It’s more than fair to say that the Cotswold Chase has not proved to be the best of Gold Cup trials over the years.
Since being established in 1998 only two horses have managed to win here, before going on to capture the Gold Cup in March. Master Oats won both in 1995 and then Looks Like Trouble managed the double for trainer Noel Chance in 2000.
With new sponsors and now known as the BetBright Cup Chase, the Grade 2 is run at a distance of just over three miles and a furlong. Some terrific horses have won the race over the years, indeed See More Business was successful twice, but more prestigious races such as the King George and the Betfair Chase have tended to attract a higher quality field, especially in recent times.
This season’s renewal has eight entrants though Holywell is likely to contest the Cleeve Hurdle. The Hennessy Gold Cup winner Many Clouds has been aimed at this since his terrific win at Newbury back in late November. Trainer Oliver Sherwood recently said: “I'd like to think he is a Gold Cup horse. I was surprised how well he took the Hennessy run as he always puts everything into his races." The horse currently lies second in the betting and has always performed at his best in testing conditions.
Dynaste heads the market and is pitched at this to see if the Gold Cup is a realistic target. The Ryanair winner and King George runner-up is clearly a classy horse, but this trip in testing conditions with that infamous hill to finish, will be his toughest stamina test to date. He certainly wasn’t stopping at Kempton behind Silviniaco Conti, but this will be a far more severe test.
Paul Nicholls won the race in 2010 and 2011 and is represented here by Black Thunder. He is another that will relish the ground conditions; though this appears to be a serious step-up in class. A faller in the RSA last March, he has a victory over Many Clouds to his name back in 2013. The Champion trainer has been mopping up major prizes on Saturday’s throughout the winter and it’s hard to dismiss this fella.
The Giant Bolster won this race last year and is back at his favourite course with connections bullish of a big run. With three terrific performances in the last three Gold Cup’s he is arguably the best horse in the race. He’s likely to be storming up the hill when others have raised the white flag. It’s hard to imagine him not going close.
Theatre Guide has plenty to find on ratings but is an intriguing contender. Third in the Hennessy of 2013, he has only had one run so far this winter when dead-heating with Fox Appeal over an inadequate trip. The son of King’s Theatre may prefer a sounder surface and although the outsider of the field he is certainly not a no-hoper.
Double Ross has to bounce back from a couple of disappointing runs. The step-up in trip on testing ground is also a major concern, but he has performed well at Prestbury Park in the past.
Finally at the foot of the weights is Smad Place. Last year’s RSA runner-up was last seen under-performing in the Hennessy Gold Cup. His trainer Alan King has openly admitted to wishing he had got a prep-run into the horse before taking on the Newbury race. Speaking in the Racing Post Weekender he said: “This has been his target for some time and it will let us know where we stand with him. He has a good record at Cheltenham. He’s been placed at three festivals and has always run well at the course.”
King dismissed any worries over ground conditions pointing to a victory over Sam Winner at Newbury in heavy ground last February. He’ll be receiving 8lbs from several of his rivals on Saturday, and that’s a great deal of weight when the mud is flying.