The Racing Post Gold Cup Handicap Chase, known to many as either the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup or the December Gold Cup, is one of the showpiece horse racing betting heats of the British National Hunt season, taking pride of place at Cheltenham in December.
The Grade 3 event is often contested by horses that had previously run in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. Three horses have won both races in the same season – Pegwell Bay, Senor El Betrutti and Exotic Dancer and Midnight Shadow will join that elite group should he come out on top once again.
The Racing Post Gold Cup Handicap Chase is nearly always one of the most competitive betting races in the jumps season and the 2021 edition is shaping up to be as hotly-contested as ever. Here’s our guide to the Cheltenham feature.
The Paddy Power Gold Cup, held at Cheltenham the previous month (on the Old Course), can be a good pointer to the Racing Post Gold Cup but only three horses have done the double in the same season so it is no easy task winning both contests.
It is not uncommon for a horse to be beaten in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and go on to glory in the December contest, as was the case with Warthog in 2019, Frodon in 2018 and Guitar Pete in 2017. The form of the 2021 Paddy Power Gold Cup has already taken a huge boost thanks to the subsequent exploits of runner-up Protektorat, although a 7lb rise is going to make life more difficult for winner Midnight Shadow as he bids to join that elite clutch of horses to have completed the double.
There is a 2m3f handicap chase at Ascot in November that has been used as a springboard for Racing Post Gold Cup glory by the likes of Double Ross in the last decade.
Paul Nicholls has landed this race five times, more than any other trainer and the 12-time champion is responsible for the only two horses to have won the race twice, Poquelin (2009 & 2010) and Frodon (2016 & 2018).
Michael Winters became the first Irish-based trainer to win the race since 2005 when he saddled the 2021 winner.
Sam Twiston-Davies, on board Double Ross in 2013 and Frodon in 2016, is the only current rider to have won the race more than once.
Current new betting site odds - 4/1 Lalor, 6 Dostal Phil, Midnight Shadow, 7 Coole Cody, Silver Hallmark, 15/2 Fusil Raffles, 9 Farinet, 11 Zanza, 12 Cepage, Beakstown, 16 Siruh Du Lac, 33 Deyrann De Carjac, Joke Dancer, Topofthecotswolds, 40 Francky Du Berlais. *(odds correct at time of writing)
The 2021 Paddy Power Gold Cup looks the key form line to this race, especially given the runner-up bolted up in a Grade 2 at Aintree next time and now looks a genuine Gold Cup contender.
Midnight Shadow is almost certainly going to have to produce a career-best off his revised mark but his diminishing lead in the closing stages was probably exaggerated by the fact that he stumbled over the last fence, costing him valuable momentum.
He travelled so well through the Paddy Power and that ability to get into a good rhythm close to the pace is always going to be a great attribute for these sorts of races, while he already has two wins on Cheltenham’s New Course to his name so we know conditions will suit. He’s got to be on any shortlist once again.
Dostal Phil shaped really well from well off the pace that day, his first try over this sort of trip, and he looks a big runner this time around, as would Zanza if he was able to jump with a bit more fluency.
However, Lalor looks the one to reverse form with Midnight Shadow having shaped so well on his first start for Paul Nicholls.
The five-time Racing Post Gold Cup-winning trainer said afterwards that they learned a lot about Lalor, who stayed on really well from the second-last, so it feels perfectly reasonable to expect an even bigger showing this time from a horse that has mixed it at a higher level than this in the past. Favourites don't have a great recent record in this but Lalor could hardly be in better hands.