Paul Nicholls saddled the four-year-old Unioniste to win the December Gold Cup on just his third start over fences in 2012, and the Ditcheat trainer can send another youngster to usurp his elder contemporaries on Saturday.
Art Mauresque was making his second start out of novice company when finishing an excellent sixth in the Paddy Power Gold Cup over course and distance last month and looks an excellent 10/1 chance in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
Four of the five horses that finished in front of him on November 14 reoppose him here and while the front three have shifted up the weights slightly, both he and Irish Cavalier who was a nose ahead of him remain on the same mark.
The fact that Rebecca Curtis’ horse is a 6/1 and Art Mauresque is a double figure price is very intriguing.
Nicholls’ charge led, or was prominent, for much of the way in a fairly strongly run race last time out, and was one of only two horses that raced up with the pace to get within 10 lengths of the winner.
Many of the principals came from the back to suggest that they had perhaps gone off at too strong a pace early on.
The gelding did threaten to make a real challenge after jumping the second-last that day but it appears that the earlier exertions blunted any finishing burst up the Prestbury Park hill.
Settle a bit better, continue the solid jumping display that he displayed that year, and he can go close.
He’s only raced seven times over fences (twice in a handicap) and certainly fits the profile of a winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
French breds have won seven of the last 11 renewals of the contest, but have represented just a third of the total runners, signalling that the son of Policy Maker could have had the perfect beginnings to run a big one.
His trainer has suggested that decent ground in the spring was the catalyst for the improvement he showed in the early part of the season, and with rain on the horizon, there could be cause for concern.
The ground at Cheltenham is currently described as ‘Good to Soft’, and if the forecast is right, that is likely to change, but with Art Mauresque winning on both ‘Very Soft’ and ‘Heavy’ in France, he is by no means a lost cause with a bit of cut in the ground.
Sean Bowen took the ride last time out, but the reunion with Nick Scholfield can only be a good thing for our selection’s chances.
The jockey is the only person to have won on the horse since he arrived in the UK and he boasts a record of four wins from six rides on the gelding.
That adds yet another positive to what is an already burgeoning case for Paul Nicholls to gain a fourth win in December’s big handicap at the home of National Hunt racing.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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