CHELTENHAM COVERS UP AGAINST THE FROST: Paul Nicholls’ Il Ridoto is likely favourite for the December Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday, following withdrawals at the declaration stage this morning. But racing is in the balance there, with day one due tomorrow; frost covers are the main hope.

TODAY: There were also weather woes this morning forcing Warwick’s card to be abandoned. Newcastle passed its second inspection and their jumps card gets the green light along with Clonmel where they also needed to take a look. Daqman heads to Chelmsford tonight for his best bet.


⚠️ Midnight River is out of the December Gold Cup, spoiling the Skeltons bid for five weekends of big-race winners, following Nube Negra, Protektorat, Le Milos and Ashtown Lad.

⭕ 1.50 Cheltenham, Saturday (December Gold Cup)

STATS: Only one winner in the last 11 carried more than 10st 12lb, and that was Frodon who was scoring for the second time in 2018 when set 11st 12lb after winning under 10st 10lb in 2016.
AGE: None over the age of eight since 1993 – that’s 29 years ago – until Coole Cody (10) last year.
TRAINERS: Paul Nicholls 5, Nicky Henderson 3, Philip Hobbs 2, Jonjo O’Neill 2, David Pipe 2.
JOCKEYS: Sam Twiston-Davies 2.
FAVOURITES: None since 2009.

CHEDDLETON (7-11-10, Jennie Candlish) Won back-to-back in small fields two years ago but beaten favourite twice among 332243 sequence last season, including runner-up at Cheltenham.

COCONUT SPLASH (7-10-10 Evan Williams) Has yet to win a chase but only one run out of the novice stage and has been placed 7-7.

DEYRANN DE CARJAC (9-10-6, Alan King) Mistakes when fifth in this race last year; fifth again in the New Year’s Chase, and yet again recently in the Autumn Gold Cup, all at Cheltenham. See Il Ridoto.

FANTASTIC LADY (7-11-4 Nicky Henderson) Has won at this trip and in a mares’ Listed over 3m the last day but no experience of Cheltenham.

FERN HILL (7-11-4 Ben Case) Another winner over further, placed 5-6 as a novice, improving his rating only 3lb.

FRERO BANBOU (7-11-5 Venetia Williams) 15 chases over shorter, placed 12 but rating also static (140-142) since win in January. Grand Annual third.

FUGITIF (7-10-11 Richard Hobson) Twice 2m winner as a novice but twice out of the frame trying 2m 4f. Second in a 2m Cheltenham handicap the last day.

IL RIDOTO (5-11-3 Paul Nicholls) 2m winner twice; eighth Grand Annual; fourth in the Cheltenham (2m 4f) Autumn Gold Cup, with Deyrann De Carjac 5th, Simply The Betts 7th (beaten when hampered after the last), Storm Control 8th.

KAUTO RIKO (11-10-12, Tom Gretton) 4th Autumn Gold Cup here two years ago; not much to boast about since.

SIMPLY THE BETTS (9-11-13, Paul Nicholls) Second New Year’s Day Chase; runner-up again to Stolen Silver in Silver Trophy in April; both over the Cheltenham CD. See Il Ridoto.

SOLE PRETENDER (9-11-13, Normal Lee) Consistent in good company at 2m, but this is first chase run over further.

STOLEN SILVER (7-12-0, Sam Thomas) Favourite, unseated rider, found to be lame in Autumn Gold Cup, See Il Ridoto; see Simply The Betts.

STORM CONTROL (9-10-10, Kerry Lee) Back to winning mark but 50-1 no-hoper, 8th Autumn Gold Cup. See Il Ridoto.

JACAMAR (7-10-10 Milton Harris) 2m 4f winner Leicester and Kempton but not much improvement, though back to the right trip; poor over further lately.

WAR LORD (7-11-12, Joe Tizzard) Won 3-4 small-field chases this time last year.


⭕ 6.30 Chelmsford Interesting novice event on the Chelmsford card, not least because the two market leaders on Betdaq Betting Exchange both have lengthy absences to overcome.

The Xo hasn’t been seen since his debut four length second to Malrescia at Lingfield in May.

The form of that race was given a handsome boost when the winner went on to finish a close up second in a Listed race at Newmarket next time out.

He is preferred to the filly Demi Pointe who showed some promise on debut at Goodwood when sixth but will need to improve on that and is unproven on the artificial surface. She has also been off the track since May.

The clubhouse leader in terms of form is Umming N’ Ahing who has been sent off at 66/1 on each of his three starts and improved a little each time. However it would surprising if his form was to prove strong enough against the two likely improvers mentioned above.


⭕ 7.00 Chelmsford This class 2 handicap is by some way the best race on tonight’s card.

There’s very little between the five runners and I’d say any of three could still go off favourite.

Most of them have something to prove in this grade and are not coming into this on the best form trajectory.

Darwell Lion does bring winning form into the race but it came in a class 4 at Lingfield and he now has his first run for John Butler off a very harsh looking 8lb hike in the weights.

I thought Intuitive probably looked the safest bet. Trained by the Crisford’s who are enjoying an excellent strike rate from the fewer runners they are sending out, Intuitive does at least have plenty of experience at this level and they may well have found a weak class 2 to get Intuitive back on track.

He has a commendable strike-rate on the all-weather of 6 wins, 4 seconds and 2 thirds from 19 runs and has won here before too.

⭕ 8.30 Chelmsford The nightcap on the nine-race card (yes, NINE increasingly becoming a thing) can go to the progressive Far Horizon who got up late to spring a surprise here last time out giving every impression that the step up to 1m 2f from a mile will be perfect on this, his handicap debut.


6.30 Chelmsford (win 10, nap)
BET 5.4pts win THE XO

7.00 Chelmsford (win 10)
BET 2.8pts win INTUITIVE

8.30 Chelmsford (win 10)
BET 2.7pts win FAR HORIZON

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