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2018 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup tips - Punters can raise their Glass to King's 14/1 chance in Saturday's feature

Brian Healy 14 Dec 2018
Daryl Jacob can steer 14/1 chance Full Glass to Caspian Caviar Gold Cup success.

The competitive Grade Three contest that is the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup - aka the December Chase - goes to post as part of the second day of the Cheltenham International Meeting on Saturday.

Getting underway at 1.55pm as the fourth race of the afternoon at Prestbury Park, the 2m 4f contest will boast a maximum field of 17 runners vying to land the first-prize pot of almost £75,000.

The action will unfold live as part of ITV Racing’s Saturday coverage of the big day, and Brian Healy assesses the big race field with a runner-by-runner guide to the competitive handicap.

He may lack the experience of most of these rivals, but unexposed and potentially well-treated at the weights he could post a big run.


Carrying top-weight in the race will be 2016 winner Frodon (8/1, Unibet) who has developed into a classy and largely consistent performer for Paul Nicholls, and the Nickname gelding is no stranger to the winners’ enclosure.

A string of good efforts last term was rewarded when winning the Grade Three Crest Nicholson Handicap Chase over course and distance, after which he didn’t disgrace himself in Grade One company in two subsequent outings which included the Ryanair Chase.

It is possible he was feeling the effects of a hard season and the better ground when running below his best here in April; but he bounced back to win the Old Roan Chase prior to chasing home Baron Alco in the BetVictor Gold Cup, going down by just two lengths.

The pair will reoppose with Paul Nicholls’ charge meeting that rival on 3lbs better terms; but his own consistency continues to demand more from him as the assessor has pushed his own rating up a further 3lbs. While he ought to continue to give a good account, the feeling is he’ll be vulnerable under his welter burden again to one with greater potential.

Frodon would have to shoulder top weight if turning out in Saturday's Cheltenham feature.


Baron Alco (6/1, Unibet) meanwhile confounded even his own trainer who thought the ground would be against him when the Dom Alco gelding won the BetVictor Gold Cup from Frodon, and the seven year old is respected again despite being pushed up 6lbs for that win.

He has proven himself a very capable performer over fences, and he is yet to finish worse than third since switching to the larger obstacles.

A Plumpton winnere on his second outing over fences, he subsequently won back there two starts later from Solatentif prior to chasing home Top Notch in the 2017 Scilly Isles’ Novices’ Chase; and he rounded off that campaign with a good second behind Road To Respect in the 2017 Ryanair Chase.

Absent for more than one year, Gary Moore’s charge was denied only by a head behind Charbel on his return at Chepstow - that form has been franked - prior to his win here last month. 

The Chepstow form is working out well with Charbel having since run Politologue close in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot prior to winning the Peterborough Chase, and while the handicapper has hit him with a 6lbs rise as a consequence of his own win last time out, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another bold show.

Rather Be (3/1, Unibet) was well fancied for that BetVictor Gold Cup, and Nicky Henderson’s charge was still tanking along and seemingly full of running when being brought down by the fall of Willie Boy which also took the strong-travelling Happy Diva out of the contest.

The Oscar gelding remains a lightly-raced sort over fences, and the seven-year old is expected to go well again having won two of his five completed starts over fences as well as chasing home Mister Whitaker in last season’s Close Brothers’ Chase during the Cheltenham Festival.

Still unexposed, he remains one who could still be ahead of his current mark and there may be better still to come; assuming he’s none the worse following his latest mishap then he is expected to post a big run.

Rather Be will be on a recovery mission having crashed out of the BetVictor Gold Cup.


Guitar Pete (9/1, Unibet) meanwhile won this race twelve months ago, taking advantage of the misfortunate of runaway winner Starchitect who broke down fatally with the race at his mercy.

Nicky Richards’ Dark Angel gelding went off the boil following that success, but having had a spin on the flat back in October to blow away the cobwebs, the eight-year old has made the frame in both starts which includes finishing third behind Baron Alco in the BetVictor Gold Cup last time out.

On that occasion he got going to late having been caught further back than ideal when the pace lifted, and he ought to give another good account although he’ll run from out of the handicap should Frodon stand his ground.

