Caid Du Berlais is trying to achieve the double of winning the two major pre-Christmas handicap chases at Cheltenham and has been backed to do just that. The New One continues preparation for the Champion Hurdle and is clear top rated in the International Hurdle. Melodic Rendezvous had decent form last season and needs to figure in the Relkeel Hurdle to get in the mix for the showpiece on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival.
The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup has had a number of title sponsors since it was first run. The race is a grade 3 handicap chase run over two miles five furlongs on the New Course at Cheltenham. Exotic Dancer is the last horse to win this chase and the Paddy Power Chase in the same season. The horse was trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by Tony McCoy and this year it’s the combination of Paul Nicholls and a jockey who has yet to be announced.
Cheltenham have had problems with a low sun in the past but tried to rectify the issue by running chases earlier in the day. That strategy still fell foul of poor viewing at the fences facing the sun. The window to run chases races has diminished and nobody want fences left out especially when sometimes the run-in can be longer than half a mile. The Caspian Caviar Chase been moved forward from 2.35pm to 2pm to eliminate the risk of some fences being bypassed.
Caid Du Berlais stormed up the hill in the Paddy Power Chase to thwart John’s Spirit who was trying to win back to back renewals. The handicapper has been no more than fair in allocating the horse 5lbs more than in the Paddy Power. The rise seems generous in view of the value and competitiveness of that race but is about right about in the context of the horses beaten four weeks ago.
Three lengths covered the first five horses home which suggests the form was nothing remarkable in a tight handicap. Caid Du Berlais will need to run to an improved rating of about five pounds to win again on Saturday so the adjusted weight allocation is in line with that requirement. The horse is by no means thrown in and will have to produce a career best to prevail again.
Caid Du Berlais was as big as 8-1 last weekend but weight of money has forced the horse into 4-1 favouritism and lower. Nicholls was not confident last month because he believed the ground had gone against his horse. Plenty of rain ahead of the Paddy Power made for soft ground, conditions in which Caid Du Berlais had disappointed in the past. The horse has only run four times over fences and is in effect a novice in handicap company. That was not a problem last time at Cheltenham and the double is perfectly feasible.
The race has lost some of its intrigue with the withdrawal of John’s Spirit and the defection of The Young Master. The latter won a race at Wincanton last month for which it was not eligible. Not only was the hose disqualified and the prize money taken back but the horse’s rating was adjusted in line with the performance and not the amended result. The error was made at the office that looks after entries but the trainer was held responsible on the premise that he had taken advantage of the oversight.
Splash Of Ginge is an interesting runner on best hurdle form. The horse was purchased by a businessman from Liverpool with a view to running in the Grand National at his local track. Splash of Ginge was disappointing in his last race but if he can reproduce his best hurdle form could be a blot on the handicap. Easter Meteor make similar appeal as that animal has a good racing weight and can out run the current price.
Only the big hitters will be backing The New One to win the International Hurdle at 1-2 to and shorter. The horse is the best hurdler trained in England and the only Champion Hurdle contender in the first six in the betting not trained in Ireland. The season long objective is the Champion Hurdle, a race many thought The New One was unlucky not to win last season. He was impeded after the fatal fall of Our Conor and was slowly put back into the race. Ultimately he had too much ground to make up and could not overhaul My Tent Or Yours and Jezki.
Vaniteux is second in the betting behind The New One and could be dangerous receiving 8lbs. Vaniteux finished third in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle the form of which has worked out well with the ability shown by Vantour in subsequent races. Josses Hill was second that day and gave the form a boost by winning at Aintree. Vaniteux is coming out of handicap company but is 5lbs wrong with favourite. He was second in the Greatwood Hurdle under top weight and must get close to The New One with advantageous conditions to be able to figure in the major hurdle races over the rest of the season.
In winning at Haydock in January Melodic Rendezvous seemed to be a Champion Hurdle contender. However, he didn’t go a yard in the championship race at Cheltenham in March and ran poorly at Aintree the following month. The horse is very much ground dependent and likes it soft. Given suitable underfoot conditions at Cheltenham on Saturday Melodic Rendezvous comes in to the picture for the Relkeel Hurdle, run over slightly more than two and a half miles.
Rock On Ruby is the favourite for that race, running over hurdles again after an unsuccessful campaign over fences. The horse won the Champion Hurdle in 2012 but is now not fast enough for races over the minimum distance of two miles. The target could be the World Hurdle but he hasn’t shown he can stay three miles. However, due to a restrictive rating there are few options for a horse at his level. To be a leading contender for the stayer’s race he must show his best form on Saturday in a shorter race and still have something in the tank at the finish.