Divers fancied to make a big splash
Nic Doggett's horse by horse guide to Saturday's Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
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Pleasing enough return behind Roberto Goldback at Ascot last time, but has never been able to land a blow in this contest since finishing second to Tranquil Sea in 2009. Now 13lbs higher than that run, which might not be insurmountable, but he's a better proposition for next month's Gold Cup at the track, a race which he has won for two of the last three seasons.
Has a decent weight here because of the presence of stablemate Poquelin and looked an exciting novice last term, that is until the wheels came off on his final two starts (jumping let him down in the Arkle where he tried to match strides with Sprinter Sacre, then a bit lifeless at Aintree). Something to prove regarding the trip, but does shape as if he'll stay (former point-to-point winner) and easy to see him bouncing back with a big run.
Well-beaten in this race last season but otherwise has a strong Cheltenham record, including winning at the track on New Year's Day (albeit on the New Course). Likes good ground and two Grand National runs in the past two seasons are easily forgotten, however a mark of 158 looks very tough for this reappearance.
Wildly progressive last term, winning seven of his nine starts, most notably (and impressively) the 2m 5f Listed chase at the Festival here. Defeat on his final start at Aintree, on his first run in grade one company, can be put down to the trip and a long season, but even then he was only beaten three lengths. Owner is as bullish as ever about his chance and although 15lbs higher than his March success, only a fool would say he has stopped improving just yet.
Impressive first season over fences, including a beating of subsequent Charlie Hall winner Silviniaco Conti at Kempton on Boxing Day. Signed off with a pretty heavy beating in the RSA Chase (6/5 favourite) at the Festival, but trainer insists he wasn't right that day and looks sure to be much more competitive today. Stays well but has a high cruising speed, won on this card last year and has an excellent record fresh; deserving favourite.
Ran a cracker to be second in this race last year and then followed that effort up with a fine defeat of Medermit the following month. Best efforts have come over this sort of trip so no real surprise that he suffered reversals over three miles on his two subsequent starts in the spring, however a mark of 155 is probably high enough for the time being unless he has improved over the summer (certainly possible considering he is only seven).
French recruit who has a solid record at the track, including a running-on fourth in this race last year, which was also his reappearance. 11lbs higher now but still only a six year old and, although his trainer (and jockey Ruby Walsh) thought he wanted to go right-handed over three miles, there's certainly nothing wrong with his form going this way round. Slightly forgotten horse and could run a very big race.
Tanks For That
Non-runner. Won't win.
Ran well when chasing home the very classy Sizing Europe at Gowran Park last month, and then enjoyed a nice spin on the flat to keep the cobwebs away, so should be spot on for this race. Has his first ever start in a handicap today and a mark of 150 looks quite tempting for a former Champion Chase runner-up, however there's an argument to say he's better over a strongly-run two miles.
Nadiya De La Vega
Improving mare that is unbeaten in two starts under AP McCoy who chooses to keep the partnership intact. Only up 8lbs for her convincing win over the course and distance last month which could be an under-estimate, although it's worth remembering that she didn't go on from her reappearance victory last season. Lightly-raced mare however and there's surely more improvement to come this year; interesting contender.
Some solid bits of form to his name last season, most notably his second to For Non Stop in the Scilly Isles at Newbury, and made a pleasing return when fourth to Gus Macrae at Ascot. Seemed to tire late on that day, so should be sharper now, and a mark of 145, whilst high enough, doesn't look insurmountable. Step back up in trip ok but might just lack the class of some of the big boys.
Interesting decision to run him in the Scottish National at the end of last season backfired spectacularly as he was pulled-up, especially as he didn't seem to stay in the RSA here in March. Much more interesting now dropped in trip, especially as the handicapper looks to have been very fair giving him a mark of 143. Lacks experience over fences but has plenty of talent (2009 Triumph Hurdle runner-up) and could bounce back with a big run. Ante-post market mover.
Progressive horse on good ground, winning three of his last four starts, albeit at smaller venues than this. Likes to front-run, but will face plenty of competition here and, whilst in excellent nick, it's hard to see him holding on this time in a better race off a 7lb higher mark.
Mark has slowly been trickling down to a workable one and this hold-up performer is now 6lbs lower than when third in this race last year. Record at Prestbury Park reads 2-5-1-3-UR-4-17 so easy to see him bouncing back from a woeful reappearance last month (sent off at 22/1), especially considering he was pulled-up on his comeback last year before running so well here. Booking of Timmy Murphy looks ideal.
Displayed a good attitude to win on his British debut in January, and then wasn't disgraced behind Hunt Ball at the Festival, before finishing second at Market Rasen in May. Repeat of those runs wouldn't be enough, but Barry Geraghty sticks with him and the five-year-old has been the subject of good reports from Seven Barrows. Potentially well-handicapped, but does need to prove that he can handle a big field in a quality race.
Has blossomed since going back over fences, winning two of his last five, but falling on two other starts (in-front on both occasions). Certainly going the right way, but this is a tough way to step out of novice company and he has also been doing all of his winning in small fields. Enough to prove at present.
Well-beaten in the Kerry National at Listowel in September but the ground was softer than ideal that day and he has been given plenty of time to get over those exertions. Has some useful form on decent ground, most notably his beating of (2009 winner of this race) Tranquil Sea last May, and shouldn't be too quickly dismissed here despite being 10lbs higher than that run.
Finger Onthe Pulse
Helped force the pace when a fine third to (the fellow JP McManus-owned) Nadiya De La Vega last month and that was his best effort for a while, indeed since finishing seventh at the Festival in March. Looks on an attractive mark of 136 but has never really impressed in this race for some reason, finishing 12th and 13th in the last two seasons.
Has returned to fences in good from this winter, finishing placed in valuable races at Listowel and Limerick, albeit never really threatening to win on either occasion. All four wins have come on very testing ground, so probably wants plenty of rain if he is to put up a bold show. 7lbs out of the weights and up against it accordingly.
Well-held on his reappearance behind Nadiya De La Vega and hasn't always convinced with his attitude (has tried three types of headgear in the last year). 10lbs wrong at the weights and will be of more interest off his proper mark in future races.
This looks like the best renewal of this race for several years, with plenty of strength in depth towards the head of the market. Grands Crus will be popular given the wins of Dynaste and Swing Bill on day one of the meeting, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that a mark of 157 may be a lenient one. However all of the juice has gone out of his price, and at around 2/1 he doesn't represent great value, so we'll turn elsewhere.
The vote goes to DIVERS who has a good record at the track and, perhaps most importantly, has a history of bouncing back from a poor run. He'll need to do that if he is to feature here but off a nice mark of 136 and with Timmy Murphy booked, a big run looks assured; back him each-way at around 18/1.
Only the brave/foolish will rule out the remarkable Hunt Ball, with his owner's infectious words of confidence fresh in the memory, whilst Quantitativeeasing is another horse to respect as he is open to improvement this year. Irish runners don't have a great record here, and their challenge, headed by Forpadydeplasterer, might just struggle once again.