Cheltenham, Saturday 2.00pm
The first noticeable thing about the last ten renewals of the December Gold Cup (now the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup) is the monopoly that top-class trainers have had on the race, with Paul Nicholls winning it three times, Nicky Henderson two, and Hobbs, Meade, O’Neill, Pipe and Twiston Davies one each. However, no jockey has won it more than once in that period.
Weight carrying performances are pretty even with six winners carrying 10-13 or less and four carrying between 11-4 and 11-08, however this year there are very few runners set to carry less than 11-0.
The majority of winners have been six or seven-year-olds, 3 and 5 respectively, though one 4-year-old and one 8-year-old have also scored.
Having tipped likely favourite Caid Du Berlais at 25/1 to win the Paddy Power Gold Cup a few weeks ago, I’m loathe to desert him, especially as his trainer’s horses are in rude health. However, at an 1/8th of the price, and carrying nearly top-weight, I just can’t get excited about him – though statistically he is much the likeliest winner.
I’m also happy to take on the potential of second and third favourites No Buts and Barrakilla, though both may have better chances if the forecast good ground softens, but, in the hope that it doesn’t, I’m willing to take a chance on one at a double-figure price.
Attaglance isn’t the biggest of horses, and is prone to making the odd race-costing error, but I definitely think he’s got a big prize in him if everything falls right. A marked preference for good ground meant that his trainer Malcolm Jefferson sidestepped the Paddy Power Gold Cup, and it’s a move that could well pay-off.
Attaglance really should have won at last year’s festival where jockey Brian Hughes for some reason switched his mount to the inside on the run-in only to get blocked by the eventual winner. That was off a mark 6lb lower than today’s but he’s won over hurdles at Cheltenham off a 4lb lower mark and at Aintree off a 1lb higher mark. Jefferson isn’t one of the big trainers, but Brian Hughes would become the 11th different jockey to win in eleven years.
2.5 points each-way Attaglance @ 10/1 or better
Cheltenham, Saturday 3.45pm
No horse older than seven has won any of the thirteen renewals of the Relkeel Hurdle, and that’s a statistic that likely favourite Rock On Ruby will have to overcome if he’s to win here. However, there are lots of other things in his favour, not least his enviable record over the hurdle course at Cheltenham. Winner of the 2012 Champion Hurdle, he’s also been runner-up in the Champion Hurdle to Hurricane Fly, second to both Bobs Worth and First Lieutenant over 2½ miles, and won a grade-2 novice.
What really swings the conditions of this race in favour though is the fact that most of his rivals have to concede weight to him. The once notable exception being Volnay De Thaix whose trainer Nicky Henderson has won this race three times in the last five years, however he has a lot to find on the ratings with Rock On Ruby and If the ground remains good at Prestbury Park this weekend Rock On Ruby looks a solid investment
5 points Rock On Ruby @ 9/4 or better