Min stake £10. Min odds 1/2 (1.5). First bet only. Free bets expire in 7 days. Cashed out bets won’t apply. Payment method restrictions. Online UK customers only. 30 days to qualify for £20 in Free Bets. 18+. T&Cs apply
£25 Free Bet + 10 Free Spins
If your account has Sportsbook losses at the end of your first day's betting, QuinnBet will refund 50% of your losses as a Free Bet up to £25 (min 3 bets) Plus 10 Free Spins on Asgard Warriors. Even if your account is up, you're guaranteed a £5 Free Bet Plus 10 Free Spins provided you place at least 1 bet of £10 or greater at the minimum odds. T&Cs apply | 18+ New UK Customers Only |
Latest racing results
1stCurley Rose
2ndMidnight Train
3rdDonna Italiana
1stKenilworth King
2ndDiamond Jill
1stStrike Red
2ndZero Carbon
3rdEmperor Spirit
View All Today's Results