THERE are plenty of great races outside of the Cheltenham Festival and Saturday’s Coral Gold Cup (2.50pm) at Newbury is certainly one of them.
Before I dive into my preview, I should point out that as with all of these ante-post pieces, it’s always difficult to know exactly who’s running, so keep an eye out for the City AM Punter Podcast on Friday morning.
Hopefully both of my longer-term fancies are declared, but whatever happens I’ll be able to put a bit more meat on the bones later in the week.
I love the Coral Gold Cup and this year’s renewal looks a fascinating race with plenty of the 23 entries holding solid claims.
However, at this stage I think the ante-post market has it right as COMPLETE UNKNOWN looks to have a great chance of giving trainer Paul Nicholls a fourth win in the race.
Interestingly Nicholls hasn’t won the race since that remarkable weight-carrying performance from Denman in 2009, but plenty of his horses have run well in it since.
The Champion Trainer will be hopeful of going close again with his Complete Unknown, who looks the ideal type for the 3m2f contest.
Reports from the Nicholls camp suggest that he is in flying form at home, and this has clearly been the target for some time.
The seven-year-old has been brought forward steadily over fences but it was the 16-length demolition job in a Kempton handicap last season which really hallmarked him as a chaser on the rise.
He then ran a cracker to finish second to leading Gold Cup contender Gerri Colombe at Aintree in the spring, where he stayed on in noteworthy fashion.
A pipe opener, his first run after wind surgery, at Newton Abbot in late October should have left him spot on for this, and he looks worthy of his place at the head of the market at 7/1.
Lucinda Russell’s Ahoy Senor could also go well, as you can put a line through his run in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby given his very poor record when fresh.
The only time he ran at Newbury previously he won the John Francome Novices’ Chase by 31 lengths, so we know he likes the track.
The issue is he has to lug 12-stone in one of the most competitive handicap chases of the season and that’s just enough to put me off.
Sam Thomas holds a strong hand in the race, and while Sam Twiston-Davies looks set to ride Stolen Silver, I prefer Thomas’ other runner OUR POWER at a juicy-looking 18/1.
He has lots of good form in these types of staying handicaps, having won the London Gold Cup at Ascot and Coral Trophy at Kempton last season.
His stamina clearly gave out in the Grand National, but he travelled really well before running out of petrol, and I can see him doing the same here over a much more suitable trip.
Thomas gave him a spin over hurdles to blow away the cobwebs earlier this month and that should have left him cherry-ripe for this.
The Welsh handler has become pretty deadly when it comes to readying a horse for the big day and I can see Our Power running really well off a light weight.
Complete Unknown e/w 2.50pm Newbury (Saturday)
Our Power e/w 2.50pm Newbury (Saturday)