Ahh the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.
In the past it’s gone under several different aliases and will be remembered by most as the Whitbread. Whether to you it’s the Bet365, Whitbread or simply that staying handicap at the end of the jumps season, it remains a thing of beauty on the calendar.
Racing’s tinkerers have targeted this meeting with full force in recent years, notably chopping and changing the mixed card. As it stands now we have a full day of flat on the Friday followed by a Saturday for the jumpers. Whether this will undermine Friday’s card remains to be seen. I’m pretty easy-going on the matter, it’s all good stuff!
I’d be understating my case tenfold if I were to tell you that there isn’t an Arkle, Mill House or a ‘Dessie’ in this year’s field, but that’s the game nowadays. It does, as I say, remain an opulent flower within racing’s rich tapestry which blossoms every year.
There isn’t a standout favourite for this currently, with most firms going around 10/1 the field. The rather unstable market is headed by the likes of Bury Parade, Godsmejudge, Ardkilly Witness, Roalco De Farges and, more generally, Same Difference.
Same Difference’s claims are obvious. Despite a relatively disappointing season, he’s now dropped to the same mark he was on when winning the Kim Muir at Cheltenham last year. His last run, although unplaced, did seem more encouraging and a return to his festival winning form would see him hard to throw out here. Despite getting a big chance from the handicapper I couldn’t have him though. He’s been too inconsistent for my liking this season and think there are better options available.
Bury Parade just isn’t a horse I’ve taken to and, in honesty, rather than being the improver people often talk him up as, I think he looks handicapped to the hilt. I find the price of both he and Ardkilly Witness quite odd, as the handicapper appears to have both by the short and curlies. The latter looks unlikely to improve much from his current mark and for my money both are too short in betting.
Roalco De Farges brings a certain level of intrigue for a Philip Hobbs team who tend to excel in this. His second here back in 2012 can’t be faulted, especially considering that he bumped into a horse that day who was more well-in than a made man in Tidal Bay. Injury setbacks have cost him since though, keeping him off the racecourse for the best part of two years following that. A bright win at Newbury was followed by a big step in the wrong direction in the Scottish National, where he seemed pretty laboured and disinterested. He’s another I wouldn’t entrust with my currency.
Godsmejudge proved the exact opposite to Roalco De Farges in that he seemed to take a big step forward at Ayr, following a disappointing season to date. Is it that he just seems to come alive at Ayr? Whatever the explanation for his recent racing epiphany, it doesn’t inspire me with enough confidence to back him for this.
Spring Heeled would have to be one you’d take a good long look at. His Kim Muir win was near faultless and smacked of a horse who’d relish pinging the Esher track’s railway fences. He does look a horse full of potential and one for the future, although the slight concern would be the 9lbs rise. A win here would mean he’d have to put up a performance well into the 150s, not something I’m certain he’s capable of at this stage.
The likes of Spring Heeled thrown in there with Carruthers and Rigadin De Beauchene mean this will more than likely be run at a fair lick, meaning stamina will most certainly have some say in the outcome. One who’ll certainly appreciate things the further they go will be Any Currency.
One of the most enduring images of this year’s Cheltenham festival was the portrayal of ecstasy to agony in a matter of seconds as trainer Martin Keighley realised that his old stalwart had just been seen off by the gutsy Balthazar King. Aside from the clear despair, nothing was lost in defeat that day though, as the winner had thrown up a string of victories all season long, before finding only one too good in the Grand National. There’s certainly no disgrace in that form.
Rewinding quickly to the 2012 running of this race (we’ve already mentioned the runner-up that day, Roalco De Farges) you’ll find this fella rolling in third. While there could be an argument to suggest the Hobbs horse mightn’t be the same animal he was then, it’s fair to say that Any Currency is potentially even better now.
Despite being the ripe old age of eleven, Martin Keighley has got this lad running out of his skin. Despite not managing to get his nose in front, he’s been running more consistently than ever. Don’t let his age put you off either, three of the last six winners have indeed been legs eleven, and a quarter of all eleven year old runners have placed in this in the last ten years.
There’ll be chewed nails to see if he makes it in (he needs five to come out), but at a rough count I think he should just about make it. He’s around the 20/1 mark currently and while there are certainly more ‘sexy’ options available, I believe he fits the mould for this perfectly.
Sandown (3.50) Any Currency