Who wins the Grade Two feature at Exeter on Tuesday? Harry Allwood puts each contender under the microscope in our runner-by-runner guide which includes vital galloping clues.
The Coral Haldon Gold Cup has been won by some superstars in the past including Best Mate, Azertyuiop and Cue Card, and last year’s winner God’s Own, who also won this contest in 2014, will bid for his third victory in the Grade Two contest on Tuesday.
The 11-year-old will face a number of unexposed rivals, including Destrier who heads the betting having finished third in a Grade One at Aintree on his final start last season.
Paul Nicholls will seek his seventh victory in the race and is represented by Dolos who now has a career-high mark after winning a handicap chase at Kempton in May.
Lalor, another Grade One winner among the field, has a bit to prove in what is a small but select field.
Here’s a guide to all the contenders plus a verdict.
Trainer: Nicky Henderson. General odds: 9-2.
Was raised 17lb in the handicap despite not getting his head in front in four starts last season. However, he produced some excellent efforts in defeat, including when runner-up in the Brown Advisory at the Cheltenham Festival.
Has plenty of form on soft and heavy ground, so will have no problem handling conditions and was not beaten far on his seasonal return in a competitive handicap at Ascot on his British debut last year.
Janika is certain to have more to give this season and this strong traveller will not be hindered by the drop back down in trip.
Six-year-old’s have also won five of the past ten renewals of this race, but it will require a big performance to win this off a rating of 162 on his seasonal return.
2. GOD’S OWN
Trainer: Tom George. General odds: 15-2.
Three-time Grade One winner who has some strong form next to his name having won this race in 2014 and 2018 - both of which were on his seasonal debut – and also finished third in 2015. Has also finished second, third, fourth and fifth at Grade One level at the Cheltenham Festival.
Tom George’s stalwart is now an 11-year-old but looked as good as ever last season and ended his campaign finishing third behind Altior in the Celebration Chase at Sandown where he was beaten less than six lengths.
This contest is likely to have been the plan for some time and his regular rider, Paddy Brennan, is in flying form at the moment having been operating at a strike-rate of 32 per cent in the past fortnight, so is one to take seriously, although would not want the ground to get any softer.
Trainer: Paul Nicholls. General odds: 4-1.
Landed two useful handicaps at Sandown and Kempton last season and now finds himself on a rating of 157 which probably flatters him slightly.
Struggled in Graded contests last season and needs to prove his is capable of landing a blow at this level but goes well fresh and both his wins over fences have come on right-handed tracks, so Exeter should suit.
His trainer has won this race six times in the past and he should get a decent pace to aim at, so a case can certainly be made for him, but he still needs to up his game to be in with a chance of winning.
Trainer: Kim Bailey. General odds: 6-1.
Useful performer on his day and showed just what he is capable of when making all to win the Edredon Bleu Chase at Huntingdon last season where he defeated God’s Own.
Failed to reproduce that effort afterwards though and connections opted to give him a wind operation ahead of his seasonal debut at Chepstow where he shaped as though the run was needed, although it was still a disappointment in a race he won the year before.
Has the benefit of a recent run which is sure to be an advantage here and would be a strong contender if he was back to his best but has a bit to prove now.
Trainer: Dan Skelton. General odds: 7-2.
Has not got many miles on the clock but has already shown a decent level of form having improved for the transition to fences and has always been held in high regard by his connections.
Won his first two starts over larger obstacles last season before producing a career best to finish third in the Grade One Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree.
Although he will need another career best to get his head in front here, it is highly likely he has further improvement left in him and has won on his seasonal debut in the past, so there is plenty to like about his chances.
Trainer: Kayley Woollacott. General odds: 11-2.
Grade One-winning hurdler who created a huge impression on his chasing debut when successful at Cheltenham 12 months ago after a 219-day break.
Looked set to reach a high level over fences but disappointed in three starts at Grade One level afterwards and ended up having a disappointing season.
Although he won his Grade One over hurdles on soft ground, conditions were blamed for a couple of his defeats last season and is another who will not want any further rain to arrive.
Clearly has plenty of ability and goes well fresh plus he would have huge chance should he bounce back to his best but has question marks to answer.
Harry Allwood's verdict:
Although only six runners go to post for this contest, it looks an open race on paper with a few question marks against a number of the contenders.
Destrier is likely to have plenty more to give this season but needs to prove his run at Aintree was no fluke and Dolos, who is vying for favouritism, needs to prove he is up to Graded level. Janika is also likely to improve further, although winning this off a rating of 162 is a big ask.
Lalor and Charbel both have the ability to land a blow but have question marks to answer having run disappointingly on their last few starts.
GOD’S OWN may be an 11-year-old now but he finished a close third at Grade One level in April and looks the safest option in this contest plus he is sure to be primed as he seeks his third Haldon Gold Cup victory.
It may be best to catch Lalor fresh, so he is taken to follow the selection home in what is likely to be an informative contest.
1. God’s Own. 2. Lalor. 3. Destrier.
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