THE CONDITIONAL (left, Tom Cannon) beats BACK TO THE THATCH (right) and ROLLING DYLAN (centre) in The Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase Cheltenham 26 Oct 2019 - Pic Steven Cargill / Racingfotos.com

Windsor Avenue Could Be The Right Move In Caspian Caviar Gold Cup

Saturday’s big handicap is the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase and as you’d expect, we have an absolute cracker in store. As usual this preview will look at a number of angles and data that are easily found with a Geegeez Gold subscription.

Pace

The ground at Cheltenham is somewhere between soft and good to soft so we’ll have a look at the previous data on this going for 16+ runner handicaps since 2009 at 2m4f:

A pretty strong edge for those that race nearer the pace here. The Win PL, EW PL and Place % all gradually fall the further back in the field a runner is placed.

Hold up horses have a remarkably poor record. This run style has produced a WIN PL of -131.00 and a WIN % of just 0.7%. Even the place strike rate of 13.38% is very low – around three times lower than that of the front runners.

There is plenty of hope for those that race in mid division though. With only a handful more runners they are producing twelve times the winners of a hold up style and a respectable WIN % of 8.11%. The majority of winners and placed horses race in mid division despite these runners certainly not being seen to best effect like the front runners are.

The pace map for this race will give us a further idea of which runners could be advantaged, or disadvantaged, by the run of the race here.

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This race should be run at a good gallop with possible contested speed here. Leading contender Master Tommytucker seems most likely to lead based on recent runs but you couldn’t rule out Windsor Avenue, Good Boy Bobby or Southfield Stone being the early leader.

There are a decent number of hold up horses here and although possibly only ruling out relatively unfancied runners, those below Ibis Du Rheu in the above pace map may end up struggling to get into this.

Previous Winners

The Paddy Power Gold Cup is often a good trial for this contest, the last four winners all took that race in a month prior to winning this although none were victorious in their trial.

The last two winners of this race, Warthog and Frodon, finished 3rd and 2nd going into this race. This year Coole Cody will be looking to complete the double whilst Al Dancer (3rd in the race this year) possibly has the ideal profile in terms of having placed in that race as a prep for this. Saint Sonnet is the only other runner to come from that race and he was a final fence faller when fading from contention.

Coole Cody does look best of those reopposing here but completing this double is difficult so perhaps this race won’t hold the key this year.

Interestingly, according to Andy Newton’s trends for this race, the last 18 winners have all been aged 8 or younger. That would appear to rule out Coole Cody and another fancied runner, Master Tommytucker.

Other Angles

The two market leaders here, Master Tommytucker and Al Dancer, have already met this season at Newton Abbot in similar conditions. Al Dancer gave Master Tommytucker 6lbs and a 2.75 length beating on that occasion and now gets 3lbs from that rival so Al Dancer would appear to have the edge at the weights.

Cepage is one of just a few here to have not had a prep run this season but Cepage’s trainer, Venetia Williams, has an IV of 2.60 and a WIN PL of 21.54 with handicap runners who have not run for 60+ days. His absence should not be seen as a negative.

We all know how important previous course form can be here, 13 of the last 18 winners of this had previously raced here and 5 had won here before. Al Dancer and Coole Cody have a good record here, Al Dancer has finished 1st, 2nd, 5th and 3rd in four runs over fences here and also has a course hurdle win to his name whilst Coole Cody has finished 2nd and 1st from his two runs here on the chase course and he too has a course hurdle win.

Brian Ellison, trainer of Windsor Avenue, has a strong record in handicaps at this sort of distance range. He has a 23.26% strike rate from 43 runners which have provided a WIN PL of 15.47 and an IV of 2.34. Another trainer who does well in handicaps at this distance range is Andrew J Martin (Militarian). His three winners have produced a whopping 103.15 WIN PL and an IV of 1.59.

A jockey stat worth noting is the record of Bryony Frost at Cheltenham. She has a better than 20% strike rate at this venue which improves to 30.77 when only including rides for Paul Nicholls and 47.06% when examining just her rides here on his chasers. She rides Southfield Stone for Nicholls here.

Verdict

This is a really wide open contest and a case can be made for many. Personally I want to be on something that is going to be well placed here and I’m mainly looking at Windsor Avenue and Southfield Stone.

Windsor Avenue’s last time out 2nd to Imperial Aura received a nice form boost when that winner came out and won nicely at Grade 2 level next time out. He’s only been out of the first two once when completing and on that occasion he was 4th, beaten less than a length. His handicap mark could be a lenient one and he’s got the stamina to get up the hill in this ground.

Southfield Stone is another consistent performer who has finished 1st and 2nd here on his last two starts. He was a length and a half in front of Coole Cody here off level weights in October and is only 2lbs worse off here but the big problem seems to be the ground as he clearly enjoys good ground. Clear preference between the pair is therefore with Windsor Avenue.

It’s also worth mentioning that Cepage was 4th in this last year and 2nd to Frodon in this two years ago. He runs off the same mark as last year and is 12lbs higher than in 2018. He probably didn’t quite stay in the Ultima in March and he’d rate a decent enough place only bet but he could be vulnerable yet again for win purposes.

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