By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)
The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup looks an early Christmas treat to savour with exactly a fortnight to go until the King George! First held in 1963, this race is over two miles, four furlongs and one hundred and twenty-seven yards around the ‘New Course’. The runners have seventeen fences to jump on good to soft ground. Seventeen runners go to post for this race, which is worth just short of £60,000 to the winner.
So, who will win?
Paul Nicholls knows exactly how to win this race as he is the winning-most trainer in the history of the race – courtesy of Poquelin in 2009 and 2010; Unioniste in 2012 and Frodon in 2016 and 2018. This year, Ditcheat send out three runners: Master Tommytucker, Southfield Stone and Saint Sonnet. Last season, Master Tommytucker was one of those horses that you watched from behind a cushion. So much so, that I think Harry Cobden could’ve rightly asked for double his riding fees if the horse had ran again in the 2019/20 season, after falling in the Kauto Star and Pendril Novice Chases. However, this season, after a wind-op, those jumping errors seem to have been rectified. Despite making errors on seasonal reappearance, when second to Al Dancer, he stayed on his feet. Since then, he has had two confidence-boosting runs when he won slickly by large margins but he has never faced a big-field task like this before and his jumping will be put to the test.
Last time, Master Tommytucker had Good Boy Bobby fifteen lengths behind and he, along with Al Dancer, are Nigel Twiston-Davies’ representatives in this. Good Boy Bobby won on his first start for new owners in good style at Bangor in October but was convincingly beaten by Master Tommytucker. There’s an 11lbs split between them in the handicap now. Sam Twiston-Davies rides the likeable grey, Al Dancer. He ran creditably in defeat on all three occasions after his first success over fences last October at Cheltenham. The win at Newton Abbot in October, over a few yards longer than this, was a welcomed one. Last time, he was third, beaten a little over four lengths, in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. He peeked on landing at the last and then plugged on, beaten by Coole Cody, who carried 1st3lbs less. He’ll like it if the ground doesn’t get too soft.
Coole Cody has been put up 6lbs for his front-running performance, where connections took home over £78,000. It is amazing that he even got round with some of the shocking jumps he put in. He ran boldly from the front, uncaring that he went through a few fences. He’s a really exciting nine-year-old from a yard who are starting to hit form again. He enjoys good ground and it was the first time out for Evan Williams when he won a novice chase by ten lengths in August. He was second over a trip too far in September before following Southfield Stone, beaten one and half lengths over a shorter trip. That was off equal weights but now Southfield Stone carries 2lbs more. This horse was beaten seventeen lengths next time out in class two novices’ chase and was dropped 1lbs for that. He has never raced in a big field like this before so Coole Cody’s experience could help to reverse the form.
Saint Sonnet, Southfield Stone’s stablemate, also took his chance in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. Unfortunately, he fell when quite well-fancied. Previous to this, he had only had two runs in the UK and, after a four-length win at Catterick, connections threw him in at the deep-end. He ran in the Marsh and finished seventh. Aidan Coleman is booked to ride, which suggests he is third-string from the yard, but he is a brilliant jockey to have on side. The horse wears a tongue-strap for the first time.
Cepage and Romain De Senam have ran in the past few renewals. Cepage was fourth last year and second in 2018. After the good run last season, he was down the field over course and distance on New Years Day but won a grade three in January in great style. Militarian was in behind him. Cepage only went up 1lbs for that but only manged seventh in the competitive Ultima Handicap Chase. He could need the run off of a break. Militarian is right at the bottom of the handicap off a mark of 137. After following in Cepage, he was twelfth in the Kim Muir. On seasonal reappearance, he was a good third, staying on over just short of three miles. He has won over three miles and over one mile seven furlongs. Aged ten now, he is not without a shot but he has a little bit to find. Romain De Senam was fifth in 2017 and pulled up in 2018. His last win was at Newton Abbot in May 2019, beating Tea For Two, believe it or not. He’s a really classy horse on his day and is 3lbs lower than that win for the Skelton team, who he has moved to in recent years.
Northern trainers Brian Ellison and Sue Smith send down Windsor Avenue and Midnight Shadow respectively. Champion jockey Brian Hughes rides Windsor Avenue. This horse is ridiculously consistent, winning six of his twelve starts. He was beaten thirty-eight lengths by Sam Spinner in a grade two after two smart wins at Sedgefield and Carlisle. He fell at Haydock and, when last seen, in November he was only beaten two and a half lengths by the very talented Imperial Aura. He was staying on so the extra 127 yards will do him good. Champagne Mystery has form in behind Imperial Aura as, when last seen, he pulled up in the Northern Trust Handicap. He’s prolific at finishing second. Before Cheltenham, he followed in Greaneteen, who looks like a nice horse. His only win under rules was at this trip and he has had a wind-op. Midnight Shadow won the Dipper Novices Chase, a grade two, on New Years Day. Subsequently, he was second in a grade one next time before coming sixth in the Marsh. On reappearance, he was a poor tenth in the Old Roan. He normally needs the reappearance effort.
Darragh O’Keeffe is a jockey who people might not know a lot about in England. This season, he has given some amazing rides like on Sayce Gold for Mick Winters last Sunday. He teams up with the same trainer to ride Chatham Street Lad here at Cheltenham in this race. I was delighted when I saw his name amongst the entries on Tuesday as I was keen on him last Saturday but he unfortunately sustained a stone bruise. At the start of the season, he got over a 463-day absence to win at Ballinrobe. A 7 day absence proved difficult and he was fifth next time out. Last time, he was an easy winner at Cork and I don’t think connections would send him over if he didn’t have a great chance. The yard has had just two runners at Cheltenham and one placed second. The other ‘Lad’ in the race is Drumconnor Lad, who’s jockey, Connor Brassil, will wear similar colours to that of the aforementioned ‘Lad’. He won on his second start of the campaign on heavy ground in good style. Last time, he was taken off his feet a little bit over two miles in a more competitive race. He’s a dual winner over this trip but I would be surprised of he featured.
It is good to see Benatar back after 693 days. His last win was in a grade two novices chase in December 2017. He was third in a JLT next time and put in some good runs before we last saw him coming seventh to Cyrname in January 2019. He may just need it on his return but the yard is going well. Huntsman Son won last time out. It was his first run since May 2019 when he won a listed chase with some smart horses behind him. For that, he has been put up 9lbs, which is slightly harsh, but he’s extremely unexposed for a ten-year-old. He should love the ground and Kielan Woods is a very good jockey.
Annie Mc, the mare, completes the line-up. She scores a hattrick of wins around the turn of the year over fences at this trip. She was thought good enough to go to the Marsh, where she finished ninth. On her seasonal return, she was seventh in the Old Roan, ahead of Midnight Shadow. Whilst she was left outpaced in that race, she is only six and I guess her target will be the new mares chase in March at the Festival.
I think I’m going to side with CHATHAM STREET LAD. I don’t think this horse would’ve been sent over here if he didn’t have a very good chance. Coole Cody will run well after the brilliant win last time and I hope the horse who came third that day, Al Dancer, goes well too. If Windsor Avenue builds on the second from last time out, he will feature. Huntsman Son can’t be ignored either.
I always like to ask my Twitter followers who they think will win each race I preview as part of ‘The Saturday Focus’. Here is what they told me and, as always, join in the conversation over at my Twitter page.