Ryanair runner-up Aso heads weights for BetVictor Gold Cup
The 168-rated Aso has been allotted top-weight of 11st 12lb for the highlight of Cheltenham’s three day November meeting – the Grade 3 BetVictor Gold Cup run over 2m 4f.
He features among a total of 42 entries for the prestigious and valuable handicap chase run over 2m 4f on Saturday, November 16. The Venetia Williams trained nine-year-old has proven form at the home of jumps racing having defied top-weight to win a Grade 3 handicap chase on Festival Trials Day in January before rounding off the campaign with a gallant second in the Grade1 Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
He is a 20/1 chance with the sponsors having shaped well on his recent comeback when upped in distance for the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase over 3m at Wetherby and finishing a 9 2/4 length third to Ballyoptic.
BetVictor’s 6/1 favourite is the Colin Tozzard trained Slate House, who has has been allotted 10st 5lb following a dominant 11-length victory in the Matchbook Best Value Betting Exchange Novices’ Chase over the course and distance at The Showcase meeting last month.
In my eyes he looks one of the best in at the weights and a worthy market leader, especially as he is now a three-time winner at the venue.
The Harry Wiggintgon trained Saint Calvados (11st 3lb) also triumphed at The Showcase, taking the 2m Randox Health Handicap Chase in game under top-weight.
He is attempting to follow in the footsteps of Johns Spirit (2013), Shooting Light (2001) and The Outback Way (1999) who landed that prize before going on to capture BetVictor Gold Cup glory in the same season.
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Gordon sweet on the chances of Highway One O One
Winchester based handler Chris Gordon is eyeing a big run from second season chaser Highway One O One (10st 2lb), whose most recent start over fences saw him finish third in the Grade 2 Cure Parkinson’s And Hambo Foundation Silver Trophy Limited Handicap Chase at The April Meeting.
Prior to that, the seven-year-old had posted some solid efforts – including when second to Kikldistart in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day. Highway One O One, a 25/1 chance with the sponsor, warmed up for the BetVictor Gold Cup with an encouraging second in a handicap hurdle at Fontwell Park last month.
“Highway One O One definitely goes for the BetVictor Gold Cup, provided nothing goes wrong between now and then. We know he handles the track well, having run a couple of solid races there last season, and it looks like he will have a lovely racing weight too. We thought about him starting him off Chepstow, but myself and the owner [Anthony Ward-Thomas] were due to go to the Czech Republic that weekend to watch the Velka Pardubice, so we decided to run a week earlier at Fontwell. I thought he ran a lovely race there and that should set us up nicely for Cheltenham.”
Guitar Pete Bidding to Make it Third Time Lucky
Guitar Pete is on course for a third tilt at the race having finished ninth in 2017 after being badly hampered and a staying-on third to Baron Alco last year.
Trained in Cumbria by Nicky Richards, the nine-year-old gained his biggest success over fences to date at the venue when defeating Clan Des Obeaux in the 2017 running of the Grade 3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
He looked as good as ever on return to action in a Listed handicap chase at Wetherby earlier in the month when cosily beating Happy Diva by 3 1/2 lengths.
Richards said :
“Guitar Pete seems good after Wetherby and the plan now is to have a look at the BetVictor Gold Cup. It was a grand performance at Wetherby, especially for a first run of the season. It was his first race since last December and you would expect him to sharpen up a little bit. We will have to wait and see whether or not Aso [Venetia Williams, likely top-weight] is going to run in at Cheltenham, as there is a chance we would be too far out of the handicap if he does. We will keep an eye on that, but the intention is to run provided we are in the handicap.”
Course form is also held by rapid improver Siruh Du Lac (Nick Williams, 10st 8lb), who defeated Janika (Nicky Henderson, 11st 6lb ex 5lb penalty) and Spiritofthegames (Dan Skelton, 10st 8lb) in the Grade 3 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Janika has a 5lb penalty as a result of his victory in the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on his recent appearance. His trainer Nicky Henderson also has Casablanca Mix (10st 12lb) among his five entries, who impressed in winning a Listed handicap chase at Market Rasen in July.
Articulum Among Three Irish-trained Entries
The three Irish-trained entries are led by Us And Them (Joseph O’Brien, 10st 10lb) and Articulum (Terence O’Brien, 10st 7lb). Both horses contested the two-mile G1 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, finishing second and third respectively behind impressive winner Duc Des Genievres.
Articulum (25/1) returned from his summer break with a staying-on second behind stablemate Lakemilan at Cork last month and his handler is expecting him to improve for that outing.
“I would say it is more than likely that he will go for the BetVictor Gold Cup. He is rated 148 over fences in Ireland, so I suppose 149 in England is OK. I would expect him to run up to his mark and if he could run a bit beyond it, he should be there or thereabouts – I think he can improve a bit. He has mainly run over two miles over fences, but he has won a couple of bumpers over two miles and three furlongs, as well as a point-to-point over three miles. I don’t see the trip being a problem to be honest. I would like the ground to be on the easy side. I don’t think the ground could be too soft for him.”