David Ord provides a horse-by-horse guide to Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup with a Neil Mulholland-trained improver taken to score.
FRODON: Won a valuable handicap chase here in January and returned from a summer breathing operation to win the Old Road at Aintree last month. Capable of going well despite top weight but vulnerable to the improvers.
MISTER WHITAKER: Beat Rather Be a head in the Close Brothers here in March but nine pounds worse off here. Looked to still be on the upgrade when winning at Carlisle on his reappearance but needs to be on these terms.
JAVERT: Chased home Frodon in the Old Roan Chase and capable of better over fences. Yard going well too.
BENATAR: Third in the JLT here in March and unexposed over fences but very headstrong on reappearance at Newton Abbot and that needs to have taken the fizz out of him. Unproven in big fields too.
RATHER BE: Weighted to reverse Festival form with Mister Whitaker and a big field handicap and good ground brought out the best in him over hurdles at Aintree in 2017. Must be high on any shortlist.
KALONDRA: Very interesting. Improving at a rate of knots over fences and looked certain to play a hand in the finish of a decent pot at Galway when falling two out. Appeals as the sort to win a good prize this term and certainly looks handicapped to do so. Proven around here and will relish the ground. A major player.
BARON ALCO: Second in the Brown Advisory here in March and went down all guns blazing on his Chepstow reappearance. Ticks a lot of boxes for his excellent yard.
SHANTOU VILLAGE: A course and distance winner but below form here at the last meeting and needs to be at the very top of his game in this grade.
WEST APPROACH: Useful novice last term and lot to like about his return here last month. Another to consider in an open heat.
SPLASH OF GINGE Hard to predict and was at his very best when winning this last season. Not at that level again and while didn’t do anything wrong on hurdles return at Newbury, doesn’t appeal as one to join the likes of Bradbury Star as a multiple winner of this race.
HAPPY DIVA: Ran well when chasing home Mister Whitaker at Carlisle and there won’t be much between them on these terms judged on that. Goes strongly through her races suggesting a race of this nature could suit.
MOVEWITHTHETIMES: Some very useful form over fences but also proving hard to win with and unseating rider when 4/6 for Fakenham reappearance hardly the ideal prep.
KING’S SOCKS: Only had three runs over fences in the UK and really caught the eye when fifth in the Brown Advisory at the Festival. Went very well through the race there and has the talent to go close for a yard who always target this meeting.
ROMAIN DE SENAM: Was too free at Aintree last time and needs to settle better to be a player in a much more competitive contest.
BALLYANDY: Yet to get anywhere near his very smart hurdles form over fences and his jumping again failed to impress at Wetherby on his reappearance. Looks up against it.
GEORDIE DES CHAMPS: Won at Taunton and Hereford last season but needs to leave his Ascot reappearance miles behind if he’s to add this valuable pot to the haul.
GUITAR PETE: Won the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup here last time and goes well at Prestbury Park. Good reappearance at Wetherby, too, so not one to draw a line through.
WILLIE BOY: Made mistakes when beaten on his return at Wetherby and failed to go on from a promising Newbury win as a novice last term. Talented but needs a clear round and fell in the Brown Advisory in March when last set a test like this.
EAMON AN CNOIC: Warmed up for this with a pipe opener over hurdles at Aintree and led the Ultima field a merry dance for a long way before his stamina gave out in March. This is probably his trip but he’s very in and out.
WHOSHOTWHO: Taken well to chasing and claimed a couple of pots at Market Rasen this summer This is altogether tougher though for all he looks like getting his ground.
BLACK SCORPION: Listowel winner in September but looks to have it all do to from three pounds out of the handicap.
A lot of the formlines revolve around Mister Whitaker who will struggle to beat Rather Be on these terms after their epic Festival duel but the former is on the upgrade and potentially capable of better.
Both are respected, along with Happy Diva who chased Mick Channon’s charge home at Carlisle, and Gary Moore’s Baron Alco.
However, the vote goes to KALONDRA. He looks the sort to pick up a prize such as this and is handicapped to run a very big race.
2. Rather Be
3. Baron Alco
4. Happy Diva