Nicholls pair lead Caspian betting but Coole Cody connections have Cheltenham revenge in mind

Grad III Races at Cheltenham Festival

Nicholls pair lead Caspian betting but Coole Cody connections have Cheltenham revenge in mind

ONE of the biggest pre-Christmas race days will see several of the Paddy Power Gold Cup competitors head back to Cheltenham in a bid to land the top prize in the Caspian Caviar.

There is £74K available to the winner of the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase, the highlight of December’s seven-race Cheltenham meeting.

One trainer eager to gain an element of revenge after the Paddy Power is Evan Williams, with his primary entry Coole Cody available at 8/1 to take the honours, reported horse racing experts of Offers.Bet.

The 10-year-old was at the head of the field most of the way round at Prestbury Park in November but fell at the second last. Despite the blunder, Williams confirmed the horse headed home from Cheltenham in good heart, with the trainer targeting a return to the track this month.

The one drawback according to Williams is that the Caspian is run on Cheltenham’s New Course while the Paddy Power was run on the Old Course, the latter known to favour strong travellers, an attribute that Coole Cody clearly possesses.

Speaking about Coole Cody, Williams said: “Everything is grand, all sound. He was running a great race – win, lose or draw.

“We’ll see how he is, how he gets over things and go from there. He likes Cheltenham, but he’s better on the Old Course really. That (Paddy Power) was his big day. OK, it didn’t come off, but we live to fight another day and there are plenty of places for him to go.

“The Caspian Caviar is over the other track, but he’ll probably have an entry for it. We may well end up there. We’ll see how it all pans out.”

Williams has also entered Coconut Splash for the race, the six-year-old is around 20/1 and appears on the cusp of a big run over fences after impressing last season behind Messire Des Obeaux at Wincanton, and Chantry House at Wetherby.

The Williams pair are likely to lock horns with the Paddy Power victor, Midnight Shadow, as the Sue Smith-trained eight-year-old goes in search of a rare double.

The Cheltenham specialist (8/1) would be only the fourth horse to complete successes in both the Paddy Power and Caspian Caviar in the same season – Pegwell Bay (1988), Senor El Betrutti (1997) and Exotic Dancer (2006) the others.

The grey held firm after stumbling at the last, jockey Ryan Mania quickly regaining control to drive his charge home, with the pack closing quickly behind.

One of those making good late strides was Lalor, the nine-year-old impressing on his first start for Paul Nicholls after switching from Kayley Woollacott’s yard. Lalor finished third behind Protektorat, and put two disappointing runs behind him with a return to form.

Prior to his switch of trainers he underwent wind surgery, which appears to have had a positive effect, and he leads the betting for the Caspian, along with five-year-old Hitman (both at 7/1), also trained by Paul Nicholls.

Champion trainer Nicky Henderson has three entries, headed by Charlie Hall Chase winner Fusil Raffles, available at 12/1.

The six-year-old was a fortunate winner of the Wetherby feature in October, with Dan Skelton’s Shan Blue on course to win by a distance when coming down at the third last. Fusil jockey Daryl Jacob admitted he was targeting second spot until the leader fell, but felt his charge learned a lot from the race. Henderson’s other two runners are Caribean Boy and Janika (both 20/1), the same price as another interesting runner at decent odds, Amoola Gold.

Trained by Dan Skelton, Amoola Gold pulled off a highly impressive win in the Listed handicap chase at Ascot in October, seemingly well and truly beaten when ten lengths behind as the field turned in. Trading as long as 1000/1 on the exchanges, jockey Bridget Andrews admitted the eight-year-old can take a while to ‘get warmed up’, but he kept on to pip Monsieur Lecoq on the line. Skelton’s No.1 runner is Alnadam, available at 14/1.


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