BetVictor Gold Cup - Saturday, Cheltenham 2.25

As ever, second season novices with previous top-class chase form around Cheltenham is not a bad starting point when trying to fathom one of the traditional big early-season handicaps and the one that fits the bill when analysing this year’s field is DOUBLE SHUFFLE (best price 12-1).

Although yet to win in three starts over fences at Prestbury Park, his first two performances behind the likes of More Of That and Art Mauresque did enough to suggest he was more than comfortable with the stiff nature of the track and he went on to back up that view with a career-high effort in the big 2m 4f novices’ handicap chase at the festival in March. Jumping and travelling well from the outset, Tom George’s inmate probably hit the front a little sooner than desired (led at the top of the hill) and in the end, he succumbed to the powerful late surges of eventual winner Ballyalton and Bouvreuil after the last.

Probably over the top when disappointing on his final start at Ayr last season, the son of Milan began this campaign in much better fashion by finishing a close-up second to his old pal Art Mauresque at Chepstow a month ago, staying on strongly in the latter stages having hit a flat spot and looking well held rounding the home turn. That performance should have put a nice edge on the six-year-old, and with the form of the race already looking useful courtesy of Irish Cavalier going on to land the Charlie Hall on his next start, it’s easy to make a strong case for him now returning to one of his happy hunting grounds.

Moreover, he hails from a stable in unstoppable form at present and with the current dry spell looking set to continue for the remainder of the week, he should have ideal conditions to enable him to perform at maximum capacity on the big day.

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***For all National Hunt fans, a preview of the new season and the three-day Open Meeting at Cheltenham this coming weekend will be discussed by John Morris (author of Jumping Prospects), Andy Gibson (ATR pundit), Jerry Williams (Corbett Sports) and Andy Holding (Oddschecker) at THE OLD RAILWAY CLUB, MELLING ROAD, AINTREE, L9 0LQ. Start time is 7.30pm and entry fee will be £10 (plus free gift on entry).***

Double Shuffle - 1pt e/w @ 12/1