Crus control in Paddy Power?
Fancy a bet on the first big race of the National Hunt season? Grand Crus is the strong favourite to land the Paddy Power Gold Cup but here our experts give their view on the Cheltenham showpiece.
Walkon - 8/1
Four of the last five winners of the Paddy Power were won by a seven-year-old carrying less than 11 stone so Walkon fits the bill. A real genuine sort who was a grade 1 winning Hurdler looks on a real nice handicap mark of 143 after just five runs over fences which is 11lb lower than when he last ran over hurdles. This trip can prove to be his optimum distance and if he jumps well in this big field he must go close.
Sky Bet's Head of Racing, Richard Horner
Kingsmere - 33/1
It's certainly not going to be one of the fashionable picks with three or four horses in the race that have the potential to be top class horses and could be very well handicapped before going on to better things. However, Kingsmere has the sort of profile similar to Little Josh, who won the race two years ago, beating no less than subsequent Gold Cup winner Long Run. Henry Daly's seven-year-old fell when arguably travelling best of all at Cheltenham last time out while bidding for a hat-trick and appears to be improving with every run over fences. He certainly deserves his place in the line-up and he could be a dark horse lurking off bottom weight at a huge price.
Sky Bet racing trader, Andrew Wootton
Quantitativeeasing - 20/1
Quantitativeeasing has a decent record at Cheltenham and could easily run into a place at a decent price. The Nicky Henderson trained runner was well fancied at the Festival this year but found the three mile trip too far. The distance of two mile 4 ½ furlongs is perfect for him and although he is 10 pounds higher than his last victory in December he still has scope for improvement as he is only a seven year old, who incidentally have an excellent record in this race winning four of the last five runnings.
Sky Bet Racing PR, Michael Shinners
Walkon - 7/1
Walkon fits the bill for me in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. Alan King's charge shaped with plenty of promise in his first season over fences last term, including when fifth in the RSA Chase at the Festival here in March.
On that occasion he patently failed to stay and it was a surprise to see him step further up in trip for the Scottish Grand National at Ayr on his only subsequent start. A stiff two-and-a-half miles and an end-to-end gallop here should suit ideally and he's dropped to handicap mark that connections feel can be exploited.
Sporting Life editor, Dave Ord
Divers - 16/1
A Cheltenham Festival winner in 2011 and placed in 2012, Divers looks an interesting outsider at 16/1. He has often needed his first run in the past couple of seasons, so it's maybe best to forgive his dismal reappearance run last month. Trainer Ferdy Murphy is also in much better form now- having saddled three winners in the last seven days.
Divers finished 3rd in last year's race and although he probably wouldn't want too much rain, the superb Timmy Murphy is booked to ride, he races off a nice weight and looks to hold decent each way claims.
Sky Bet racing trader, Ken Dickson
Al Ferof - 7/1
Paul Nicholls' Al Ferof has been a market mover this week, but there might still be some value left in his current price of 7/1. The seven-year-old disappointed towards the back end of last season, but his Supreme Novices' win in 2011 is just about the best form on offer, and Nicholls has made no secret of how pleased he has been with his beautiful grey in recent weeks. He goes well fresh and likes the track, demonstrated by his facile victory on this card last year, and he would prove a popular winner for owner John Hales who tragically lost the promising Granit Jack in this race back in 2007.
Sky Bet racing trader, Seb Butterworth