Video preview: Paddy Power Gold Cup
Ben Linfoot picks out the key video form clues ahead of the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.
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David Pipe won the Paddy Power Gold Cup for the first time last year when Great Endeavour came home in front, while his father Martin is the leading trainer in the history of the race with a record eight wins to his name. Grands Crus will bid to make it a perfect 10 for the Nicholashayne yard on Saturday and this classy second season-chaser has a favourite's chance of scooping the prize.
Watch his stylish win in the Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase at last year's Open meeting. Not only was it the dashing grey's seasonal debut but it was also his debut over fences in the UK and the well-beaten second, Champion Court, went onto to frank the form when winning the 'Dipper' on New Year's Day and when finishing a good second to Sir Des Champs at The Festival.
Grands Crus himself went on to win in good style at Newbury and Kempton before finishing fourth in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. His profile is very similar to that of Long Run who was well-fancied for the RSA where he was third, before he filled the same position in the 2010 Paddy Power Gold Cup off a handicap mark of 158.
Hunt Ball was the most improved horse in training last season rising from an initial mark of 68 to one of 154 by the time he finished third in the Grade One Betfair Bowl at Aintree. His seventh victory of the campaign came in the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival where he ran off a mark of 142, carrying top-weight to victory by eight lengths.
He races off a mark 15lb higher than that he raced off at Cheltenham but the popular chaser has defied the handicappers efforts to anchor him several times and his exuberant owner Anthony Knott still thinks he could be improving. He's 11/2 to defy his latest hike and his Festival victory is well worth another viewing if you're thinking of backing the seven-year-old (Saturday's rival Triolo D'alene well beaten).
Classy novice hurdler Walkon returned from a near two-year absence to go close to winning the Holloway's Hurdle at Ascot in January 2011 and his ability to go well fresh is one of the reasons why he has been backed into a single-figure price for the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Further evidence that he goes well first time out came at Exeter on his seasonal reppearance last season, when he beat Zaynar and Notus De La Tour on his chasing debut. At the Cheltenham Festival he was beaten a neck by Saturday's favourite Grands Crus in the race for third in the RSA Chase.
Al Ferof has previous at Cheltenham following his win in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the 2011 Festival and his first novice chase win on his following start eight months later. On his next start he won the Grade One Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown where he beat Nick Williams' For Non Stop, who of course was a facile winner of the Old Roan Chase at Aintree last month.
Al Ferof was sent off the 3/1 second-favourite for the Arkle at Cheltenham but was blown away by Sprinter Sacre, his chance all but going after a blunder at the 10th fence. He failed to bounce back next time when stepped up in trip in the Manifesto at Aintree, where he was beaten into third by Menorah and Cristal Bonus.
The aforementioned For Non Stop was third in the Jewson Novices' Chase at Cheltenham and just behind him was Andy Turnell's talented chaser Micheal Flips. The pair renewed rivalry at The Festival after they had finished first and second in the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Newbury, the pair 13 lengths clear of Walkon in fourth.
Micheal Flips reappeared over an inadequate two miles in the Byrne Group Handicap Chase at Ascot earlier this month.
The 2m4f handicap chase at Cheltenham's Showcase meeting gave Nicky Henderson's mare Nadiya De La Vega the chance to highlight her credentials for the Paddy Power Gold Cup. Always in the front rank under AP McCoy, she ran on well to beat Easter Meteor by two-and-a-half lengths. She's gone up 8lb in the weights for this assignment.
In the same contest Ferdy Murphy's Divers finished 17th of 20, though he is expected to strip much fitter on Saturday. He's just 6lb higher in the weights than when he won the Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase at the 2011 Festival.
Last year's Paddy Power Gold Cup runner-up Quantitativeeasing went one better back at Cheltenham a month later when winning the Spinal Research The Atlantic 4 Gold Cup from Medermit. Well beaten at Cheltenham and Punchestown since then, he's 8lb higher than when successful at Prestbury Park last December and his two good efforts at the track are well worth revisiting again.
And finally... Forpadydeplasterer is 10 years old now, but he's the forgotten horse of the race according to his trainer. He's never run in a handicap before but goes here off a British mark of 150 and his last race over fences was a good effort behind Sizing Europe in the PWC Champion Chase at Gowran Park.