Newbury racing: Paul Nicholls sends out three in bid for tenth Greatwood Gold Cup
Paul Nicholls will be triple-handed as he bids for a record tenth success in the Grade 3 William Hill Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday (February 29).
The Ditcheat handler has farmed this 2m4f Handicap Chase since its first running in 2004 and will rely on last year’s winner San Benedeto, Mont Des Avaloirs and Secret Investor, who feature among the 13-strong field for the £50,000 prize.
San Benedeto bids to become the first dual winner of the feature, having earned a seventh chase victory of his career with a two and a quarter-length victory over the Gala Ball in last year’s renewal. The Phillip Hobbs-trained Gala Ball re-opposes on 3lb better terms this time, bidding to give the stable a second success in the race following the victory of Supreme Prince 15 years ago.
San Benedeto also bids to become the first nine-year-old to land this valuable handicap, although he must shoulder 4lb more than when successful 12 months ago.
Nicholls said: “Newbury is smashing track and The Greatwood Gold Cup is always a competitive race and a good one to win.
“Despite the ground looking likely to be as soft as we think on Saturday with the rain forecast, we still decided to enter three of them. San Benedeto won off a 4lb lower mark last year. He goes well fresh but would like better ground to be honest, and soft ground is not his favourite.
“Bryan Carver takes off a very handy 5lb off him, and while I would think he has it all to do at the weights, he normally does come good at this time of year.
“He is a pretty straightforward ride and Bryan will get on well with him. He can go on the soft, but more importantly, this is his time of year.”
San Benedeto’s stablemate Mont Des Avaloirs was runner-up over an extended 2m7f in a small-field novices’ limited handicap at Newbury earlier this month on only his fourth attempt over fences and will be partnered for the first time by Bryony Frost.
Four horses aged seven years old have won this race in the past and all were saddled by Nicholls. The 11-times champion trainer hopes that the French-bred will become the fifth.
He added: “Mont Des Avaloirs ran well off top weight last time, although he was a bit keen and, in the end, that 2m7f was a bit too far.
“I have always thought he would be better-suited by a bigger field in a fast-run handicap where he can get a bit of cover, so this race should suit him. I’ve had this race in mind for him for quite a long while and hopefully we will have a nice run.”
Nicholls has also declared Secret Investor, who chased home Native River in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury earlier this month: “We thought long and hard about entering him, because while he handles soft, he would be better on quicker ground than he is likely to get, he will carry top weight and we are hoping that the ground does not come up any softer than it already is. Lorcan Williams will take off a valuable 3lb.”
Bags Groove, winner of the Grade 2 Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton last Spring, makes his season bow for Harry Fry and will be partnered by Jonjo O’Neill Jr, and the yard is doubly represented with Drumcliff.
Dan Skelton relies on Bennys King, who landed a good prize at the Berkshire track in November and returns on a mark 15lb higher than when last scoring after a neck defeat at Ascot last month.
The Tom George-trained Clondaw Castle, who scored in a decent handicap at Warwick earlier this month and Domaine De L’Isle, who rattled up a hat-trick of soft-ground handicap chases over the winter, are sure to have their supporters. Valdez, Not Another Muddle, Tiquer and Entichissant complete the 13-strong line-up for this valuable prize.
San Benedeto (right) wins the 2019 William Hill Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup (Photo: Newbury Racecourse)