Familiar face can end Paul Nicholls’ Greatwood Gold Cup rule

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It’s fair to say that the Greatwood Gold Cup has been a benefit to not just the charity whose name the race carries, but also to Paul Nicholls over the years.

The Ditcheat handler has a fearsome record in the race, winning seven of the last 10 runnings, with three others finishing second in the Grade 3 contest.

Sound Investment took the race for the trainer last year and he could return double handed at Newbury this year with Art Mauresque and Sametegal both entered in the race.

With eight of Nicholls’ 10 horses to finish in the first two home over the years carrying at least 11 stone, it might just pay to look at the slightly higher rated of the pair.

Art Mauresque has looked a useful proposition in his eight starts over fences to date, winning four of them.

The six-year-old has been pitched in to some fairly useful contests on his last two outings, first when finishing sixth in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, before a seventh-placed effort in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.

The first of those two runs saw him travel well for much of the way before fading up Cheltenham’s testing hill.

Returned to a flatter home straight, over a slightly shorter trip and what is likely to be a better surface could see him go very close for connections.

He’s chalked up as 7/1 favourite for the weekend’s race, just ahead of his stable-mate who is rated as an 8/1 chance.

Those two will take some stopping, but if you are looking to go against Nicholls and his awesome record in the race, then who better to side with than a man that knows him all too well.

Dan Skelton spent nine years as assistant trainer at Nicholls’ West Country yard before going it alone three years ago to great success.

He could saddle Ulis De Vassy in Saturday’s contest, a horse that looks to have been forgotten by the market.

Currently a 14/1 shot to take the race, the eight-year-old hasn’t been seen on a race course since August last year, but that shouldn’t be a worry.

The gelding clearly prefers better ground, with his last three wins coming on a surface described as good or firmer, so could explain the break over the winter with the going at Newbury currently good to soft with a potential to dry further.

Two wins last summer after arriving at Skelton’s from Nick Williams saw a rise of 18lbs in the handicap which was enough to stop him beating the classy Champion Court on soft ground at Uttoxeter.

A first fence faller before finishing fifth at Worcester didn’t tell us an awful lot more about his quality, but with the young trainer providing quite a hit in the training ranks, there could yet be more to come.

A few winners have come out of his two triumphs last year, so the form has some sort of substance to it.

Running well fresh shouldn’t be a problem, having landed a 23 length victory on stable debut after over four months off and if fully wound up, could just make the places.

With his former mentor boasting such a dominant record in the race, it will take a lot, but Skelton may well yet get more improvement out of his charge.

All odds and markets correct as of the date of the publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.