Judge gets the verdict
Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt previews Sandown's bet365 Gold Cup and believes Godsmejudge can land the spoils.
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Godsmejudge, a battling second in the Scottish Grand National - a race he won in 2013 - at Ayr two weeks ago, is taken to go one better in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on Saturday.
Alan King's stayer, like a few of his stable-companions, was under the weather during the winter but has clearly returned to form and his effort at Ayr was easily his best showing of the season going under by a length-and-a-half to Al Co after a strong rally from the final fence (Roberto Goldback, Roalco De Farges and Rigadin de Beauchene pulled up while Midnight Appeal was an early faller).
After winning the same race last year, Godsmejudge was raised to a mark of 148 but his rating dropped to 145 after poor performances in December and March but he is back on 147 now and 2lb well in here in this early closing handicap.
Unlike several of his rivals, the eight-year-old comes into this race off a light season which will give him every chance of recovering sufficiently from his Scottish National effort to put up another bold show. Ground conditions are likely to soften up but he seems versatile in this respect (a past winner on heavy going) and, while most of his form has come on left-handed courses, he was successful this way round in his younger days.
The two most obvious dangers are Bury Parade, a little unlucky not to catch Bally Legend (Ardkilly Witness fifth) at Kempton in February, and Cheltenham Festival winner Spring Heeled though both need to prove their stamina for three miles and five furlongs.
Bury Legend is a horse who promises to be quite smart though he doesn't always look the easiest of rides. Well suited by plenty of cut, he is open to further improvement and the way he stayed on at Kempton suggests he could well last home here.
While held on that form, Ardkilly Witness has scored subsequently at Market Rasen and ran a solid race on this course in early February when second to Relax. Trainer Dr Richard Newland, who sent out Pineau De Re to win the Grand National, is enjoying a spring roll.
Meanwhile, Spring Heeled put up a dashing front-running display to win the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the Festival for which he was raised 9lb though he ought to confirm the placings here with fifth-placed Same Difference (beaten nearly 30 lengths). Whether he will stay under different conditions is the question especially as he is quite free-running; Jim Culloty's charge sweated up badly before winning at Cheltenham.
There has been plenty of money for Same Difference in recent days presumably because of his second to Quentin Collonges (Hadrians Approach fifth) in this race last year and it could well be that he is about to return to form. Sam Twiston Davies' mount is certainly well handicapped off a 7lb lower mark now but he has been beaten a long way in all his starts this term.
One-time class chaser Burton Port, fourth to Synchronised in the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup, is a possible threat if returning to anywhere near his best off a low handicap mark. An early casualty in the Grand National last time, the ten-year-old has appeared regressive but was a fair second in a veterans chase at Newbury previously and, in the past, has run some of his best races in the spring.