Horse Racing Tips

December Gold Cup: Timeform's expert verdict

Racing at Cheltenham
The December Gold Cup is the feature race at Cheltenham on Saturday

"Thunder Rock's latest success at Carlisle looks a lot better now that the runner-up ran a big race in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury, so he can prove himself ahead of a mark of 146."

Timeform bring you their runner-by-runner guide and 1-2-3 verdict for the December Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.

  • Timeform's runner-by-runner guide to the December Gold Cup

December Gold Cup
13:50 Cheltenham, Saturday
Live on ITV

1. Fakir d'Oudairies (Joseph O'Brien/ Jonjo O'Neill)

High-class chaser who has won seven of his 22 starts over fences, including four Grade 1 races. He was a bit below his very best in four starts last season, but his campaign still yielded a Grade 2 win at Thurles and he ran another solid race when last seen bidding for a third successive victory in the Melling Chase at Aintree in April. He's gone well fresh in the past and it will be interesting to see what he can do now back in a handicap, albeit top weight from a BHA mark of 162 provides him with a big challenge.

2. Fugitif (Richard Hobson/ Gavin Sheehan)

Yet to win at Cheltenham but has run several good races in defeat at this track, including when finishing fourth on his reappearance run in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. He threatened for a long way in the Paddy Power but perhaps ended up doing too much too soon, racing a shade freely in first-time cheekpieces before weakening on the run-in. The headgear is left off today and he holds solid each-way claims from a 2 lb lower mark if that run has taken the freshness out of him.

3. Thunder Rock (Olly Murphy/ Sean Bowen)

Has had this race as his target since returning from seven months off with a dominant success in an intermediate chase at Carlisle six weeks ago, quickening to lead at the last and forging clear. That form received a boost when the runner-up, Mahler Mission, filled the same position in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury next time and he appeals as the type to be suited by a big-field handicap environment. A BHA mark of 146 looks workable and he's one to be interested in for the in-form Olly Murphy yard.

4. Monmiral (Paul Nicholls/ Harry Cobden)

Failed to open his account in three starts over fences last season, though he still achieved a smart level of form, notably filling the runner-up spot behind The Real Whacker in the Dipper Novices' Chase over this course and distance on New Year's Day. A Grade 1 winner as a juvenile hurdler a couple of seasons ago, he will be making his handicap debut here from a potentially lenient mark, still young enough to think he could come good as a chaser (had a breathing operation ahead of this return).

5. Il Ridoto (Paul Nicholls/ Bryony Frost)

Had a couple of today's rivals behind him when finishing third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at the November Meeting, adding to his sound record in the big middle-distance handicap chases at this track. Another big run seems assured from a 1 lb lower mark.

6. So Scottish (Emmet Mullins/ Mark Walsh)

Quickly developed into a useful handicap chaser for the Emmet Mullins yard last season, producing his best effort when chasing home Boothill at Ascot in November last year. That is a strong piece of form - Boothill now has a Timeform master rating of 159 - and he should prove himself a well-handicapped horse from a BHA mark of 141 when putting it all together over fences. His reappearance run at Gowran Park last month is likely to have blown the cobwebs away and he's now tried in a tongue strap, his connections probably having had this race in mind all along.

7. Jay Jay Reilly (Dan Skelton/ Harry Skelton)

Won twice over fences last season and has shaped better than the bare result on his last two starts, including when finishing fifth having been poorly placed at Newbury a fortnight ago. This is a stronger race, but he's not ruled out.

8. Do Your Job (Lucinda Russell/ Derek Fox)

Grade 2-winning novice chaser in his prime. He had a quiet time of it last season, though, and he's yet to fire for his current stable this term.

9. Grandeur d'Ame (Alan King/ Tom Bellamy)

Produced a career-best effort after six months off to regain the winning thread at Wetherby last time, jumping superbly and drawing clear from the home turn in impressive fashion. This will be much tougher now up in grade following a hike in the weights, plus his stamina over this trip isn't assured, but it's unlikely that he's reached his ceiling yet after just seven runs over fences. 3 lb out of the weights.

10. Frero Banbou (Venetia Williams/ Charlie Deutsch)

3 lb out of the weights but by no means handicapped out of things judged on his runner-up finish in a good-quality handicap at Newbury last time, a race he almost certainly would have won had he not belted the last. He's nearly two years without a win but should continue to give a good account.

11. Torn And Frayed (Nigel Twiston-Davies/ Sam Twiston-Davies)

Won a valuable handicap over this course and distance in January 2022 but then missed all of last season before making his belated return to action in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. He shaped as if retaining all his ability there before falling two out, battling away in sixth at the time of his departure, albeit looking unlikely to finish any closer. He's been given four weeks to recover by Nigel Twiston-Davies, who has his team in good form, but this looks another tough task from 3 lb out of the weights.

12. Railway Hurricane (Gavin Cromwell/ Conor Stone-Walsh (5))

Irish raider who is hard to make a solid case for from 7 lb out of the weights, last seen finishing third (beaten 15 lengths having been badly hampered two out) from his proper mark in a novice handicap at the November Meeting.

Timeform Analyst's Verdict:

THUNDER ROCK's latest success at Carlisle looks a lot better now that the runner-up ran a big race in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury, so he can prove himself ahead of a mark of 146. Monmiral looks capable of better as a chaser on return and So Scottish might well have been lined up for this, so they're also considered.

Timeform's 1-2-3:

1. Thunder Rock
2. Monmiral
3. So Scottish

Back Thunder Rock @ 4.03/1 on Betfair Exchange

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