There looks to be at least one serious Gold Cup contender in Time for Rupert (Diamond Harry’s trainer is of the opinion the horse dislikes Cheltenham).
Nacarat is a fair bit below top class, is 8 weeks short of his 11th birthday and has the added problem of trying to give weight to all, including 7lbs to TFR.
The very talented Hennessy winner Diamond Harry, with his 9th birthday looming, has managed only 13 runs in his career, just 4 of those over fences. His dodgy legs on this good ground would make me nervous about taking the 5/2 on offer. Many argue he goes well fresh, I’d say he’s had plenty practice at doing just that.
Cheltenham specialist Poquelin ( 5 from 12 there), will probably be baffled to hear so many non-Gloucestershire accents and he’s never raced beyond 2m 5f. Ruby will also be stroke-counting, no doubt.
Weird Al is the same age as Diamond Harry but with just 8 runs in his whole career, he makes that one look a veteran. This is his first run for Donald McCain but on his only run on good ground, he was pulled up. His record says he needs it softer.
200/1 chance Acrai Rua is well out of his depth but his presence is welcome as it opens the race up to 3 places for EW betting.
Chief Dan George is nearly 12 years old although he has sprung a couple of surprises before in Class 1 races – Aintree at 20/1 and Cheltenham at 33/1 and if I was down to my last fiver and had to raise £200 before midnight, I’d probably risk it on him.
Time For Rupert is forecast to start at around 3/1 and is my idea of the likely winner on form. A high class stayer over hurdles, he was most impressive in his first two steeplechase victories at Cheltenham. He returned there a pretty hot favourite for the Sun Alliance Chase at the Festival where he was never travelling. He broke a blood vessel in the race having been ill with an infection some weeks before.
TFR’s trainer reports him back in good form but horses who break blood vessels (especially when I’ve had a few quid on that day) make me a bit nervous about risking too much on them. He’s a good jumper and has more potential than anything in the field. I’ve had a small bet on him for the Gold Cup at a decent price as I think there was an over-reaction to his defeat in the Sun Alliance which happily resounded with a similar over-reaction to Long Run’s Gold Cup victory. I believe Long Run has yet to prove he’s the superstar many think – he’s too short at around 9/4 for that race in my opinion.
I won’t bet TFR tomorrow. I want to see him back in full health first and the one I’ll be betting each way if all 8 runners stand their ground is Chicago Grey.
On the face of it, he looks out of his class here, but he’s the one horse in the field who will almost certainly be 100% fit on the back of his run at Cheltenham two weeks ago where he unseated when coming with a strong challenge at the second last. He barely took off and it says a fair bit for what he had left in the tank that he stayed on his feet and completed the course loose.
He has a curious looking jumping style at times and is prone to the odd lapse in concentration at the wrong time. But he managed to negotiate all 25 fences in the 4m NH Chase when beating subsequent Scottish National winner Beshabar (Chicago Grey finished 8th that day at Ayr, running quite flat though given a lot to do, as he often is).
Tom Scudamore rides him for the first time tomorrow (regular jock P Carberry is at Ascot for his main trainer N Meade) and I hope Tom doesn’t drop him out as much as Carberry tends to, especially with Nacarat almost certain to set a strong pace.
Chicago Grey races very honestly and I feel there might well be more to come from him. The long Wetherby straight should help him pick them off steadily and, hopefully, run into a place to give us a small profit at around 10/1. Should TFR not run to his best, the grey might have a chance of winning.
Whatever happens, it should be an intriguing palate-whetting race as the NH season moves up a gear.
UPDATE: on reflection, those with a Betfair account should probably back him in running as his style tends to see him held up. He could trade at quite a fancy price both win and place.