Joe Tizzard in cautious mood over BetVictor Gold Cup favourite Slate House

Mon 11 Nov 2019

Ante-post BetVictor Gold Cup favourite Slate House is one of 25 confirmations for the showpiece race at Cheltenham

Colin Tizzard’s seven-year-old emerged from a spell in the doldrums to win at Cheltenham’s first meeting in October, and has been prominent in the betting for Saturday’s big handicap ever since.

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said at Kempton on Monday: "We had the BetVictor Gold Cup in mind for Slate House throughout the summer.

"Slate House started his novice hurdle campaign very well two years ago, beating Summerville Boy at Cheltenham, and then that season petered out.

"He became a bit keen and wasn't finishing his races, and then he chipped a bone in his knee at Aintree, which stopped him having any summer in the field as he was on box rest for three months, hence last year was just about getting him going again. He never looked particularly well and sometimes those injuries can set horses back that far.

Watch what Harry Cobden had to say after Slate House won on his return

"We felt he had a nice mark coming into this season, which we kind of lost at Cheltenham last time as he has gone up 12lb. The performance at Cheltenham was very good. We thought he would run well, but we did not think he would win like he did.

"It can be hard to assess because it was bordering on heavy ground and it is early in the season, which can catch a few horses out. I just think he handled conditions better than the rest.

"We are going to have a go with him on Saturday, but we have the advantage of being able to drop back to the novice route afterwards. I appreciate how competitive the BetVictor Gold Cup is from my riding days, and this is one of the biggest races of the season this side of Christmas."

He added: "We will probably have half a dozen runners at The November Meeting. The ground has been a lot softer compared to this time last year, which means we have been able to run horses a lot earlier this season.

Topping the weights is Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados, another to win at the October meeting.

Whittington spokje to Nick Luck after Saint Calvados had won at Cheltenham last month

Whittington said: "We have taken a number of positives out of Saint Calvados' performance at Cheltenham.

"I was just delighted to get a winner at Cheltenham, as it is so bloody hard. You go there and get beaten so often that you start to think 'how do I have a winner here?' It was nice to get rid of that hoodoo.

"Saint Calvados is only a six-year-old still and he is 17' 3, a giant of a horse, and has always been backwards physically. All of us trainers say horses have done well for a break, but this time I really mean it. He had a good three months off in the field after the Champion Chase and did extremely well for it. He is more the finished article now.

"I think tweaking his wind has obviously been a help. Ben Brain, who does our wind ops, says some horse can improve 40lb, although that obviously isn't going to be the case with Saint Calvados.

"He did not have a significant problem. He just had a small problem that was causing him to back off in those very difficult championship races against one of the best horses we have seen over two miles."

He added: "The other positive from Cheltenham was that we did not make the running this time, and he enjoyed being ridden that way. He has had some hard races and fortunately he has come out of them on the right side of it. Some horses can be soured by running in those type of races as a five or six-year-old, but it appears to have toughened him up.

 Saint Calvados would be stepping up in trip
Saint Calvados would be stepping up in trip

"We have introduced a new sand gallop at home, as everyone has been raving about them, and I must admit it has helped with some of those really enthusiastic and quite keen horses in getting them to settle. Saint Calvados has done quite a lot of work in the sand and seems to be less fresh for it and more mature.

"My biggest concern regarding the BetVictor Gold Cup is the trip. The 4lb rise in the handicap, I am fairly happy with. Everyone keeps telling me he will improve for a step up in trip and let's hope they are right. His jumping was a bit sticky last time and hopefully going up in trip might enable him to get into a better rhythm with his jumping.

"He also has an entry in the Shloer Chase on Sunday, as well as the Tingle Creek and the King George. He is in everything and we thought we would keep an open mind."

Nicky Henderson’s Casablanca Mix, Festival winner Siruh Du Lac and Dan Skelton’s Spiritofthegames are others towards the head of the weights.

Henderson said of his mare: “We’ve only left in Casablanca Mix in the hope that it will continue to dry out a bit. O O Seven is not quite ready for the race.

Watch a full replay of the Summer Plate

“She won the Summer Plate at Market Rasen. If it can stay dry that would help. She has gone up in the weights, so she has got to come into races like this.

“She is a good mare. That summer race always takes a lot of winning. She has had a break since then, and she has been back home.”

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has lifted the BetVictor Gold Cup on two occasions, most recently with Caid Du Berlais in 2014. The Ditcheat handler has two likely runners this year in Magic Saint, who has yet to run this season, and Brelan D'As, a faller in the race won by Saint Calvados at The Showcase.

Nicholls' assistant Harry Derham said: "Magic Saint and Brelan D'As have been left in the BetVictor Gold Cup.

"We were a bit disappointed with Magic Saint in the Grand Annual [started 9/2 favourite, finished 10th]. We really fancied him for that race the whole way along. He travelled into the race well but didn't pick up and has had a breathing operation since.

"His work this season has been good, but it was last too season, which is why we thought he would run very well in the Grand Annual.

"Saturday is going to be his first run of the season and it will be tough, but his work has been really good, and I would like to think at some stage that he will win a real nice race.

"We started him off over two and a half miles last year and he travelled too well, so we dropped him back and he won over two miles, but then in the Grand Annual Harry (Cobden, jockey) said that he travelled and didn't quicken.

"I suppose we haven't quite worked him out yet because we don't think we have been seen the best of him. Two and a half miles on soft ground, provided they go fast, and he settles into a nice rhythm, I would imagine could work well."

He added: "Brelan D'As was in really good form going to Cheltenham in October when he unfortunately parted company with Barry [Geraghty]. It was a bit frustrating because it was at the time in the race when you did not really know if he was going to win or not because it was too far out.

"He had a good season last year, including when third in the Grand Annual, and is quite versatile in terms of trip. I would think a test like the BetVictor, with him ridden patiently, would suit quite well.

"Both Magic Saint and Brelan D'As are also in the two-mile handicap chase at Cheltenham on Friday as well. I would imagine Magic Saint will definitely go for the BetVictor Gold Cup while with Brelan D'As we will have to make a plan with Frank [Berry] and JP [McManus]."

There is one possible runner from Ireland, Joseph O’Brien’s Arkle runner-up Us And Them.

Knocknanuss, Belami Des Pictons, Guitar Pete, Eamon An Cnoic and Splash Of Ginge are among others left in.

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