Nicholls may have caviar on toast

December 15th, 2017 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday is worth a great deal of money and the first thing that players have to decide is whether the BetVictor form will be strong enough or should they be looking for something with a bit more of that elusive quality ‘class’?

It will be a cold night and conditions on Saturday are unlikely to be as heavy as they were when Splash Of Ginge just held Starchitect and Le Prezien last time. Of the three, I’d go with LE PREZIEN this time and maybe the main threat will come from his stable-companion Clan Des Obeaux. Comparing conditions race and handicap form is very tricky and it would be wrong to take Clan Des Obeaux’s narrow defeat in a match against Whisper too literally, well though the latter ran in the Hennessy, where the 4lb penalty cost him.

Even so, CLAN DES OBEAUX went on to win easily next time and Nicholls’ record in races of this type is simply magnificent. I shall back both of his here.

The New One will be a popular choice in the Grade 2 International Hurdle as he tries to win the race for the fourth time. He is not great value at 15/8, with My Tent Or Yours, a real ‘bridle’ horse, always capable of producing his best first time up and Willie Mullins’ MELON bidding to go one better than he managed in the Supreme Novices’ last March. He won well at Down Royal and maybe the bare two miles will suit him a shade better than The New One at this stage of their relative careers.

Jim Old is thrilled with COUNT MERIBEL, who was most impressive at Ascot last time. He takes on better opposition in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle but Jim, who took the horse with him when he joined Nigel Twiston-Davies, is starting to think in terms of the festival. Count Meribel goes along easily in the lead and may take quite a bit of passing.

I had an idea that FLYING TIGER might defy the ratings and pip Irving when they took on the brilliant Buveur D’Air at Newcastle. I was wrong by a length but it was a good effort and he may atone in the bet365 Handicap Hurdle at Doncaster.