All roads now seem to lead to Cheltenham in March but there is some tremendous jumps action in its own right between now and the New Year. Every phase of the racing year seems to be a favourite of Ed Chamberlin on ITV but he is justified in highlighting the quality of the action over the next six weeks. The Cheltenham November meeting gets the ball rolling this weekend and Kylemore Lough has been backed to win the BetVictor Gold Cup on Saturday.
The feature race on Sunday is the Greatwood Hurdle which is one of the most competitive handicaps of this part of the season and run over two miles and half a furlong. Defi Du Seuil was the class horse in the early declarations but does not run. The whole betting market was reformed in the horse’s absence and the horse for money is now Jenkins who has something to prove after a disappointing novice campaign. London Prize has a good each-way chance if declared to run.
The BetVictor Gold Cup is a Grade 3 handicap chase run over two miles, four and a half furlongs and there are 15 obstacles to be jumped. There are 18 horses declared to run which means bets will be settled at one quarter the odds for the first four places. At the time of writing the sponsors were offering five places and were the best price for the top three in the betting but that could change closer to race time. The race is one of BetVictor’s biggest sponsorships in racing.
Five horses have won the race two times but there has not been a three-time winner. Tony McCoy is the leading jockey with four wins and Martin Pipe trained a record eight winners from 1987 to 2005. The stable targeted the meeting and Starchitect represents his son David this time. The horse won a handicap chase off top weight earlier this month at Stratford and that is good form in the context of the BetVictor.
Kylemore Lough is the top weight and potentially a graded racing horse in a handicap and could carry the weight. The horse was well beaten in the Melling Chase at Aintree last April but that was a championship race and Kylemore Lough was not disgraced. On Racing Post Ratings the horse has something in hand and can reward favourite backers by prevailing in the biggest race of the season to date. Cloudy Dream is absent due to an entry in error in the BetVictor Handicap Chase and not Gold Cup.
Since 1987 no horse has won the Greatwood Hurdle in all its guises more than once. Richard Johnson has the best record of the jockeys still riding with three wins between 2006 and 2014. Those three horses were trained by Phillip Hobbs who also won the race with Rooster Booster in 2002 and subsequently won the Champion Hurdle the following year. Since 2000 nine winners have carried more than eleven stone and the successful horses have been aged four to eight.
It is a pity Defi du Seuil is not running as he was the class angle in the race and the leading juvenile last season. London Prize won the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton but is not a definite runner. The horse has come out of that race well but needs soft ground to excel. Project Bluebook looks an interesting runner at a working man’s price. The horse won a Grade 2 juvenile hurdle in April and looks capable of winning a handicap over the distance this season. The double with Kylemore Lough pays over 180/1!