War Sound (9/1, Unibet) took a while to get his first win over fences chalked on the board, but Philip Hobbs’ charge did so when beating King’s Odyssey at Aintree on his return from a break, and the Kayf Tara gelding could have more to offer in this sphere.

The nine-year old posted some good efforts in defeat last term, although he couldn’t live with Rather Be at Towcester prior to later seeing the back-end of the same horse when finishing fourth in the Close Brothers’ Chase at Cheltenham.

Those runs leave him with a bit to find, and while he did show improvement to score impressively last time out, the handicapper has perhaps anchored him sufficiently with a 10lbs rise in the weights. This is a deeper contest also, and combined those factors could be enough to stop him from following up.

Robert Walford has his team in tip-top form with the yard having won last weekend’s Becher Chase and saddling a couple of winners throughout the week; Mr Medic (10/1, Unibet) looks to have decent claims of giving the Dorset handler another big winner.

The Dr Massini gelding has looked a progressive chaser, wining twice last term which included a valuable Ascot handicap last December when denying Rock On Rocky; he subsequently returned from an eleven-month absence to beat Flying Angel by three lengths at Ascot, winning a shade cosily.

The handicapper has taken a dim view of that success, pushing him up 9lbs as a consequence, and stepping into a much deeper contest his new mark could find him out.

Mr Medic faces a much stiffer test of his credentials.


Cobra De Mai (25/1, Unibet) finished fourth in that Ascot contest, but he had had the benefit of prior runs under his belt which included an earlier Stratford win. 

Dan Skelton’s Great Pretendere gelding had looked laboured at Ascot, looking a lost cause and almost tailing off before running on late where he almost grabbed the bronze medal. But his occasionally suspect jumping will be put under more sever scrutiny here, and he could struggle to get competitive despite the good form of his yard.

Casse Tete (25/1, Unibet) was a mid-race casualty in that Ascot contest, but Gary Moore’s charge hadn’t been seen at his best in previous outings despite scoring a fortuitous win over Kylemore Lough at Warwick back in February.

Those disappointing runs were perhaps a result of being tried twice over three miles and beyond, and he may have found stamina stretched behind Coo Star Sivola in the Ultima Chase, and then when finishing a distant ninth to Thomas Patrick at Aintree.

He had looked cooked behind Kylemore Lough at Warwick previously, where his win came courtesy of Harry Fry’s charge all but pulling himself up on the run-in, and the Poliglote gelding looks high enough in the weights.

Catamaran Du Seuil (10/1, Unibet) was pitched into the Becher Chase at Aintree seven days ago as Dr Richard Newland’s charge eyed a hat-trick of wins having struck twice at Wetherby either side of a break.

The Network gelding won well on his return at the Yorkshire track in November, readily beating cracking Find by eight lengths, and he won’t want for stamina having struck over three miles previously when beating Knockanrawley at Ayr last November and later finding only Captain Redbeard too strong in the Tommy Whittle Chase.

Despite that mishap, he could still be fairly treated off this mark, and he remains open to further improvement for all this is a tougher test of his credentials if turning out quickly just seven days on from his Aintree fall.

Full Glass (14/1, Unibet) was a very useful chaser in France for Guillame Macaire prior to being gelded and joining forces with Alan King, and the Diamond Green gelding made a pleasing start to life over fences for the Barbury Castle maestro when finishing third to Value At Risk in a Listed race at Ayr following five months off.

Not done with subsequently when unseating Daryl Jacob at Haydock next time behind Activial, his jumping on that occasion wasn’t overly impressive; but he looked a horse with a good engine, and he could still have more to offer over fences.

He wasn’t the only horse that day to struggle with the obstacles at the Merseyside track, and on the pick of his form in France he could prove to be very well handicapped here, especially if the ground softens up prior to the race.

His top trainer will have him well prepared for this test, and he rates a very interesting contender for his powerful connections; he can improve on his already promising performances, and no surprise to see him firmly in the mix.

He may lack the experience of most of these rivals, but unexposed and potentially well-treated at the weights he could post a big run.

Alan King saddles the unexposed Full Glass in Saturday's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.


