Published 12 December
CEPAGE has enough going for him at decent odds to rate a value pick against solid-looking market leaders in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
Trained by Venetia Williams - who won the 2014 renewal with Niceonefrankie and has since sent out a second (Aso) and third (Tenor Nivernais) - the ground - versatile 6yo has potential for more improvement, especially now he’s proven at the trip.
Significantly perhaps where this Cheltenham feature is concerned, he has hit the ground running on previous seasonal debuts and gained useful course experience when fourth to subsequent Ascot winner Traffic Fluide last spring (jumped well in the main, thereby easing a few doubts in that department).
Williams has been quoted as seeing him “as a three-miler eventually” yet the French-bred had the speed to hack up on his UK debut over 2m at Newbury, albeit off a relatively low mark, as well as finishing a close second to Sir Valentino over that trip at Ascot a year ago.
That last effort signposted his ability for the better-grade handicaps and he added another weapon to his armoury when proving his stamina for a strongly-run 2m4f in a ‘Festival consolation handicap’ at Kempton in March.
Swooping late and fast on soft ground that day, he was again doing good work at the finish with that fourth over 2m5f on quicker terrain upped in grade here for his final run of the season.
Warm and edgy in the preliminaries, he was probably not in quite the same form as at Kempton yet still showed enough to suggest he merits a Cheltenham campaign, especially if he returns a more mentally mature horse (not an unreasonable expectation given his age).
Interestingly he runs in the same colours as Aso, who was withdrawn from this at the six-day stage and would have been a strong contender based on his course form and recent Newbury success. Coincidental perhaps, but not a negative as regards his own prospects.
Recommended Bet (scale 1-5 points):
Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday
1pt each way CEPAGE ( 14-1 bet365, 12-1 general - use 1/4 1st 4 place firms )
Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on 27 December
1pt each way RAMSES DE TEILLEE ( 25-1 )
Gary provides regular ante-post updates on Twitter. His username is @horsetraderinfo.@horsetraderinfo