After claiming victory in the Paddy Power Chase at Cheltenham in November, Johns Spirit aims for a swift double in the December Gold Cup (Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup) over course and similar distance on December 14th.
With very little rain expected in the near future, ground conditions should be similar to those experienced last month with second placed Colour Squadron in opposition once again.
Jonjo O’Neill will be hoping that his Paddy Power winner can complete a treble at Cheltenham after a victory on his seasonal debut at the course in October. Johns Spirit has been raised 9lb since his latest win but should again challenge for honours with 888Sport offering 13/2 on his chances.
Colour Squadron only just failed to overhaul Johns Spirit in the Paddy Power and has an extra 7lb to carry for his efforts. Furthermore, that race was his first appearance of the season and he may improve on that showing. The only problem is that the Philip Hobbs trained horse has not won a race in two years although he is favourite with most bookmakers and William Hill are offering 6/1.
Both winner and second in the Paddy Power were indebted to the late fall of Easter Meteor who was travelling particularly well before his demise. He has since finished second when giving weight to Cantlow at Newbury and but has yet to win at Cheltenham in five attempts. His price for the December Cup varies between 10/1 and the 16/1 offered by Betdaq.
Similarly, the Venetia Williams trained Kapga De Cerisy impressed over this trip at Sandown in November but has disappointed in two previous visits to Cheltenham and is quoted at 16/1 with 888Sport.
Of more appeal is GRANDIOSO from the in-form Paul Nicholls yard. Despite being beaten by Easter Meteor and Cantlow at Newbury, he will improve for his seasonal reappearance and that was only his second defeat in five races over fences. One of his victories was in the Pendil Novices Chase at Kempton over this trip and where he idled when in a clear lead. The six year old is quoted at 7/1 by Paddy Power to score at Cheltenham.
Irish raider Home Farm has yet to race on English racecourse but was an impressive winner of a novice chase at Fairyhouse in February over 2m 5f. After that success he was third in the Irish Grand National and then second in a Naas 2 miler during November. Saturday’s contest may be his best trip but his trainer Arthur Moore still seems unsure with Coral offering 10/1 for his chances.
Among the outsiders in the race, Ma Filleule is an interesting contender from the Nicky Henderson yard. The five year old mare has never raced over English fences but performed with much promise when second in a quality hurdle race at Cheltenham in April and then again at Kempton in November. Set to carry 10st 11lb on Saturday, she may run into a place in a fairly average contest with BetVictor quoting her at an appealing 20/1.
December Gold Cup (Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup)