Paul Nicholls has won seven of the last nine renewals of the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury and the improving San Benedeto can add to that record on Saturday night.
A remarkable run for Nicholls in the Greatwood Gold Cup has seen Venetia Williams with Shangani (2014) and Charlie Mann with Fine Parchment (2011) as the only other two trainers to enjoy success since 2008. Nicholls won last season’s renewal with Sametegal and must have a good chance of continuing the run with his early entries San Benedeto, Vibrato Valtat and More Buck’s.
San Benedeto stayed on strongly for a comfortable win in the two mile Scottish Champion Chase at Musselburgh at the beginning of last month having run creditably in novice chases over further throughout the season. Despite the dominant win he remains better over this two and a half mile trip and the five pound penalty by the handicapper doesn’t look enough to stop this improving six-year-old.
Like San Benedeto, More Bucks is another who is open to improvement over fences with three wins from seven. The seven-year-old is a bold jumping front-runner but has struggled on his last two starts after a jump in both weights and class and also has to come here off the back of a fall in a very competitive Cheltenham novice handicap chase.
Vibrato Valtat heads the weights and has clearly run creditably in the past against top opposition and at his peak was rated 162. The handicapper has started to relent dropping the eight-year-old ten pounds off the back off a sequence of solid albeit slightly disappointing runs including when a beaten favourite at Warwick last month. A winless sequence now stretches back to November 2015 and there is the suspicion with Vibrato Valtat often failing to find late on that he really needs everything to drop right to resume winning ways.
San Benedeto looks the pick of the Nicholls trio with three other notable entries in the form of Oldgrangewood, Vic De Touzaine and Tango De Juilley.
Dan Skelton’s Oldgrangewood has won three from four over fences with his only defeat coming when being brought down four out when travelling well at Aintree three runs back. The six-year-old has won twice since at Wetherby with a latest dominant performance seeing him raised another nine pounds in the weights. He remains an interesting prospect and like San Benedeto may still be ahead of the handicapper.
Venetia Williams will be looking to add to Shangani’s 2014 win with Vic De Touzaine who put in a run of solid performances last season culminating in a deserved breakthrough success at Leicester. He returned after nearly a year off with a really promising second at Wincanton where he jumped and kept on well and with a run behind him is well worth a shot in this stronger company. Also among the trainer’s entries is Tango De Juilley who remains a very talented chaser but has clearly been difficult to train. Such has been his absences over the last two seasons that the nine-year-old has had two of his last three runs at the Cheltenham Festival including his latest second in a Grade 3. This would be his first run in over a year, which wouldn’t be a problem looking at his previous efforts first up and he remains an intriguing if not difficult runner to weigh up.
The Greatwood Gold Cup is live on Sky Racing 1 on Saturday night.