2019 BetVictor Gold Cup tips – Two horses to back in big handicap chase at Cheltenham

Jon Vine takes a look through the ante-post betting for this lucrative handicap chase at Cheltenham’s November Meeting and picks out two horses worth siding with.

Cheltenham’s November Meeting always draws huge numbers of National Hunt fans to Prestbury Park and the feature race on day two is the BetVictor Gold Cup, a two-and-a-half mile handicap chase won by greats like Gay Trip and Exotic Dancer down the years.

I enjoyed a particularly profitable renewal of the BetVictor Gold Cup 12 months ago, tipping emphatic winner, Baron Alco at 10/1 ante-post, while also pocketing some valuable place money with my second selection Guitar Pete, who ran a cracker to finish third. The weights for this year’s edition of this fantastic handicap were released earlier this week and I was eager to take a look through the betting to find my two ante-post selections.

2019 BetVictor Gold Cup Tip One

Following the expected withdrawal of Aso, Janika and Black Corton, Saint Calvados has been left carrying top-weight into battle on Saturday. This leaves current hot-pot Slate House with just 11-00 on his back and Colin Tizzards will fancy his charge’s chances.

Slate House (5/1 BetVictor) started his second season over fences with a superb victory in a novice contest at Cheltenham, surging clear of his rivals rounding the bend before securing a lengthy victory without ever coming off the bridle. A clear love for the course makes Slate House a very dangerous prospect. However, Tizzard’s seven-year-old has never experienced the rough-and-tumble of a handicap of this ilk and I’d rather side with a runner with more handicap experience.

Siruh Du Lac is a horse I’m fond of, having tipped him successfully on Cheltenham Trials Day and again in the Brown Advisory Plate at the Festival. I’ll be taking a watching brief as he makes his reappearance off a career-high mark, but I wouldn’t put anyone off backing Nick Williams’ chaser. Spiritofthegames is another chaser I like, having enjoyed a consistent novice campaign and Dan Skelton will have high-hopes for his seven-year-old when he returns to Prestbury Park.

Despite being lumbered with top-weight, Saint Calvados is greatly respected and could be a big danger if he takes to this extended trip. Us And Them was campaigned at a very high level during his novice chasing campaign. Joseph O’Brien was keen to step his charge up beyond two miles heading into the new season, and Us And Them ran a lovely race on his reappearance, where only a final flight error cost him the chance to really challenge Snow Falcon in the Grade Two PWC Champion Chase at Gowran Park.

All four of the horses sitting immediately behind State House warrant great respect, but this history of this race is against them slightly, as only three of the last 12 BetVictor Gold Cup winners have carried 11-00 or more to victory.

Count Meribel (near) leaping to victory here at Cheltenham 12 months ago.

Baring that in mind, I was delighted to see COUNT MERIBEL (8/1 BetVictor) remain in the running. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ chaser ran a screamer behind Lostintranslation up at Carlisle on his reappearance. and he could be a huge danger to the market leaders with just 10-13 on his back.

Count Meribel was victorious at the November Meeting last year, staying on gamely to deny Le Breuil and Mr Whipped in a thrilling renewal of the Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase. A poor outing then followed in the Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot, before Count Meribel rounded off his first campaign over fences with a highly respectable seventh-place finish in the RSA at the Cheltenham Festival.

Lostintranslation was always in command up at Carlisle and the Gold Cup contender didn’t need to hit top gear to get the job done. That doesn’t take anything away from Count Meribel’s efforts, as Twiston-Davies’ seven-year-old passed the post a three-length runner-up, some nine lengths clear of the classy Kildisart.

Mark Grant’s favourite mount has previous on the Old course here at Cheltenham and his trainer has won this handicap on four previous occasions. Count Meribel comes into the race on the back of an excellent run, likes softer ground and looks extremely well handicapped.

2019 BetVictor Gold Cup Tip Two

Happy Diva (near) clears the water jump on her way to a second place finish at Newbury.

With 18 runner likely to be left in the running, there’s plenty of scope for a second each-way punt in Saturday’s renewal and there are a couple of names even further down the market who really catch the eye. I’m half tempted to go in again on Guitar Pete, who’s career-best effort to win a Listed race on his reappearance leaves him carrying six-pounds more on his back than last year. Eamon An Cnoic may have struggled at Aintree and Punchestown in the spring, but Martin Pipe’s charge boasts some solid form here at Cheltenham and often does his best work when fresh.

Sitting just behind Guitar Pete in the current market is HAPPY DIVA (16/1 BetVictor), who followed Nicky Richards’ charge home up at Wetherby. Like her rival, Happy Diva has shown a real liking for Cheltenham in the past and Richard Patrick’s claimer will see Kerry Lee’s consistent mare carrying just 10-7 into battle on Saturday.

Happy Diva has been brilliantly consistent over the past 18 months. Discounting a failure to finish at Newbury in March, where an uncharacteristic error saw Patrick flung from the saddle, Lee’s mare has clocked an RPR in the 140s in nine of her last eleven appearances. Happy Diva was travelling beautifully in this race last year coming down to the fourth last, but was unluckily brought down as Willie Boy departed the scene.

Lee’s flag-bearer bounced back from that misfortune with a solid second behind Aso in another Grade Three Handicap here at Cheltenham and Happy Diva went on to beaten future Grand National runner-up, Magic Of Light in a Listed Mares’ Chase at Huntingdon two starts later. Happy Diva often comes on from her first start of a new season and goes well on all types of ground. Course form is always important here at Cheltenham and Richard Patrick’s mount boasts that in spades. She looks a solid second selection at 16/1.