The Venetia Williams-trained Cepage can make his class count in Saturday's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, according to Simon Holt.
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CEPAGE, a fine second behind the subsequent Ryanair Chase winner Frodon in last year's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, is fancied to go one better, despite a rise in the weights, in Saturday's renewal at Cheltenham.
The lightly-raced seven-year-old is a little fragile according to trainer Venetia Williams, but he's becoming a smart chaser and, under 11st12lb, made an excellent reappearance at Aintree last month when battling hard all the way up the home straight behind the clearly well handicapped Riders Onthe Storm with Old Grangewood, a winner since at Newbury, 12 lengths back in third.
Although up 8lb for that effort, Cepage would have renewed rivalry with his conqueror (declared a non-runner in error) here on 5lb better terms even though he closed the gap between the two horses to just under two lengths at the line. Throughout the race, his jumping was slick and accurate.
In this race last year, Cepage made Frodon pull out all the stops up the hill and the pair finished fully 15 lengths clear of previous 'Caspian' winner Guitar Pete. So, in his last two starts, admittedly spaced well apart, Charlie Deutsch's mount has taken his form to higher levels.
The danger could be Keeper Hill who set the official handicapper a puzzle when giving 11lb and a game half length beating to the much higher-rated Midnight Shadow in a graduation chase at Haydock on his reappearance.
A 7lb rise looks more than fair and the stout-staying, Warren Greatrex-trained eight-year-old is a big player in the hands of Adrian Heskin.
Brelan D'As and Warthog, second and third in the BetVictor Gold Cup here last month, must also be considered though Slate House looked likely to win easily that day until falling at the second last, and was only workmanlike when scoring at Huntingdon earlier this week.
Later on, SHAMBRA should benefit from a return to two-and-a-half-miles in the Park Mares' Handicap Hurdle.
Lucy Wadham's consistent five-year-old scored narrowly from Dan McGrue (winner next time) at Plumpton over this trip first time out and then cantered into the lead turning for home over nearly three miles at Ascot only to weaken into third in the closing stages.
A free-going sort, Shambra must be held up so timing her run seems very important and the useful 5lb claimer Maxime Tissier, who was in the saddle at Plumpton, is back aboard.
Admittedly, this is the hottest race that the selection will have raced in - and the likely favourite Dame De Compagnie could be hard to beat (albeit at a shortish price) - but she has very little weight on a course that so often favours patient tactics.
At Doncaster, FARO DE KERSER may be worth a small interest in the bet365 Handicap Hurdle.
The impressive winner of his only start in France, Tom George's import was a bit keen off a slow pace when fourth to Big Bad Bear at Wetherby on his British debut last month but still had a chance after two out despite making mistakes at the first two flights in the home straight.
Of course, he lacks a bit of experience compared to the likes of Scarlet Dragon and Irish Roe here but the Wetherby form is working out with runner-up Miah Grace winning next time and third-placed Milkwood chasing home the useful Scaramanga at Wincanton.
Faro De Kerser hails from a good jumps family in France, and looks open to plenty of improvement.
Posted at 1545 GMT on 13/12/19.
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