Casablanca Mix (16/1, Unibet) could also have more to offer over fences, and Nicky Henderson’s charge can post a big effort although she’ll probably need to find some improvement.

A Huntingdon winner last term over Theatre Territory, she wasn’t seen out again following a fall at Exeter until finishing ten lengths’ runner-up behind Copain De Classe at Kempton in October; she subsequently finished runner-up again at Market Rasen when getting to within a half-length of Rons Dream.

The Shirocco mare however faces a different test here, with all her running having been done in smaller fields than she’s likely to encounter here, while the handicapper has perhaps been harsh in hitting her with a 5lbs rise in the weights.

She’ll appreciate the return to a less demanding trip, but this contest will demand a significant career-best if she’s to land this prize.

Cepage (12/1,  Unibet) could make his seasonal return in this contest, and Venetia Williams’ charge has shown a decent level of form in his start over fences, chasing home the smart but ill-fated Sir Valentino at Ascot last November, and then finishing third to Gino Trail at Sandown.

Also a winner at Kempton from Cobra De Mai, he was last seen finishing fourth to Traffic Fluide here in April, and he returns to action from the same mark. However, many of the Williams runners first time up have been needing their first run, and his jumping is often far from exemplary which may well be put to a stern test at this level.

Romain De Senam (20/1, Unibet) has gone the wrong way over fences since posting back-to-back wins last term, finishing fifth in both the BetVictor Gold Cup and this race after scoring at Chepstow and Stratford.

He was disappointing on his final outing of the campaign behind Value At Risk, and having undergone wind surgery he has run only respectably in outings at Market Rasen and Aintree prior to unseating behind Baron Alco here last time when getting no further than the first fence.

Even with a clear round he has plenty on his plate with War Sound who demolished him at Aintree, and he looks hard to fancy given his performances this term. 

Splash Of Ginge (16/1, Unibet) is a regular in these events, and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge is no stranger to success in a competitive handicap. However, he has become increasingly unreliable, and the Oscar gelding is hard to predict nowadays whether he’ll consent to give his best.

The 2017 BetVictor Gold cup winner showed he can still produce a big effort when chasing home The Storyteller here in March when bagging the silver medal in the Brown Advisory Plate; but having looked in need of the run behind Jersey Bean at Newbury last month, he was pulled up behind Baron Alco latest.

Not out of this on a going day, he nevertheless isn’t certain to turn up here in possession of his best form and he is a risky proposition nowadays.

Splash Of Ginge is capable of a big run, but Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge isn't the most reliable nowadays.


The yard could also saddle the trailblazing Foxtail Hill (14/1, Unibet) who failed to match the form he showed when winning last season’s Randox Health Handicap Chase in a handful of subsequent outings which included this race.

Only sixth in last year’s renewal, he was well supported in this year’s Randox Health Handicap to mount a successful defence; but he was firmly put in his place by Modus, and there is a suspicion that he doesn’t fully stay this trip having posted his best form over shorter trips.

While he should strip fitter for that return to action, he isn’t certain to progress on the back of that run and over this longer trip he is likely to be found wanting.

VERDICT


FULL GLASS (14/1, Unibet) showed himself to be a very capable sort when trained in France by Guillame Macaire, making the frame in Graded chases for that handler prior to joining Alan King.

The five-year old Diamond King gelding made a pleasing debut for the Barbury Castle handler when finishing third to Value At Risk at Ayr, beaten six lengths on his first start for five months. He had several smart sorts behind him that day, including two subsequent winners, and he wasn’t the only one throughout the afternoon who failed to cope with the Haydock fences when unseating at the Merseyside track on his return to action on Betfair Chase day.

The Diamond Green gelding was coming back into the race having been outpaced when departing four out, and while debatable whether he would have been a factor in the final result, it was a promising return to action.

He is likely to prove a lot sharper now, and while there remains some scope to improve on his jumping, he may have been underestimated by the assessor as he makes his handicap debut here from a mark which may prove lenient.

He may lack the experience of most of these rivals, but unexposed and potentially well-treated at the weights he could post a big run.


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2018 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup tips - Punters can raise their Glass to King's 14/1 chance in Saturday's feature

Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look at the potential big-race field for Saturday's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

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